Several months ago, I was scrolling on my phone, toggling back and forth between Facebook and Instagram, even refreshing to see if something new was posted. How long had I been doing this? I clicked on the Pinterest app because it never lets me down. The proverbial rabbit hole is deep there. My eyes were starting to glaze over. I felt a little nauseated. And I was restless. My mind, my body. Everything was restless. But I didn’t stop.
Have you ever experienced this? The compulsion to keep looking through pictures, clicking through links, and hitting that thumbs up? I looked at my phone last thing before I went to sleep and first thing when I woke up. Sad but true.
I started paying attention. Why would I continue doing something that doesn’t make me feel good?
While I was processing this, I also took steps to break the habits. I set time limits on my iPhone. I set them for social media apps, and I set them for general phone use at night so it disabled before my usual bedtime and wouldn’t start again until after I was already well into the rush of getting four kids off to four schools. Then I paid attention to how I felt about those limits and how many times I picked up my phone when I’d already used my time for the day.
It was humbling.
There are many great ways I utilize my phone, but defending them is not the purpose here. My gut knew something was up, and I needed to figure it out. For someone who loves silence, why was I creating so much noise in my soul?
That’s the question that finally led me to the answer. First, apps are created to be addictive, so we are reacting exactly in the way the designers had hoped. But for me, I realized that there was more. There were patterns. Fear was involved. What would happen if I were actually still and truly quiet?
I’m an introvert and naturally self-reflective. Figuring out how I feel about things is usually not a challenge. But sometimes, depending on my stress level and emotional health, I just don’t want to. I don’t want to admit how disappointed I am. To acknowledge the fear. To give voice to the hurt. I want to scroll mindlessly on my phone.
There. I said it.
If I can fill my eyes and brain with useless, or even productive, stimuli, maybe I can run from the overwhelm. Distance myself from the hurt. Pretend like the fear isn’t planning a war in my mind.
But it never works.
Numbing the pain with technology or food or whatever our drugs of choice may be will only prolong the healing process. It won’t keep the feelings away forever. In fact, it’s counter-productive because we also numb the joy. As Dr. Brené Brown teaches us, we can’t selectively numb. We numb everything, or we agree to dig into our feelings and bravely walk forward through them.
That’s my choice. I’m not good at numbing anyway. I try when I’m at my lowest points (those are the patterns I noticed), but I just feel worse. Maybe you too. So let’s be brave together. Let’s see our phones for what they are- tools that can be used for good or ones that can distract us from the life happening all around us.
Beauty and brokenness are everywhere. Every day. And I don’t want to miss any of it.
Have you set limits on your phone or with other distractions in your life? What differences have you noticed?