Feeding The Beast- An honest look at our phone habits
“The human appetite for distraction is high… because distractions give us easy escape from the silence and solitude whereby we become acquainted with our finitude, our inescapable mortality, and the distance of God from all our desires, hopes, and pleasures.”*. – John Piper
It’s no secret that we are an addicted and consumed culture these days. In our society, we’ve developed an appetite for entertainment, consumerism, and technology. An appetite for distraction. Even the phones we use for communication, provide us more and more tidbits that feed the insatiable desire for entertainment and endless distraction. Most distractions give us an escape from the reality that our desires, hopes and pleasures might not be bringing us closer to God. Thus, distracting us from the people and needs in our lives that matter most. Of all of the ways we humans have historically been distracted, this convenient, pocket-sized diversion, packs some serious punch, and keeps of our uncomfortable realities far far away. The belly of the beast rumbles (our need for a quick and easy escape)– and our cheap, processed and convenient food keeps it’s appetite nearly unquenchable.
DID YOU KNOW!?
The average person will check their phone once every 4.3 minutes from the moment he or she wakes up to the moment he or she goes to sleep; that adds up to 221 times a day and 81,500 times a year.
Any habit that produces those types of numbers should inspire some thoughtful reflection on what the habit adds to our lives, and what the habit detracts from our lives.
A distraction is anything that divides our attention, prevents focus or diverts us from giving our full attention to something else. Diversion and entertainment are a great blessing in some cases, but for our mind to be diverted or divided over 200 times a day? Maybe this warrants a closer look.
Let’s examine some of the risks of checking our phones 221 times a day:
- We’re missing opportunities for focus and reflection that every generation before us naturally had. What ever happened to the inspiration and awareness of our own smallness when we’re taking in the beauty of a mountain, canyon or ocean? Now we’re often simply too busy framing up our selfies. What about spending time in the Word of God without the glow of our phone within reach? Our Creator has designed us in such a way that we become what we behold. The more we behold the glory, beauty, value and character of God in scripture and in nature, the more we mirror God’s reality into the world. A mind that is unpracticed at focusing on truth and thinking deeply will also struggle to see and reflect the glory of God around them.
- We easily avoid thoughts and topics that are challenging —but shape the core of who we are and what we do. We take the easy road, folks, it’s in our nature. When we constantly have the opportunity to turn our eyes and minds to things that are quick, easy, temporal and usually unimportant, we are missing moments that we could be thinking of deep, meaningful and eternal realities. Transformation of our character and desires takes extensive amounts of time, thought and energy. The Bible itself tells us this! John Piper asks, “When the Bible calls us to meditate on the Lord’s instruction ‘all the day’ (Ps. 119:97), indeed ‘day and night’ (Ps. 1:2), and to ‘fix [our] eyes’ on it (Ps. 119:15), is this not a call to look and look and look?”* If we allow our phones to cultivate such a habit of mind that we need to be constantly distracted and can no longer meditate as Psalm 119 calls us to do, we will likely miss out on countless opportunities for growth.
- We’re not practicing the command to be watchful followers of Jesus. Jesus and the apostle Paul command believers to “be watchful” (Matt. 24:42; 1 Cor. 16:13; Col. 4:2) in light of the return of Christ. Tony Reinke insightfully states, “For those with eyes to see, Christ’s return is so imminent, it potently declutters our lives of everything that is superficial and renders all of our vain distractions irrelevant.”** The reality of Christ words to us should produce a sharp focus on what will matter eternally and a strong aversion to distractions that will take our minds off what is eternally valuable. When every free moment, both in public and even in our homes is filled with checking our screens, how many chances to see and love others are slipping by us every single day?
- We’re living in more of a virtual world than the real one. Being able to enter a virtual world is a rather novel phenomenon, but one that has become so commonplace, and even “the norm” for our young generation. Escaping from reality (at will!) allows us to so easily turn a blind eye to the needs of those around us and potential opportunities to serve and love. Building deeper relationships, listening, holding the door, engaging in dinner conversation, looking a stranger in the eye, noticing someone and hearing a word from God about them… all of these are ways to love people, and things we commonly avoid or miss out on by taking out our phone and entering into a virtual world.
Smartphones are an incredible blessing, and their potential for wise use is unlimited… As is their potential for foolish use. That is why we must be endlessly discerning in our smartphone usage. We must not let our phones take our eyes off an endeavor that is eternally valuable, namely, the endeavor to mirror God through sacrificially loving others.
Take a few minutes evaluate your habits.
Do you find yourself missing opportunities, avoiding challenging thoughts, being cluttered or distracted, or living in a virtual world more than this real one God has placed you in? If so, you know what to do! Bring it to the Father. Talk to him about it. Consider a different way.
* John Piper, Reading the Bible Supernaturally
** Tony Reinke, 12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You