Recently someone recommended that I read ‘The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry’ by John Mark Comer. As expected, the book observes that we live in a frantically paced world, with our common response to ‘How are you doing?’ being, ‘Good, just busy.’ The question becomes, busy with what?
High on the list of culprits for our hurriedness are our smartphones. Comer writes, ‘the average iPhone user touches his or her phone 2,617 times a day. Each user is on his or her phone for two and a half hours over seventy-six sessions… Another study on millennials puts the number at twice that.’
However, the smartphone is not the only electronic device vying for our attention. In total American adults watch 6 hours a day of video including ‘time spent watching both live and time-shifted TV, watching videos in an app or mobile website on a smartphone or tablet, watching video over a TV-connected device like a DVD player, game console or internet device such as Roku, and watching videos on a computer.’
Beyond the normal responsibilities of work and family, we are letting our time be consumed by the virtual world. We run the risk of becoming spectators in life. However, we were created to live life.
What is my suggestion? Unplug… at least somewhat… to de-virtualize our lives in order to connect with the real: God, people, nature, and self.
Following are some practical suggestions to live a bit more unplugged:
No Phone Zones – These ‘zones’ can be either location, times, or circumstances.
Bedtime – Stay phone-free once you turn in for the night until after breakfast the next morning.
Prayer time – Connect with God the old-fashioned way. If you use a website to help you pray, perhaps you could use a tablet [fewer pop-ups than phones], or even print out your Gospel passage or devotion.
Meals – Converse with family members. Resist the temptation to consult your phone even if related to the conversation… it can wait.
Conversations – Put the phone away and show the other person your undivided attention. There is nothing worse than glancing at your phone while someone is speaking with you.
Technical Aids to Reduce Phone Distractions:
Use ‘Silent’ and ‘Do Not Disturb’ settings on your phone most of the time. You can always tell it to let through calls and messages from your children and your spouse. This will help avoid checking your phone every two minutes when it buzzes.
Track your screen time. At the end of the day, you can see how often you have used our phone.
Eliminate media pop-ups – You decide when to look at the news.
Down-time substitutes – find other ways to occupy your time instead of using your electronics.
Standing in line – Speak to the person next to you. Pray. Relax. Bring a paperback book to read. Sing a song [OK, just kidding on that last one].
When you need a break at work – Get away from the computer screen and your phone. Walk outside or down the hallway for 5 to 10 minutes. Get some water or coffee. Take a break with someone else. Bring a snack, and bring an extra to share.
When you need a work-break at home – Walk outside. Play with the kids. Stretch. Sing a song [Here it’s more acceptable].
Call your spouse or child – OK, you are using your phone, but not simply staring at it.
Set strict limits on your electronic recreation. This includes video games, social media, the news, YouTube, TV, and movies.
Limit your recreation time with all electronics – Set daily and weekly goals. Suggestion: Could you average 1 to 2 hours a day at most?
Play or view only before a hard deadline – If you are afraid your 15-minute break will turn into 45 minutes, then try only playing or viewing just before a hard deadline – like a meal or an appointment – where you are forced to stop.
Make your consumption goals public – Tell your spouse, roommate, or friend what your limits are. Report to them occasionally how it is going. Accountability helps.
The objective is to regain control over our phones and electronics in general, not because they are bad but because there is better out there. It is too easy to let them fill the void of our boredom.
There are countless ‘real’ things to do. You will have more time for prayer, more time for friends and family. You could exercise, read classic literature, learn a language, listen to music, play an instrument, play board games with the family, dance, do puzzles, paint – to name a few things.
We must renew our awareness and determination to live with the real. Less screen time means more face time with God, with others, or just alone time with yourself. As a result, we will become less distracted, less stressed, more attentive, happier, and holier.
Fr. John Bullock, LC
Image: Firmbee on https://pixabay.com/
 Comer, John Mark. The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry. The Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. (pp. 21). Comer, John Mark. The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry. The Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. (pp. 36-37).  https://techcrunch.com/2018/07/31/u-s-adults-now-spend-nearly-6-hours-per-day-watching-video/