I was having coffee with a friend. We were sitting outside, enjoying a beautiful fall evening and one another’s company. In the course of conversation, I mentioned a picture and grabbed my phone to share it. I was immediately distracted by notifications and actually lost my train of thought (what WAS I looking for?). I wish I could say that was an isolated incident. Not even close.
Riding in the car with my hubby, the radio is always loud. His philosophy is that if the music is too loud, you are too old. While he is always willing to turn the volume down and listen to my chatter, I have recently taken to pulling out my phone when we are riding together. Before I know it, I’ve been perusing status updates, checking email and twitter and browsing Pinterest far too long and I have no idea where we are or have been. Next to reaching our destination, my favorite part of any trip is the journey. Lately I’ve been missing too much of the journey.
Sunday mornings are the best; coffee at home from a real cup and leisurely breakfast with my hubby before church. Recently we slept in. The extra rest was much needed but we were a bit rushed. After a quick breakfast I hurried to get ready. In record time we were on our way. Settling into a chair in our small group, I reached for my phone to turn the volume off. It wasn’t in my purse. My chest tightened—I was anxious. I learned later that I was suffering from nomophobia – the fear of being out of mobile phone contact (really, it’s an actual thing now). If you think I’m exaggerating, try separating from your phone, even for a short time.
Hubby quickly offered to run home to retrieve it, but I declined. Honestly, it is rare for me to get a call or text on Sunday morning. And my children know that the parents are together, so they would reach out to dad if mom didn’t answer. But what if there was a need to research a term during class or locate lyrics from a worship song (I actually do this)? What if something in the service was awesome and I wanted to share a picture on Facebook or Instagram? I felt the anxiety of losing connection – to my people (although a lot of them were in the room with me) and to information. The truth is, absent that instant connection to the WORLD, I was actually present in MY world—100% engaged, fully focused on the people and happenings aound me that morning. It was refreshing.
All of this led me to an article in the Huffington Post referencing a study from Iowa State University. You can read it here but the key for me is the scientific test attached to the article. I took it. I am embarrassed to share my score, but I will admit that I have a problem that implies serious FOMO. I am a smartphone junkie and as a result, I am distracted in almost everything I do. Reading a book? Phone within reach. Having dinner/coffee/walk with friends or family? Phone is a third wheel. Even at work, my phone is in my sight, although I don’t take it into meetings (don’t get me started on the madness of people in a meeting checking their phones). Watching TV with the hubs? Phone right next to me.
Worse than my constant connection is the tether (implied and perhaps more me than them) that gives everyone I know instant access to me, with an expectation of immediate response.
I was a child in the 60’s. We had one phone in our little home and it hung on the wall in the living room. Most of my married life was the same. When we were away from home, we were out of touch. When we took a vacation we made sure the people who NEEDED to know had emergency contact information and we truly “checked out” for a period of time.
Today we have information at our fingertips and instant access to people. We follow “friends” on Facebook (I have almost 600 and I bet you have lots more), most of whom we would never take the time to sit with over coffee. Why? Because we don’t have that much time! And yet, I scroll through status updates and see the highlight reel of their lives, and often get the feeling that I’m missing something. All the while, I’m likely sitting with or near a real, live person with whom I desperately need to connect. I recently took one of those Facebook tests, this one to analyze how many hours I spent on Facebook in the last year. I have no idea the accuracy, but I was mortified when it returned 907 HOURS. That’s an average of two and a half hours a day. Lord help.
I am struggling with this, friends. There are so many things I love about social media. But I am feeling and hearing this more and more from others: I have hundreds of connections but few I can count on. Sobering, but for many that is reality.
I have been thinking a lot about Jesus and his friendships. He had a few close friends…three to be exact. Those were the men he poured his life into – they hung out a lot and they worked together. I imagine that on any given day, they knew one another’s whereabouts. They knew about the struggles and the triumphs of one another’s lives. They were in the trenches together and had each other’s backs. They were tight.
Then there were the twelve, and even among those he had a doubter, a denier and a double-crosser. Jesus’ life and ministry touched the masses at times, but he spent his time with a few. He poured his life into even fewer.
I’m beginning to think these last ten years of my life, as I’ve added to my friends list and spread myself thin among relationships, that I’ve been totally off course. While I hope that I can occasionally touch the masses, I’m looking at his example for friendship. I want a few friends who will show up; friends who come in my back door and know the sodas and water bottles are in the garage fridge. I want to be the friend that will change from PJ’s to clothes to meet you because you really, really need to talk. I want to be the friend who takes the time to sit with you in the ER, and cries with you when tragedy touches your life.
And the thing is, we have limited capacity: physically, emotionally and spiritually. I know this because I’ve been disappointed and I’ve disappointed others. I’ve grieved lost jobs and lost kids alone. I’ve known there was a need in a friend’s life but I just didn’t have anything left in me to join them.
Perhaps this has resonated with you. Did you sense a little anxiety as you read? I wish I could tell you I’ve got this, but I am working on it. I’ve begun intentionally spending less time with my virtual connections and intend to return my focus to the people who are part of my inner circle. I’m putting some distance between myself and my smartphone, especially when there are “real” people in my vicinity. I’ve already left home without my phone again, and I’m happy to report the anxiety was much lower!
If you made it this far, here’s a treat for you! Isn’t this just gorgeous? It was last fall, on my cousins pontoon boat. The only thing we did with cell phones that evening was take some pictures. Precious time spent with people I love.
I would love to hear your perspective and insight. Talk to me by leaving a comment below.