My first cycle ride of the summer was supposed to be challenging, enjoyable, fun, and exhilarating. Instead, it had one too many scary moments.
The first: a man in a car rudely honked, yelled, pulled over (almost getting out of his car), and swore at us just because we were biking on the road, preventing him from driving faster than he should have been. Hadn’t he heard of “share the road?”
The second: I dropped my iPhone and ran over it with my bike. The next thing I noticed was a car barreling down the road headed straight for my phone. I threw myself at the phone in an attempt to save it.
In that split moment, when my phone bounced out of my bike basket (yes, I know it was a totally terrible idea to keep it there), I saw my life flash before my eyes. MY LIFE. Or my iPhone’s life. Is there a difference? There should be. In my heart, there wasn’t.
I jumped off my bike and started to run up the hill, waving and shouting frantically at the car that was driving towards my precious phone. Thankfully it swerved, and I was able to snatch the phone from the ground and scamper onto the sidewalk.
My iPhone lives. So do I. But was it worth the risk? Is risking my life worth the cost of a $1000 phone? Even though my heart wants to say yes, the answer must definitely be no.
Put down your phone and live
I know I’m not alone in this. Spend two minutes in a public space and you’ll see what I mean. Texting and driving is still alarmingly common, and you can’t be in public without noticing how many people have their necks craned downwards, their eyes glued to a screen. Admit it; you probably bring your phone with you to the washroom, right?
What kind of society are we building? Seemingly, it’s one where we’re willing to prioritize our phones over our own lives or the lives of others. The cost looks different for everyone, whether it’s our physical health (like me, darting in front of traffic), our friendships, our mental health, or our emotional health.
We are paying a high price for over-valuing these devices that were designed to serve us. Instead we are serving them.
It was a timely reminder reading an article by fellow Canadian-female-writer Jaquelle Crowe, Unplug iGen. Addressing young adults, she articulates the importance of not becoming tech-addicted by limiting our screen time, prioritizing real relationships, taking mental health seriously, building God’s kingdom (and not our own), being freed by the gospel, and protecting yourself with accountability. Essentially we need to die to ourselves, and our devices, daily.
Amen, sister. Amen.
Our generation, myself included, needs these reminders constantly. We need to put down our phones, physically, spiritually, and emotionally — and live.
Fear of silence and loneliness
I’m still processing why we seem to grip onto our phones so tightly. These devices are just tools to help us connect, build bridges with others far away, and streamline our lives. These are all good things, but instead of just being thankful for my phone, I elevate it to something it was never supposed to be: an ultimate thing.
In a society that’s obsessed with connection, and very real FOMO (fear of missing out), what we end up fearing most is silence, isolation, and being alone with our thoughts. If I’m silent and alone, what will happen? What will I feel? What will be exposed in the empty space? Perhaps it will be pain, disappointment, or shame. Over what, I’m not sure. But there’s something bubbling just beneath the busyness of my life that threatens to surface. Because of this, I’m quick to fill the space with distraction, comparison, photos, filters, and reminders that I’m liked, needed, popular, and approved.
But does my phone and social media really give me these things that I long for and desire? No. Just shadows of them. Even when I feel affirmed by likes and comments, it quickly fades and I’m faced with an insatiable desire for more. It never quite satisfies for very long.
God speaks in the silence
As a Christian, it’s ironic that I’m quick to fill that silent space in my life with distraction because it’s often in that space in which God speaks most clearly. God speaks in the silent and in-between spaces. In the past, God has even led me into seasons of silence providing more time and focus to hear him speak to me through reading the Bible, in prayer, or even in the mundane moments of life like weeding my garden.
We need to surrender and die to those urges of distracting ourselves every time there’s silence or empty space. We need to allow God to speak or lead in those moments. It’s during these times that he will open our eyes to what’s going on around us.
Perhaps it’s acknowledging the person sitting alone in the coffee shop by making eye contact and smiling. Or thanking the person at the counter instead of multitasking and texting at the same time. It could mean giving yourself time to process those deeper emotions that bubble up when you’re alone, turning to God for clarity to process them.
Let’s allow our phones to serve us, and guard ourselves from serving them. Our lives are worth far more than a device. So let’s live like it.