The phone used to be a tool that we used to communicate with others. But it has become so much more. And as the abilities of the mobile phone have increased it seems to have become a societal problem. We say it distracts us and is a waste of time, and we wish for the days long gone when people connected with the people around them.
When we start to criticise the mobile phone we are more often than not meaning social media or gaming – but the phone is far, far more. And if we are to manage the phone in our pocket well – we have to acknowledge that.
How do you use your phone? What tasks do you want your phone to do for you?
- I listen to music & podcasts, and read digital books
- I read my Bible and keep my journal
- I keep my shopping list, and my to-do list for housework
- I take photos and videos
- I share on social media
- I manage accounts and pay bills
- I use the dictionary, calculator and timer
- I check my calendar and am reminded of appointments
- I manage my to-do list
- I write myself notes
The phone is far more than a phone these days.
I see three areas where we use the phone: social, recreational and productive. The rules we have for our self, or our kids, needs to take these three spheres of life and useage into account. The principle that guides us in using the phone well is: Doing the right thing at the right time in the right way. When we do this – regardless of if we are talking about social media, watching video clips or making business calls we are able to balance the use of the phone with living a full life.
The Problem isn’t with the Mobile Phone
When we start to see these three areas of life where we use the phone (social, recreational, productive) it starts to be clear that the phone is not our problem. The real problem lays at us not managing our spheres of life well. While we are supposed to be spending time with family (social) we watch a video (recreational) on our phone. While we watch a movie, we connect with our to-do list on our phone. While we are out playing sport we talk to our friends on our phone. This is about blurring our spheres and not managing our time well. The phone is the tool we use – but the heart of the matter is – we are not doing the right thing at the right time in the right way.
The danger with becoming used to this level of connectivity is that we get comfortable with taking work into the home environment, and along with that we take the home environment into the workplace. We find ourselves multi-tasking – all day. We balance all our spheres of life like a juggler at the circus. One day one of those balls is going to drop. We won’t be doing our best in any sphere: we won’t be working at our best, we won’t be strengthening our relationships or finding true rest to our body, mind, and spirit – in the best way.
When we blur the different spheres in our life (which the cell phone makes it easier to do) we find ourselves living an overstimulated life. We are always on the go – because we can. We are always seeking input be it affirmation, information or inspiration – all easily found via our connectivity via the phone. There is no white space in our life.
For us to balance all our spheres of life well – we need to keep the spheres separate – doing the right thing at the right time. Sometimes that will mean using our mobile phone, and other times it means putting it down so we can do what needs to be done without it.
The Phone is not at Fault
When we feel that the mobile phone is a distraction from the things that we really want in our life our first reaction is to blame the phone or put the phone away. We put it in another room or put it on the recharger or possibly get rid of it all together. Many parents make this decision for their teens so that the juggling act doesn’t even begin in their life. But the mobile phone is more than a telephone that fits in our pocket. The mobile phone has become a major tool in how we live our life – and maybe it being in another room won’t help us with other areas of our life. It might stop the distraction from the pings of messages coming in – but it means we don’t hear the reminder for the appointment we have to get to, or have the reading we need to complete an assignment.
If the key is to use the right tool at the right time to do the right task – then when the phone is being misused – it isn’t the phone’s fault, it is our own heart that needs to be readjusted.
What is going on in your heart? Why do you pick up the phone to do something that you shouldn’t be doing at that time? Why can you not put it down? These are the questions we should ask before we make a plan to get control of the phone in our life.
- Am I avoiding responsibility?
- Am I seeking people’s approval?
- Am I addicted to fun and pleasure?
- Am I not balancing the spheres of my life well?
The phone is just a tool and it can help you do the things you want or it can help you do the things you don’t really want to do – or at least know in your heart that you shouldn’t be doing at that time. The phone is just the tool – the heart is what makes our choices.
Time for some Heart Work
Just as parents train their children to be obedient, respectful, responsible etc – we may have to put ourselves through some heart training when it comes to our mobile phone.
What is it that drives you to be on your phone doing the wrong thing, at the wrong time? When you can honestly answer that question you will know what changes you need to address.
A few ideas you may need to consider: self control, thoroughness, diligence, self-acceptance/self-respect, honesty, or punctuality. All these virtues affect how we use the phone in some way.
There is never only one way to train the heart. The issue for you will be different than the issue in my heart. Here is a quick summary of how to address heart issues:
- Recognise behaviour that you don’t want in your life
- Acknowledge what is going on in the heart – what is motivating the behaviour.
- Decide what belief or value is not in action, and is needed for different/better behaviour.
- Create a plan to develop or grow in that belief or value – this may include practical restrictions as you grow stronger
You may need some extra help
The heart is the place where we hold and process the things that we believe and value. Sometimes though it takes time, and practice, to match our actions with our beliefs. So while you are growing in self-control, diligence, wisdom etc – you may need some physical boundaries to give you the space to work on your heart.
- You may need to put time constraints on your phone or put it away altogether.
- You may need to cancel some social media accounts.
- You may need to find another way to do your task, not involving digital technology.
- You may need to delete some games or cancel a subscription to movies.
- You may need to ask someone to help you be accountable.
The combination of changed values in your heart and changed habits will mean that you will be able to control the use of your phone and use it for its fullest purposes – and that is a good thing!
Over to you:
How does seeing the three different ways we use the phone help you to give value to the mobile phone in your life, or your husband’s life or your teen’s life?
And secondly, how does seeing the heart issues behind the phone usage enable you to deal with issues in your home regarding the phone?
Building Family Resilience in a World of Technology: Our family does not need to be a victim to social media – parents can create a healthy resilience in their family when it comes to technology.
Don’t Trust in Rules: Legalism vs. Heart: Don’t trust in rules – it just leads to legalism. Instead we need to trust in Jesus which will bring life and truth to our kids’ hearts.
Why we Bring our Devices to the Dinner Table: There is a reason why we would bring our mobile devices to the family dinner table – we have purpose and guidelines.
How I use Google Calendar for my Digital Homemakers Binder: I have discovered Google Calendar as a way to make a digital homemaker’s binder – no more heavy binder to carry, and no more pieces of paper to print off!