It happened again today. I found myself mindlessly reaching for my phone. My hand was in my backpack digging for it when I stopped myself—a moment of grace.
I’m experiencing this kind of reaching more than I want these days.
Checking news in between meetings.
Scrolling social media when I’m waiting for someone.
Opening emails when I get into my car before I start driving.
Checking tomorrow’s weather, schedule, or task-list before heading off to bed.
And more times than I’d like to admit, l have picked up my phone to do one thing and found myself still on it much later doing something else. Sometimes I don’t even remember why I picked it up in the first place.
Silicon Valley understands brain science and they’re doing a phenomenal job drawing and driving us to our devices. This is important to know, for sure. (For a fascinating and eye-opening glimpse at how developers are competing for our attention, listen to this Ted Radio Hour interview with technology ethicist Tristan Harris.)
But in moments of grace like I experienced today, I understand there’s more going on for me than just brain science.
This is about my searching soul. Yours too. When we pick up our devices, on the deepest of levels we’re looking for something.
Augustine put it this way: “You have made us for Yourself [God], and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.”
For many of us, the first place we’re now bringing our restless hearts is into cyberspace. It’s become our default go-to in our search for rest, satisfaction, meaning, joy, connection, healing, life and love. When our souls are truly hungry for the infinite One, the digital world waves its arms and yells our names, offering a seemingly infinite stream of color, music, commentary, ideas, beauty, wonder, controversy, vitriol, certainty, promise, humor, tragedy, and so much more.
It is god-like.
God Himself does not typically shout at us, distract us, or cut in front of other gods demanding our attention. Developers are fiercely competing for our attention.
A growing body of research is showing that we are becoming addicted to our devices, yet God (who is and always will be our greatest and most fundamental need) has so constituted the human being that we cannot become addicted to Him.
Our souls are searching for God because we are made for Him. And when we find Him, our souls are designed to search ever deeper into God until we are fully His and until we have made Him fully our own.
This is why I can be drawn so powerfully to the device in my backpack. I need grace to leave it so my soul can find what it’s really looking for.
Lord, you alone satisfy my soul. Help me forsake every other god who vies for my devotion.
“Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you” (Psalm 73:25).
Question: What’s one thing you’ve done or can do to avoid turning to your device to try to satisfy your restless heart? Leave a comment below.
I have started keeping my cell in the bathroom overnight to charge instead of on the dresser next to me.
I deleted the Facebook app on my phone and am not on Instagram. I tell myself I don’t need it – …and I don’t
Great article, Josh., as this is where I’m at right now; I’ve eliminated cable TV to avoid the triggers and hours of wasted time; but now I’m spending even more time on my phone. You’re article is an excellent reminder that the search engine of my soul is only satisfied when its browser cookies filter out and block the lesser gods.
Dr Carol Leaf in her book has documented through extensive research how our devices are actually shortening our attention span, limiting our ability to concentrate and lowering our IQ: see her book, Switch on Your Brain, or listen to her podcasts. So it has helped motivate me to limit my phone use.
There are a number of apps that are designed to help you limit your phone use. I’m going to try a couple: https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.digitaltrends.com/mobile/apps-to-reduce-screen-time-iphone-android/amp/.
Found them while I was searching the web ?
I know it helps me when I actually, personally engage another person in that moment. If that’s not possible (& i’m in a good place) , I can actually pray for someone., anyone else.
Thanks for this post, it has already helped me today.
I have “killed” my TV before it killed me; haven’t watched one thing for over 2 months. I am limiting my time on my phone for several reasons including the EMF’s. I only have one social media account which I rarely use because every time I go on there, I end up depressed because my life seems so dull in comparison to everyone else’s.
I do not want to be sucked into this world’s system, which is evil at its root.
Thank you so much for this writing, Josh. VERY timely for our generation!
We have no cable TV. Gave that up years ago. I haven’t been on social media for over 2 months now. I deactivated both FB & IG. I felt my stress go down immediately. When I get back on (for work purposes only) I plan to allow myself to go on SM during “normal” work hours and only for specific work related tasks. My SM will be 100% professional and zero personal.
Good question. Now I must search my soul for an answer. Thanks for the information, Josh.