Who’s Your Constant Companion?

18d36-birds-flying-sunshine-933159-mobile

We often refer to the Holy Ghost as our  “constant companion” (see Doctrine and Covenants 121:46). But you might also have an unwitting constant companion: Your smartphone.

These two companions have some interesting similarities:

  • They may be constantly with you.
  • You consult them often.
  • You look to them for guidance and direction.
  • They provide answers to pressing questions.
  • You may pay more attention to them than the people around you.

After the priesthood ordinance of confirmation is performed, through devotion, obedience, and spiritual preparation, we can have the Holy Ghost near us day and night. If we pay our monthly bill, we can keep you cell service on.

We can listen for the Spirit’s still small voice by quieting our minds and being attentive to His promptings. Or we may be watching or listening to notifications on our phones, and checking for new posts or email, perhaps constantly

We can lean on the Holy Ghost for guidance and direction during times of spiritual trial, or rather we may be using Google Maps for driving directions when we’re lost, or looking to the Pinterest app for how-to solutions.

After prayer, we may listen for answers to come by the Spirit, or we might take our questions to friends on Facebook or post queries on Quora.

A smartphone might be so distracting that we pay closer attention to it that the people around us. Or we might regard the guidance of the Holy Ghost higher than the opinions of those around us.

One might be a constant companion while the other is only a companion. One is going to win out. But at times, the chatter of our phones and social media can drown out the quiet comfort and peace we seek from a higher source.

I’m not saying we don’t need our phones. I’m saying they may be distracting us from something better.

Smartphone-less: Two Months Later

https://www.lds.org/media-library/images/man-smartphone-898987?lang=eng

I sold my smartphone in May and replaced it with a rather feature-less “feature” phone. (I wrote about why I did this recently.) It’s been a bit of an adventure to step away from technology and into the trackless quiet of the heart.

Yes, smartphones are very convenient devices, and I look forward to getting another one soon, but for right now, it’s all about the quiet. And being a better listener, being more attentive to others and my surroundings, being more in tune with nature and the Infinite. That’s the key for me.

I don’t believe there is anything inherently wrong with smartphones, unless it demands too much of your attention and you yield to its demands. That was my problem.

I have lost my “phone reflex” simply because I don’t have one. The phone reflex is that moment when you might have a thought to yourself and you look at your phone instead, looking for the answer to the  question,, “What’s new?” or “Why did my phone just vibrate?” and “Why hasn’t Sammy texted me back? WHY?”

I can’t really express what a relief it is to not be “on” red alert 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

According to BusinessInsider, we touch our phones 2,500 and 5,400 times per day. This can’t be good.

It sometimes seems as if our phones function like an extra limb on our bodies. Now, research demonstrates exactly how attached to the devices we really are. The typical cellphone user touches his or her phone 2,617 time every day, according to a study by research firm Dscout. But that’s just the average user: The study found that extreme cellphone users — meaning the top 10% — touch their phones more than 5,400 times daily. (Emphasis added.)

That’s really a lot, more than I thought. How much time does all that touching consume? About 1/4 of our waking hours or over 4 hours per day, according to Hackernoon.

I am not saying that all that time on our, ahem, your phones is bad. I don’t believe that, but if you have lost control, if your phone is dominating your life, to the alienation of loved ones or even strangers on the train who want to exchange a few words with you, it has gone too far.

I couldn’t manage it—my compulsivity, that is—so I had to quit cold turkey (and I am so glad I did). I plan to get a new smartphone in the next few months, but if I can’t abide my own rules, I have promised myself that I won’t keep it. That’s the deal.

 

Why I Gave Up My Smartphone

IMG_8471.JPG

My erstwhile iPhone 5S. Adios.

For several important reasons—to me—I sold my smartphone in May.

First off, the organization I work for was paying the monthly bill (though I owned the phone). I didn’t feel like I was using it according to “company” policy. I was mostly listening to books on Audible or YouTube, texting family and friends, and had more personal calls than “company” calls. It didn’t feel right. That’s the first reason I gave it up.

More importantly, I realized that I was letting my phone captivate my attention to the point that I was preoccupied with it, which felt disrespectful to others. (I wrote about this last fall.)

