An Experiment

“The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful.”  Matthew 13:22

It’s no secret that we’re all a little bit enamored with our phones. None of us can help the fact that in on little 4 x 2.5-inch device,  we carry our music, alarm clock, email, phone, TV, calendar, GPS, bank, and address book. But are there small ways that we can disconnect, even just a little bit?

This week, I decided to conduct an experiment.

Observation: The first thing I do every morning is check email, Facebook, twitter, and my other e-mail.  The last thing I do at night is check email, Facebook, twitter, and my other e-mail.  I wasn’t sleeping well, and was feeling stressed.

Question: 
Is it possible to turn OFF my phone at 7 PM?
It it possible to turn it back on only after reading the bible the next morning? 
Yes, OFF.  Not just on silent. 

Background Research: 

I literally haven’t turned off my phone since 2010. With the radically crazy iPhone engineering and battery life, I have been able to simply plug it in by my bedside table every night, and never have to be disconnected from anything. If someone texts me at 2 AM? Why yes, I’d love to send you that info via e-mail, no problem at all.

I realized that a primary reason for being so connected to my digital device is this central longing I have to feel needed. If someone is e-mailing, twittering, calling, texting, or face-booking me in the middle of the night — I must be very important.  I must be indispensable to the world and its turning. How dare I disconnect from a world that needs me?!

But perhaps, feeling needed is a conditioned response. I’m just like one of Pavlov’s dogs.  I hear a “ding” of an e-mail in my inbox, and immediately I salivate at the idea that I’m needed in some way. It fulfills my desire—not for food like the dogs in his experiment—my psychological desire to feel appreciated and a part of what’s going on in the world.

The sad thing is, I’d trained myself to be this way.

Could I un-train myself?

Hypothesis: This was going to be difficult.  What if I missed an important phone call? What if there was an emergency? What if someone texted me and wanted to go to lunch tomorrow?! But, it was worth it to me to give it a try. Because what if it actually freed me to live my life in a more fully present way?

Experiment: Starting Monday, I turned off my phone at 7 PM, and didn’t turn it back on until after reading the bible the next morning. Simple.

Results:

At first, this was hard.  We went out to dinner one night at 6:30, so I just ended up leaving my phone at home.  What was I supposed to do when Patrick got up from the table and went to the bathroom? What if my food looked really cool, and I wanted to Instagram a picture of it?

So it turns out that if I disconnect from the world for fourteen hours or so — the world doesn’t stop turning. There’s nothing that important for me to attend to at 9 PM, 2 AM, or 6 AM. And in fact, when Patrick got up from the table, I was able to strike up a conversation with the folks sitting next to me — who came to Nashville all the way from L.A. to adopt a little boy.  That was an important conversation I may never have had if my phone had been present.

I also realized that without my phone by my side at night and in the morning, I’m actually able to focus on time with Patrick, and focus on my time in the bible and in prayer, in a way that I haven’t been able to for quite some time.  I’ve learned that the sense of “need” I’d been feeling through my phone was a false sense of urgency, distracting me with worries and a desire to do more work so I can make more money or grow my own little empire. Gross. The real needs in my life are for family, communion with the Lord, focused prayer, and true, human interaction.

What do you think? Would you ever conduct your own little experiment? Are you addicted to your phone, or do you have more self-control than I’ve had?

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Comments

  1. Cool Erika!! I'd love to hear how it goes! 🙂 Miss you!

  2. Claire,I read your blogs off an on and am very glad I read this one :). I feel like you took my exact thoughts in this post! My husband and I are going to try this little experiment out this week ourselves! Have a good week.Erika Cook

  3. Yes! I remember that blog post! The thing that I liked about this experiment is that its just a little bit of time each day – and it's totally DOABLE. I think I could give up my phone for a week, but then I'd probably go back to the way I was addicted to it before. Now, I am enjoying doing this as a daily habit. After your experiment did you limit your phone/internet use?

  4. I turned communication technologies off for a week for one of my classes at Duke Divinity and came up with many of the same conclusions you did: I'm not as needed as I think, it's easier to commune with God without distractions like a phone, and being present with others is often hijacked by our technologies.http://www.jonathanandersen.com/terror-and-joy/

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