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A Dangerous Addiction
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Last week I was out for a meal with my husband, Andrew for his birthday. As I looked around the restaurant I noticed another couple on the next table, they were sitting in complete silence and looking down into their hands. It was then I realised they were on their mobile phones. Now before I go on I must state that I absolutely love my iPhone. I think we are very lucky to be able to enjoy such technology and in many ways I would be lost without it. These phones, tablets, iPads, androids etc help us navigate our way to destinations we would otherwise find tricky to find, they capture special moments then and there on camera, they add up sums, converts measures, give you recipes, they let you share news with the world and with your friends in other countries, they manage your finances, take you shopping, give you things to read and places to visit, many things are at our fingertips now because of the mini computers we are carrying around. But what have they taken away from us? I am certain that in our fast-paced world and with people relying on them for work we would probably be stuck without them. But does that mean that they are our lifeline and we absolutely need them one hundred per-cent of the time?
A few months ago Andrew and I were at my mum’s house along with my brother and his wife. There was one moment during the course of the evening which really made me think. All four of us were playing around on our phones, not receiving urgent messages, not researching something we needed then and there, just playing, and my mum said, “Maybe I’ll get myself one of these smart phones, then I won’t feel so left out”. It suddenly struck me that people, myself included, have actually become very rude in social situations, all because of these little machines that are glued to our hands. I know how easy it is to be sitting at home and to reach out for it without even thinking, most of the time not because we need it for anything, but because we’re becoming addicted. It is the norm now for people to be using them and they’re the first thing to be picked up when people are bored. When I stop and think just how much of my day is spent using my iPhone for non-necessary reasons it absolutely terrifies me. I find myself checking it every two minutes for messages, notifications, updates, things that for some reason excite me and make me feel happy. But when this little computer that is always within easy reach takes precedence over friends and family, over God, then something needs to be changed.
It would be easy to say that this is our culture now, this is what we’re used to, deal with it, but I don’t agree. I still believe we are a lot further on because of them and they can do marvellous things but why should that be a reason to neglect our relationships and our faith? I was talking to my friend the other day who I assumed was listening, she was agreeing and ummm-ing in all the right places but when I looked at her she was trawling through Facebook on her phone. We were out with friends a few weeks ago and one of them picked up her phone, looked at it and became disappointed because she had no messages. We weren’t enough then, the people she was socialising with, a message from someone else would have been more important. And the other night while watching a film with my husband I suddenly became aware that we were both sitting on the settee and playing on our phones, how worrying is that, that we can’t even share a film together without looking for outside contact.
This is something that has been bothering me for a while, when you start to notice it you’ll see it everywhere, people walk down the street while texting, I’ve done it myself! (Bit trickier now while trying to push a pram with one hand). So I’m setting myself a challenge and I wonder who would care to join me? Andrew and I already have small things in place, we don’t allow phones at the dinner table for instance. It may sound obvious but you’d be surprised how many people still use them while eating. But I desperately want to do more and to use my time more effectively than just sitting and playing on my phone. When I’m out with friends I am going to keep my phone in my bag and use it only for ringing a taxi at the end of the night and not for checking myself in on Facebook. If I’m at home and feel like reaching for my phone for no reason then I’m going to try reaching for a book instead. I sat in the park when we went for a walk during the summer and my daughter was asleep in her pram. Instead of immediately reaching for my iPhone I could have sat there and prayed. The first thing I do after mass is look at my phone, surely that should be a time for meditating on the good news and celebrating what we have just heard and witnessed.
I wonder if for one day, one whole day, we could maybe put our phone away and not look at it. Other than using it for work or expecting important news most of us don’t really need it, not if we think about it. My challenge is to switch it off and fill the time in which I would normally use it with praying and reading and having actual conversations with people with no distractions. We complain about how busy our lives are and about not having enough hours in the day, I bet we would have more if we substituted games or messages or Facebook activity with actual jobs or prayers or even listening to the radio or an inspirational speaker.
I challenge myself and those that wish to join to a ‘No iPhone Day’ and to offer it up to the Lord. Whatever excuses we give ourselves for ‘having’ to use it are just excuses if we really think about it, people always managed before we had them. Let us try our best to do this one day and then after we have done it and realised it’s possible maybe we could talk and pray and be with each other more often without the constant need for touch screen in the palm of our hands.
Technology is moving forward, but we as people don’t have to move backwards because of it. Our friends and family deserve more, so does our heavenly Father.
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