What really got me to let it go was when I realized it was affecting my relationship with my Heavenly Father. I wasn’t doing anything unsavory with my phone—I was just doing less of the good things I should have been doing, such as having more time to think deeply, talk more soulfully, and pray from the heart, undistracted and uninterrupted.

And it’s working. I’ve gained renewed strength. My connection to God is stronger. And how I need that connection now.  He’s talking to a lot more. Or maybe I am just listening more.

I don’t see this as a permanent thing. I am getting by with a flip phone right now, but I plan to get a another smartphone after my little technology fast.

A smartphone is pretty cool thing to have, but really distracting to me. You may be stronger than I am. If so, awesome. I am not judging anyone else’s use of a smartphone. For right now, I’ve traded my smartphone for a better relationship with myself and a healthier relationship with God. It’s worth it.

P.S. I was able to buy a treadmill just a few days ago for the same amount I sold my phone for. A fair trade. And something I really need. But that’s another story.

 

Smartphones and Social Media vs. Real Human Contact

LDS Media Library

Over the last few years, I’ve had a bit of a falling out with social media, and lately, I have been wrestling with the emotions I experience with any form of virtual interaction. There’s a taint of artificiality. The delay between messages. Feeling compelled to respond in a certain way. I wrestled with the all too common topics, which can be rather negative; and portrayals, which can be flattering but disingenuous. I also am on my guard about privacy and safety.

I’m also giving too much attention to my smartphone. I read “Love Interruptus” in the August 2016 issue of Psychology Today about how one husband called his wife’s smartphone her “other husband,” and about technoference, the “everyday intrusions or interruptions in couple interactions . . . that occur due to technology.” All this has gotten me thinking.

I am not saying this is the experience everyone is having with social media, or that it’s inherently bad. It isn’t. But I am sensitive to even low doses of negativity, and I tend to shield my spirit from its toxic effects. I also value attention given without distraction. I greatly value it.

After a moment of visual revulsion on Instagram this summer, and considering my tendency toward electronic “doodling,”  I took a five-week break from social media (except one work-related Facebook group) so I could get some clear perspective on what I have been feeling. I don’t want to totally give up on my smartphone or social media; I just don’t want it to take so much real estate in my brain, or to distract me from what’s more important.

One thing that’s important is giving people around me the honor, respect, and attention they deserve. Exquisite, thoughtful respect is what they deserve. That respectful attention is Christlike love in action, and I’m not giving enough of it, or allowing myself to receive enough of it.

So I’ve made a decision to turn off my smartphone and keep it out of sight from other people, as much as possible. To leave it in the car when I go into a restaurant or a store or meeting, especially if I’m with my wife or a family member, or even with friends and colleagues. I have plenty of time to myself, when I can pay attention to my phone—people, real, in-person people, deserve better.

I also want my posts to be less trivial and aggrandizing. I want them to be things I would say to a real person, eye to eye, in their presence, in an unvarnished way.

I’ll need more than luck to change. I’ll stay accountable to you and report my successes and failures here. Thank you for understanding: You mean more to me than your Facebook post. I’ll try to prove that. You’re welcome to call me out if I don’t. Please, by all means, do. I need more friends like that.

Update: Sunday, September 18, 2016

How did I do this past week on my technoference goals? I made progress, but it did not go as well as I hoped. I had some successes in keeping my phone tucked away, but not all the time and not to my satisfaction. Checking my phone, even sans notifications, is a reflexive habit. I’ve realized that I need to adjust my approach. I need to read my scriptures on the train, for example, in the presence of others. So I am refining my goals. I need to try a few things first as I develop my personal phone etiquette (PPE). I’ll report back soon.

Update: Sunday, October 15, 2016

How am I doing on my smartphone goals? I have been doing better in some areas, and not so good in others. I have only improved slightly. I usually leave my phone in the car now when I go to dinner with my wife or run some errands with her. That way, I can be more focused on her. I have been doing a little better in meetings. But in other areas, I have fallen down. I am going to focus on keeping my phone put away when (1) I am in a personal conversation with someone; (2) I am in a meeting. When I am tempted to look at my phone in these situations, I plan to turn to mindfulness as an alternative. We’ll see. I am discovering that I am weaker than I thought I was. 😔