I felt the subtle vibration on my left thigh and instinctively reached for my pocket, only to find it empty.
This was how my 2016 Memorial Day weekend began, and the pattern continued repeatedly. For two days I made the commitment to enjoy the holiday weekend with friends and family by putting my phone away and making an effort to be present at all times. I held down my iPhone’s power button and slid my thumb to the right in order to shut it down, an action I usually only do once a month or so, when the device needs a reboot. I had had enough.
I love Apple products in general, but especially my iPhone. My life basically exists on this device. Every day I have constant notifications reminding me to do things I would otherwise forget, calendar notifications keeping me on schedule, emails from clients that I need to respond to, plus the endless world of social media I try to stay current on in order to run a successful business. It is a great tool that keeps me on track, but it can also very easily consume me when I’m not careful. Between running multiple businesses, staying educated with podcasts and audiobooks, texting friends, emailing clients, keeping my tax records up to date, keeping track of business mileage, etc… I was burned out. I needed to recharge.
My wife, our two boys, our dog Hemi and I all headed up to Farwell, Michigan where Kim’s parents own a cottage within eyesight of Littlefield Lake. Normally on trips like this I pack clothes, my DSLR travel bag, my laptop bag, my iPhone, a charger and headphones (for audiobooks,) among other things. But this time pretty much all I took were the clothes on my back. I did take my iPhone in case of emergency, but I turned it off and placed it in my pocket.
When we arrived at the lake on Saturday morning, we began relaxing immediately. I have a small travel sized hammock I keep in the trunk of my car, so I unpacked that, set it up between two trees and took a nap. I woke up off and on during my nap and each time I awoke, my hand reached for my pocket to grab my phone. My brain was subconsciously telling me to check my Snapchat feed for new stories and my Instagram feed for new posts. When I pulled my phone out of my pocket, I remembered I had turned it off and I would return it to my pocket. Even though it was turned off and of no use to me, I realized at this moment that I was receiving comfort by simply having this device in my pocket. I am so used to carrying that little powerful box of information that anytime I don’t feel that extra bit of weight in my left pocket, I become uncomfortable. At this time, I got out of my hammock and put my phone in the car. I walked away and returned to my hammock, feeling quite naked.
I feel silly admitting my struggle with separating from my phone, but this is the age we live in. Phones are beautiful and useful tools, but think about how much we rely on them. When you are bored and have nothing to do, what do you rely on? Your phone. When you are walking through the store and you see someone you don’t want to talk to, what do you do? You pull your phone out of your pocket and pretend you’re doing something important (even though in reality you leave your screen off and just tap on random areas of the glass to make the person think you are typing. Don’t worry, we all do it.)
We are so reliant on our phones that we as a society are forgetting how to be human.
I recently read a book by Kevin DeYoung labeled, Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book about a (Really) Big Problem. In this book, Kevin (a Pastor from a church in Lansing, Michigan) calls our society the “ponderless society” and believes that we have made ourselves so busy that we no longer ponder anything.
The dictionary defines the word ponder as follows: to think about or consider something carefully. I feel that because I have allowed myself to be so consumed by the art of consuming, I have forgotten how to ponder things. My brain has become A.D.D. and cannot focus on one thing for more than five seconds.
By placing my iPhone in my car, I gave myself the opportunity to ponder again. I laid in my hammock for the majority of the weekend, read half of Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, talked with family, relaxed around a bonfire, ate good food, drank good drinks and thought a lot about how blessed my life is. I think I am going to make this a habit in the future.
When I arrived home, I navigated to the notifications setting and turned off the majority of them. I am no longer notified when someone comments on a photo. I am no longer notified when I receive an email (I check it twice per day.) My thigh no longer vibrates every five seconds and I am more able to think deeply and to muse more often. Friends, I know it’s hard, but we need to back away from our devices and begin reuniting our families. If this post has moved you in any way, please let me know in the comments below. I would love to hear your thoughts.