I recently completed a “30-day Technology Challenge” which meant I got rid of my smart phone and used a flip phone for 30 days (remember those good ‘ole green screens?). I did this because I was becoming increasingly more and more convicted by how connected I was through technology (smart phone, tablet, computer, TV). I decided to take a break from it to see what I would learn about myself.
This challenge was definitely an inconvenience. It inconvenienced me, my wife, family, and friends, especially in the area of text messages (or the lack thereof). But at the same time, it was also a huge blessing to me and the relationships around me.
My goal in this post is not to deter you from technology completely, but to get you to think about the role technology plays in your day-to-day life. My encouragement to you is to see if there might be a healthy conviction for you to re-evaluate how “connected” you are and if the negative effects of technology in your life outweigh the positive.
I know this 30-day technology challenge may seem silly, crazy, impossible, or maybe not needed, but it has given me a new perspective on technology, on the relationships around me, and on some of my negative patterns.
Below are 11 lessons I learned during this 30-day challenge about my connection to technology:
1. I seek entertainment to flee boredom: I found when I was bored, I automatically went to my phone to “do something” or be entertained. With a smartphone, I don’t know what it’s like to be bored. I believe boredom is a good thing and forces our minds to wonder and think.
2. My phone was a security blanket. When I was with a group of people and not necessarily involved in the conversation, I would regularly go to my phone to provide comfort and companionship.
3. My phone gives me an unhealthy feeling of being needed by others. I found myself wanting and needing to stay connected so I could respond to a text or email quickly (even within minutes).
4. I allow my phone to create unhealthy expectations. I noticed other people expect me to respond quickly to texts or emails and I had the same expectations for others in many situations. It was an expectation that others should be instantly connected to their device as I was to mine.
5. I checked my phone whenever I was in transit. When going from one place to another (i.e., office to my car, one meeting to another, walking to the restroom), I found myself checking email, texts, weather, social media, or anything else.
6. I became less socially aware. I noticed when I was in transit (#5) or waiting for something or someone, I stopped noticing people around me because I was glued to my phone.
7. I tried to “multi-task” in meetings. I saw myself and others not being fully present in a meeting because they were momentarily occupied with something or someone on the other end of their device.
8. My smartphone habits caused me to not be fully present with my wife, kids, family and friends. I was often connected with a device and missed opportunities to connect with people who were right in front of me.
9. I experienced a lack of focus. Cal Newport, author of Deep Work, writes about how technology, smartphones, and devices can be a distraction that cause us to not be able to focus on a particular task for a set amount of time. As I removed the constant sources of connection, I found myself better able to focus and concentrate for longer periods of time.
- My prayer life suffered. What pushed me over the edge to do this challenge were some things mentioned in a couple of books on praying. The authors mentioned that with technology we don’t understand solitude and therefore don’t understand prayer. My prayer life has suffered because of my constant connection with technology.
11. My time with the Lord suffered. Because of #9 & #10, I realized all my spiritual disciplines (i.e., time with the Lord, reading His word, meditating on scripture) suffered because of my constant technology connections.
During my 30-day challenge, I found a healthier view of technology. For the next 30 days, I’m going back to a smart phone, but will only install and use the phone, text, calendar, spiritual life and business apps (no entertainment apps and no email).
You don’t need to repeat the challenge just like I did, but I’d encourage you to consider what lessons you might learn if you re-evaluated your relationship with technology.
Evaluate your “relationship” with technology for one day. Take note of things like how often you reach for your phone seeking entertainment, or how much more present you are during a work meeting or sitting across the table from your spouse, children, or friends.
Be bored! This may not seem like a challenge, but if you find yourself in a situation of boredom or stillness (let’s say doctor’s office waiting area, in transit somewhere, or waiting for the microwave timer to go off), try to “retrain” your thoughts to default to things like praying or thinking about that cool new project you want to start working on.
If you’re interested in the resources that led to this 30-day challenge, or if you’re interested in taking the challenge yourself, please check out some of these great resources:
Prayer, by Tim Keller (or check out some book highlights here).
Too Busy Not to Pray, by Bill Hybels.
The Tech-Wise Family, by Andy Crouch.
Deep Work, by Cal Newport.
Get Rid of These 6 Things, article by Tim Challies.
Quit Social Media, video by Cal Newport.