This year for Lent I am giving up my phone on Fridays. I’ve felt distracted recently and thought taking my phone away would provide a great opportunity to cut myself off from the larger world and focus on the people and things right in front of me.
This past Friday was my first attempt at ditching my phone, creating 24 hours of cellular silence. No easing into it, I just went cold turkey. Well, for a couple of hours that is. I didn’t call or text anyone, but I confess that a few times throughout the morning I touched that addictive home button just to see “what time it was” and, of course, to see if anyone from the vast outside world had contacted me.
It wasn’t long before I started getting that little itch in my fingers, even though 90% of the time I check my phone I do not have any new texts, emails, missed calls, posts, tweets… You get the picture! My social media life is humdrum at best, and I only text 4 or 5 people on a regular basis, so why this overwhelming need to be connected to my phone anyway?
As the day wore on, the twinges of my phone-free fingers became more and more painful, and I realized that there might be a deeper issue going on. As much as I’d like to blame Verizon for my personal problems, I think that just might be a cop out. I’ve known for a while now that I need to spend less time on my phone, but as my father used to say, “Knowing and doing are two different things.” Sadly, that little phrase is still true today.
As I took time to reflect on my No Phone Friday experience I realized that my real problem is not incessantly checking my phone. My phone habits are merely a symptom of a more significant illness, which I am beginning to diagnose after avoiding going to the doctor for far too long.
At the heart of the illness is my unhealthy need to “be in the know.” So much of my phone usage is an external response to my internal need to know exactly what’s going on everywhere all the time. There is this insatiable drive to be in on every important conversation. God forbid a pin should drop and I not know about it. I don’t want to be seen as ignorant or out of touch or out of date. There is a fear that I might miss out on something. What exactly that elusive something is, I have no idea, but the fear is there, nonetheless.
Little by little, this disease of needing to be in the know has crept up on me, and the sad part is that the incessant need to know what is happening everywhere means that I often miss out on what is right in front of me because I’m too distracted to pay attention. The phone burning in my pocket wins out over the actual human being I’m spending time with. Silly emoticons and trendy hash tags win out over conversations waiting to be had, cutting me off from the living breathing human being next me to. Photos on Instagram are somehow more captivating with their sepia filters than the real people and places without artificial coloring I see before me.
All of these things get in the way of real relationships with real people who really matter.