Yesterday I was buying a sandwich at a local restaurant and I noticed that the young lady at the counter was drinking one of those energy drinks. I asked her if she liked it. She told me “not really” but I need it to get through the morning. She added “I know it’s not good for me” and explained how she knows she needs more sleep.
The discussion that followed was about having a hard time getting to sleep at night because she is addicted to her computer and smart phone. I asked her if she ever turns the phone off. She hung her head and said “no”. Then she proceeded to tell me about her last weekend on Catalina Island where she couldn’t get a signal. She said at first she panicked and then spent the next few hours agitated. Since she didn’t shut the phone off the battery ran down trying to get a signal and it went dead. She panicked again realizing she didn’t know the time without it, and because she no longer memorized telephone numbers and relied on the smart phone to keep them for her. She said she felt a bit stranded and helpless.
I am wondering if our dependence or even addiction to these new devices poses both a physical and mental health risk. Some clinicians think the answer is a resounding “YES”.
We often define an addiction as anything that we are not able to say “no” to, but rather feel at the mercy of its power to control us.
Does the smart phone meet that criterion in your life? Has it become a ‘new century’ security blanket? Most folks I see walking around Beverly Hills have their phone in their hand, even if they are not looking at it (most are). I often see people in church doing the same thing.
Are we actually becoming more and more isolated while having the illusion of being connected? People will become irritated if interrupted while texting, eschewing a live connection in favor of a digital one. I wonder how many parents are reluctant to ask their kids to turn off their devices (Xboxes included) and have face-to-face interaction because they are unwilling to turn theirs off as well. Or are the kids so addicted that they become hostile and disrespectful when asked to do so.
These new devices have added real benefits to our lives when we are able to control them. But when we cannot, they become a new form of idolatry and enslavement.
How about a spiritual fast where we leave these things off for a period of time and connect with God instead?