Thanks to technology, I'm typing this in my bedroom, allowing me to share my thoughts worldwide. That is the dream. What dampers the dream? The urge to look at my phone every few minutes, how I scroll through "inspiration" when I could be connecting with the outside world, and how challenging it is to spend substantial time with God. I'm a strong believer in personal responsibility, so I won't make excuses; I've left my willpower in the wind. However, I recognize how screen addiction affects our brains. It's a real problem that requires a plan to reel in. I notice how my attention span is dwindling, my enjoyment of simple things seems clouded, and the time I've wasted is tragic. I want to reflect Jesus in my life, and that means having a deep relationship with Him. It's not only reading my Bible every morning or praying when stressed. I should have God present in my mind throughout each day, and how can I do that if I'm constantly consuming content?
I know my purpose is to love God and love people, but what does that mean in the mundane and everyday moments? To give anything to others, I have to take care of myself. That starts by looking at God's design for a healthy life. God created a beautiful world, and He calls us to enjoy it, care for it, and go out into it as disciples. He also tells us to think for ourselves and not conform. He gave us creative minds that we restrict when we have to Google "How to stop Googling." The response of our bodies and minds reflects that God created us for real life. The more we bury ourselves in instant gratification, the less we know about surviving reality and thriving in our identity. If we had to choose between constant screen time or none at all, we need to know we'd choose the latter. However, technology helps us take action when we use it to share the truth with others, provide for ourselves, and learn valuable information. Even watching Netflix can be good for us if we enact self-control.My point is, I want to treat technology as a resource, not an extra limb. If it keeps me from thinking of solutions and having peace in Jesus, it goes against my purpose. I've trained myself to bring stuff in, and it's time to live out the gifts I've neglected. Putting God before my screen addiction means using discernment with the content I choose.
At the start of the new year, I looked at my goals from last year and realized I was doing things backward. Instead of focusing on what I want to accomplish this year, I will discipline myself to not do what gets in the way. Naturally, I'll want to fill that empty space and get excited to work on my goals. My first impulse was to replace my iPhone with a "brick" phone since that would eliminate most of my mindless internet activity. I quickly realized that would only avoid the problem and would disregard tools that are productive. Going smartphone-free is impractical and almost impossible, so I have to set some ground rules. Here's the list I've created so far: Set daily screen time. I'm giving myself 30 minutes twice a day to do whatever I want on my phone. I have yet to stick to this, but I'm definitely spending less time than I was. I'm also keeping my hands off the TV remote until after 8 p.m., which frees up a lot of weekend time. Delete mindless scrolling apps. For me, Reddit, Instagram, and Medium are the biggest struggles. I can still use them on my browser, but this way, I don't open and close them habitually. Keep my ringer on, texts off, and set my phone across the room. This way, I don't have to worry about missing an urgent call, and I'm not drawn in by every message in a group chat.
Plan something to DO. I'm hardwired to take action, and I've turned that into filling the void. Every time I want to scroll on my phone, I'm going to read my Bible or write in a notebook. If I keep it up, those patterns will rewrite my habits. Get out of the house! I got running shoes for Christmas, so I'm going to start (at least some of) my mornings with my best attempt at a jog. Fresh air and the sights of nature always inspire me more than any Instagram post. Practice awkward stillness. Whenever possible, I leave my phone in my car while running errands. Then when I'm waiting for something, I feel less compulsion to grab my phone. I notice interesting things around me and am more assured of myself."Hang out" with God. This is the practice that rules all the others. When I'm with friends, I can forget about my phone for hours and enjoy their presence. Why don't I do that with God? Well, it's probably that "bringing in" mentality. Because I don't audibly hear God, I forget there's a two-way connection. My brain doesn't feel stimulated. I need to get comfortable in material silence to take in what God is saying. When I struggle to clear my mind, it helps to meditate on a simple Bible verse. "Be still and know that I am God." is one that I can easily repeat until I put my intruding thoughts aside. I also wrote Mark 1:35 on a note in my room as a reminder to physically seek solitude. For more suggestions, check out this article! God created us to connect with Him, other people, and the rest of His Creation. He wants us to innovate ways to show more people His message, and He wants us to listen in the little moments. Instead of, "How much screen time is too much?" let's ask, "How can I best use my time to follow Jesus?" That question will structure how we use our resources to embrace His calling.
Written Content Coordinator at Sun Valley Community Church. An avid writer since the age of 5, who loves to explore new ideas and places. Inspired by Jesus, books, and travel.