I heard a news report this week that said statistically smartphones are almost obsolete. That is based on research that states that once anything reaches more than 50% of market saturation, it begins to become obsolete. According to the report, the smartphone market is now at 75%.* You can enter any public arena and see that this is pretty close to accurate. People are constantly consumed with looking at their screens in search of information or making sure they haven't missed the latest "news" from or about a friend or they are addicted to the latest game app.
Many times I have seen couples out for dinner and they are not even talking to one another. Rather, they are on opposite sides of a table looking at their phone and might as well be on opposite sides of the world. But lest I seem too condescending, I am guilty as well. Me and my family have gone to a local restaurant to purchase and share a drink just so we could visit and my wife will need to remind me why I am there.
Last night something happened that is very out of character for me: I walked out of my house to go to our daughter's junior high band concert and I left my phone at the house! It was a little hard to get used to. First, both my pocket and my hand were empty. I'm used to having the phone in one of those two places. Then occasionally, I found myself wondering if I was missing a call or a text from a church member (Maybe someone had an emergency and could not get in touch with me!). But, do you know the one thing that didn't bother me? I didn't have the urge to look at Facebook or Twitter or look something up on the internet or any other distracting thing. Do you know what I did? When we got to the concert, while we were waiting for it to begin: I talked to my wife and my son. I visited with other parents. I even got out of my seat and walked across the room to greet some folks that I knew! What a concept! I socialized! And once the concert began, I just listened!
I am obviously being "a little" over the top right now, but I/we have truly sacrificed social relationships for social media. We are not really engaged in the lives of the people in our social networks. We interject into their lives and they into ours, but we do not invest. God created us to be relational, but the enemy, Satan, does not want such a bond. Jesus said, "Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and a house divided against itself falls" (Luke 11:17). This is certainly an area that needs our intentional attention. We need to invest in our spouses, our kids and our spiritual family. We need to invest, most of all, in our relationship with Christ by spending quiet time in His word and in prayer (Matthew 14:23).
I am not railing against the use of smartphones. I value the usefulness of mine, but I also recognize the distraction it can present. However, after I finished my time out with my family last night, I was glad that I forgot my phone. It was peaceful and undistracted.
Because of my experience, it has inspired me to issue a challenge: **Plan a phoneless night out. If you're married and it's going to be just you and your spouse and you have kids, leave them with someone you trust fully to take care of any situation so you don't feel the need to call while you are out. You may want to have a family date night with your kids. If you're not married, either agree with your date or with your group of friends to go phoneless . Just leave your phone at home and engage in conversation with the people you are with. Maybe you'll need to develop a list of questions to ask (you might be out of practice in the art of conversation).
Try it and come back and leave some comments. I would like to hear how your phoneless night out goes. In addition, I challenge you to spend some time in the scripture either with your phone off or so far from you that you don't hear it make a sound until you are done. I'd like to know how that goes too. I hope to hear from you soon!
For God's Glory,
Chris S. Sweet
*I searched for an article related to the radio news story and was unable to find a link.
**Interestingly enough, this afternoon after I posted this article, a radio station mentioned an app to help with this: It is called Dinner Mode. It is only available for Apple products in the iTunes store.