Since deciding to give up my smartphone, I have shown up to work on time or early every day. My Fitbit records that I have picked up an hour and a half more of good-quality sleep every night. I actually feel refreshed and energized when I wake up.
Honestly, I do not know why I did not do it earlier. I am now the proud owner of a flip-phone that I charge once a week. This is the real “smart” phone; I won’t let anyone disparage it as “dumb.” Technology is great, but I am not certain it is worth what we are exchanging for it.
More and more Americans are using so-called smartphones. According to The Pew Research Center, 77 percent of Americans owned smartphones in 2016: 92 percent of 18-29s, 74 percent of 50-64s, and even 42 percent of the 65 and olders own so-called smartphones. I joined the 8 percent of my age group.
I receive weird looks when I pull out my flip-phone. My phone bill is much lower per month because I prepay and do not have a data plan. This is probably why only 64 percent of Americans in households that earn less than $30,000 per year own smartphones. It looks like so-called smartphones are here to stay as my generation ages. The Boomers also seem to be adopting these glowing rectangles into their lives, if only to see pictures of grandchildren.
We’re All Doing It, and It’s Not All Good
Social media use is also on the rise. Sixty-nine percent of adult Americans use social media, says Pew: 86 percent of 18-29s, 80 percent of 30-49s, 64 percent of 50-64s, and 34 percent of 65 and olders use social media. I gave up social media before I gave up the so-called smartphone. Do I need to be hashing it out with liberal trolls, calling them “libtards” while scrolling through the computer-generated echo chamber of “me”? I don’t think so.
The Bible’s 2 Timothy cautions me against that sort of behavior: “For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, will multiply teachers for themselves because they have an itch to hear what they want to hear” (2 Timothy 4:3 CSB). Yikes! Without Facebook, I am a much happier person, and much more apt to listen to other points of view.
With more people using so-called smartphones and social media, we should attempt to measure the hidden costs. As I mentioned, I develop bad habits when using social media, but I am not alone. I had not seen a family member in four months and recently had the chance to spend time together again. While we sat at the dinner table, she was constantly making silly faces. At one point, she stuck out her tongue and at another she puckered her lips and looked into the phone camera at an angle.
I wanted to ask her how college was going, catch up, and enjoy a family supper, but with SnapChat, it seems this is impossible. Another family member totally ruined my viewing experience of “Hidden Figures” by playing Candy Crush during it, with the sounds enabled and the obnoxious advertisements for “Clash of Clans” coming up every time she completed a level. So much for movie night.
On a long road trip to meet family up north another family member was checking his work email—on a Saturday at 5:30 pm. I want to go camping someplace where there is no cell phone reception to get my family away from the obnoxious glowing rectangles.
Sometimes It’s Better to Just Remove the Temptation
What else are we exchanging for these so-called smartphones and total, unfettered access to the virtual world of the Internet? Consider the dark evil of pornography, and its direct ties into human trafficking, as I’ve learned from Eric Metaxas’s numerous interviews of former prostitutes and Ben Domenech’s interview with Tim Ballard on the Federalist Radio Hour. I do not know how many lives and marriages have been ruined with the new drug of pornography. Yet I know it is a spiritual crisis. My generation is settling for garbage when they should be longing for C.S. Lewis’s holiday at the sea.
Just as an alcoholic ought not be employed by a liquor distributor, I do not need unfettered access to the political echo-chambers of Facebook and Twitter, among other things. I need my phone just to be a phone and my laptop out in the open and not in my bedroom. I can do without the beeping and dinging and constant barrage of useless information. Instead, I can take in good stuff of substance.
For my own health, I must cook my own food to avoid the gluten that royally messes up my insides; so also I need to avoid the toxic junk food of the Internet. I recently read the following from the theologian Charles Spurgeon and felt convicted: “Ah! You know more about you ledgers than your Bible; you know more about your [trending topics] than what God has written; many of you will [watch complete seasons of TV shows on Netflix] from beginning to end, and what have you got?”
The Less Aware I Am, the Less Human I Am
Awareness is what makes me human. How can I be thankful for the little things when my nose is glued to the screen of an obnoxious glowing rectangle? How can I feel small at looking up at the stars when I am instead looking through content designed by marketers to make me feel big and important so I will buy and use their products? Do I need to be a rude political junkie? Do I need to ignore people close to me because I’m distracted by my own fake little world? Do I really value life with the Imago Dei if I fail to value God’s own image on me when I lay in bed late into the night watching way too much Netflix? Life is worth too much for it to be wasted with trivial junk.
I need down time to think. My best ideas for improving processes at work, creating melodies for Psalm settings, and even fixing the rattling noise on my bicycle came while laying down and staring at the ceiling in a room so quiet I can hear the high-pitched ring of electricity surging through my nervous system. How can I be watchfully aware of all of God’s word and blessing in my life if I let the obnoxious glowing rectangle occupy the space where that awareness begins?
We have a Tweeter-In-Chief. We have a president who trolls his political enemies and does a fantastic job of it. But I need a break from the so-called smartphone culture. It is time for the strategic retreat Rod Dreher talks about in “The Benedict Option,” to make space to benefit our souls.
What does a so-called smartphone with Facebook, Netflix, and all sorts of other distractions cost, not in dollars and pennies? Maybe it is called a smartphone because it sucks the brains out of otherwise-creative and intelligent creatures. Sayonara, so-called smartphone! Onward I shall go, towards living a quiet, productive, God-honoring life.