It wakes me up. It’s my morning source of information while I scoff my ingenious combination of Weetabix, muesli, granola and bran flakes – no, that has nothing to do with anything I’m about to say, but it’s seriously tasty. I check up on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and then maybe a little world news on the BBC app to reassure myself I’m conscious of the surrounding world.
I check the weather app; do I need a coat? Of course; it’s Belfast. And I’m off on my way to work. Headphones in. What to listen to on Spotify? How about a Giles Peterson playlist that makes me feel super hipster? I can’t listen to Arianna Grande again… it’s only a matter of time before someone catches me singing Break Free. Maybe I’ll listen to a podcast/sermon? Hozier’s new album, that’s what I settle on. I take a quick snap of a random cat that looks like Bruce Forsyth. That’ll get me likes-o-plenty later on. I’ll add a VSCO filter and white borders – it’s what the cool kids do.
A quick binge of social media on lunch. Organise church plans tonight with people from missional community in our Whatsapp group. Catch up on personal emails. Text from pregnant wife: “Please bring me a jar of pickles, Bovril and a bag of humbugs. X”. At Tesco, I aim for self-service checkout so I’m not distracted from the poker hand I’m about to win. On returning home, I read a bunch of tweeted articles saved from earlier followed by a Buzzfeed: ‘21 People Who Have A Worse Roommate Than You’. Later on, when hanging out with church family, it’s time for relentlessly rechecking twitter and football app to keep track of the Champions League scores instead of making conversation. Look through relevant verses on my Bible app.
Home and in bed. “Goodnight darling, love you too.” Let’s read some analysis of tonight’s matches. One final round of my trinity of social media before setting my alarm.
Pretty tragic, eh? Some of it’s exaggerated, but some of it isn’t. Just 340 words doesn’t account for all the quick checks throughout the 17 hours I’m awake.
Don’t hear me wrong. I’m glad I have my iPhone. The fact that my nearest and dearest have one too makes it so easy to stay in touch, and I’m thankful for that. I’m thankful that the same technology is being used to bring education, health awareness and political revolutions around the world. But I can’t help but wonder if what started out as a helpful addition to my life has now got a chokehold on me? How can I possibly be aware of the work of God in and around my life if my eyes are glued downwards?
I’ve started to put a few steps in place to take back some of the ground I’ve conceded.
- No phones in the bedroom
I don’t want Siri to be the start and end of my day. I married my wife, not my smartphone; I want it to be Laura’s words that bookend my waking hours. It’s funny how much more you talk when your eyes aren’t drawn to your palms. Besides, recent research is showing just how valuable sleep is to humanity, and how much we’ve interfered with our body’s natural clock. Their recommendation? Limit screen time in the evenings. I had to buy an alarm clock. Get me. So mid-2000s.
- Take work off my phone
For me that’s work email and twitter. I’ve already failed. But I’m going to try again. I don’t get paid evenings and weekends so why do I act like it? If it’s important, there’ll be a call. And it’s an easy thing to reverse if I’m travelling. But really, whatever it is can probably wait.
- I deleted the Facebook app
Yes, I still look at it from time to time on Safari, but cut me some slack. Baby steps, people.
- I bought a camera
The best camera is the one you have. It’s true. It’s one of the main reasons I still have an iPhone. So I looked around and bought a camera for £23 from eBay (yes, on my phone). It hasn’t come yet. But when it does I’ll have one less reason to depend on my phone being near me.
(I’m open to more ideas, please give them to me.)
I’ve got a kid coming into the world in a few weeks. On one hand I’m so excited about the access and opportunity they’ll have. On the other, I’m aware that children are sponges. Their primary way of learning how to live is through imitating their parents. I don’t want Baby McConaghie growing up thinking that it’s normal to have a phone dependency. I heard on the news that someone has been treated for Internet addiction after an experiment with Google Glass. Is this the future?! No, thank you.
Just for a moment, let’s all pause, put our devices down, and take a deep, unsuffocated breath.
I’d highly recommend watching this video if you’re interested in this topic.