What We’re Really Doing When We Won’t Put Down Our Phones

We’ve let a smart phone turn us into a people who can’t enjoy being where we are, because we want to know what’s happening where we aren’t.

Dear World,

What have we allowed to happen to us?

When did we collectively agree that our lives could be ruled by electronic rectangles, and why did we give the virtual world so much power over the real one?

Why do we allow social media alerts to take precedence over the people we’re having dinner with, and why do we interrupt real-life conversations for those sent via text message?

When did politeness give way to productivity, and why are special moments interrupted for selfies?

What in the world have we allowed to happen to us?

We’ve created a life where we can’t fully be with the people we’re with because we’re so concerned about what’s going on where we aren’t.

We’ve become a generation of people who find our worth in likes and comments and who can’t fathom not posting every detail of our days. We’ve said it’s acceptable to have thousands of virtual friends and few real ones and to spend more time Snapchatting our acquaintances than speaking to our families.

It’s insanity, world, and we can do better. We have to do better.

The chemical dopamine is an interesting thing. It is released when we encounter a reward, prompting us to repeat the reward’s cause. This is why dopamine is often associated with gambling, drugs, and drinking alcohol. These activities bring pleasure, or a reward, and the body likes these rewards.

Did you know that social media and cell phone alerts are rewards to our systems? We feel pleasure when someone sends us a text, likes our post, or comments on our picture. Dopamine floods our bloodstream, and our bodies ask for more. So we go back to social media and back to our cell phones to repeat the actions that released the dopamine.

Just like we become addicted to gambling, drugs, and alcohol, we become addicted to the technology. We just don’t call it an addiction.

Isn’t it ironic that we regulate gambling, drugs, and alcohol but grant ourselves (and in some cases, our children) full access to the dopamine-inducing technology that gives the same high?

We’ve essentially said some addictions are socially acceptable but others aren’t.

People who are addicted to their technology need a “hit” every few minutes, so they reach for the phone to feel pleasure’s reward. (Let’s not assume it’s only other people. We’ve all felt this temptation ourselves, haven’t we?). The dopamine flooding their systems is more important than the people in their presence. Addiction trumps relationship. A high is more necessary than a conversation.

There is no greater insult to a relationship than not being fully mentally present when we are physically present. If I’m talking to my husband and realize his mind is somewhere else, it hurts. If I’m instructing my children and see they’re not paying attention, I’m annoyed. Their physical presence isn’t enough. I want – need – their mental presence, too.

I’m afraid we’ve allowed our technology to take precedence over our people. 

And here’s the rub. None of this will change unless we are intentional to change it. Technology will continue to rule our lives until we decide to live differently. If we want to prove to our loved ones that they matter more than our phones, we will have to choose every day to:

  • put our phones down, look people in the eye, and talk to them about something other than what we saw on Facebook
  • value what our real-life friends say more than what our online friends like
  • eat a meal without checking to see who’s messaged us
  • turn off our notifications to prevent them from being a distraction
  • live in the moment instead of posting about it

Technology is not the enemy. Like so many things, it’s neutral, but our use of it determines its value. In these days when there’s always a new Tweet to read or a new Instagram picture to see, why don’t we choose the faces of our friends and the company of our families instead?

People remember what we do, not what we say. They remember what we choose instead of them, what we value instead of them, and what we pay attention to instead of them.

I don’t want it said of me that I always posted cute pictures or that I Tweeted funny quotes. Those things are not the mark of a well-lived life. I want to be present. I want to be intentional. I want to be honoring to those around me.

Our culture has changed. It’s fast-paced, image driven, and obsessed with knowing what people are doing. But in the midst of this culture, we have a choice to make. We can be addicted to our technology, or we can be addicted to our real lives. But we cannot be both.

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This article originally appeared at JennieGScott.com.

Jennie Scott
Jennie Scott is a divorced and remarried mom of two whose life has been far from perfect and completely different from what she planned. What she has found, though, is that God has provided exactly what she needed through it all. He is teaching her to enjoy the journey even when the path is winding and difficult. Jennie blogs at JennieGScott.com.

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