Every morning, I run past a house with chalk drawings scrawled across the sidewalk out front. While most of the doodles were images of creatures and people, one child had elected to write a simple message to passerby: ‘Smart phones suck. Get rid of yours.’ I meant to take a picture (with my smartphone, of course), but it was washed away by the rain before I did.
I wondered how many times that child had noticed the epidemic plaguing society: a couple going for a walk after a day at work, both with eyes glued to their phones. A teen walking past, their phone an extension of their hand, not bothering to smile at the people they passed. The epidemic may very well have hit their own home, with parents missing stories from the day because they’re scrolling through Facebook, or an older sibling ignoring the pleas to play in favor of texting their friends.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve noticed a trend in my own habits. When my friend group is met with a lull in conversation or action, my phone is in my hands, either to check my social media (needlessly) or to play a couple rounds of a mindless game. Although I’m still aware of the conversations when I’m playing those addicting iPhone games, I seem disinterested. I seem uninvested. I seem like I’d rather be somewhere else. It gives the impression that the people I’m with aren’t good enough for my full attention.
Smartphones are a fantastic asset; I can connect with my global friends instantly, I can keep tabs on what’s happening around the world, and I stay on top of events and appointments with ease.
But smartphones can also be dangerous. We have a habit of devoting time and energy to the people in other towns, states, and countries, while neglecting the connections we could be making within our neighborhoods. We’re so focused on what’s happening in the world that we forget to ask what’s happening in our friends’ lives. We spend so much time thinking about future appointments that we forget to live in the moment and soak in experiences.
We were created for communion with God and with each other, and while phones can contribute to connections, they cannot compare to the power of going for coffee and doing life with people.
I often find myself planning for the relationships I will develop in college. I daydream about building friendships within my dorm, my ROTC community, and my classmates. God is opening doors and I know He will provide deep, fulfilling communities for me while I’m in college.
But I cannot let my eagerness for college pull me away from the opportunities and the experiences in front of me as I finish my last semester of high school, or get in the way of developing a solid, consistent relationship with God.
I’m not going to do anything so drastic as to get rid of my smartphone (sorry, neighborhood kid!). But I am going to start paying more attention to how and when I use my phone. It will be an asset, not a hinderance, to the relationships I am in now and will develop in the future.