I set out this month to un-addict myself from my phone. A small update: I’m failing miserably in certain regards (still checking social media and the Voxer app too much and sometimes reading my phone in bed) but doing really well about keeping my phone out of sight with my husband and friends. Regardless, I’m talking about it to everyone and I’ve found some others who are also seeking some change.
My friend Rachael wrote two weeks ago about how she’s unplugging. And today, I asked another dear friend to write about how she giving her life more attention. Let me introduce you to the beautiful Abigail Mary Green. She is thoughtful and kind and introspective and her words are always so full of emotion. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram and you won’t regret it.
“Instructions for living a life.
Tell about it.”
– Mary Oliver
As I read these words, I cringe a little. My stomach knots as I think of how far I am from practicing the art of being present—the art of simply being and the art of truly knowing those around me.
I think it’s exactly that—an art—one that doesn’t come easily or naturally in our world of iPhones and iPads and iMacs and “I” instead of “you”. Somehow in our more-than-ever connected world, we are more disconnected than ever. We know how many followers each other has, where they ate brunch this weekend, and what new plant they bought for their home … but what we don’t know is … how they are doing the first Father’s day without their dad, if their rocky marriage has steadied at all, or if they ever got a call back from that one job they’ve been persistently preparing months for.
Here we are, with all this information about people, and yet no true proximity to them. And so this empty information somehow falsely satisfies us to think we “know” what’s going on. Yet our friends in Florida or our family members in California are going through one of the hardest seasons of their life and we don’t even know it—because our affection and commitment has been digitalized and cheapened.
We are scared of hearing the hard things in their lives.
Because hearing hard things hold us responsible to care, to pray, and maybe even to hop on a plane to hug the fragile heart crying on the other side of the line.
We are scared of telling the hard things in our lives.
Because telling hard things lets people know that we actually aren’t okay, and what is more pride-shattering than that?
The truth is…scrolling through our loved ones’ pretty Instagram photos or crafted Facebook statuses is much easier than picking up the phone, or writing them a letter. Speaking to them is dangerous because it’s harder to hide and will expose the kinks in our armor we are desperately trying to hide. Hearing their troubles or joys is costly because it asks more from us than a double-tap to like. It beckons us to engage our mind, heart, and spirit with theirs, and engaging is tiresome. But so is real love.
I can’t help but think our digitalized love is not what God had in mind for human relationships.
“This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son.” John 3:16
God, the Author of love’s example was giving His one and only Son. There is nothing cheap or easy about that.
“Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody…Discover beauty in everyone.” Romans 12:15-17
To laugh and cry with one another. To discover beauty buried in everyone. Impossible to do behind a screen. Impossible without vulnerability and bravery to celebrate or ache for the sake of someone else.
“By yourself you’re unprotected.
With a friend you can face the worst.
Can you round up a third?
A three-stranded rope isn’t easily snapped.” Ecclesiastes 4:12
With a friend you can face the worst. By linking arms with one another, honestly and intimately, we are stronger.
We are addicted to our screens because behind a screen … we are in control.
We control what we tell, and what we intake.
And so we choose.
We choose to tell the good
and avoid the bad
leaving us believing this big, ugly lie
that we have quality friends
and that we are being quality friends.
More connected yet more isolated than ever.
I shake my head and inwardly my heart, and I think of all the things I’ve missed—all the subtleties I’ve overlooked.
The gap between looking and seeing lies in the subtleties.
My husband’s eyes look a little hollow after another grueling work day.
I look … I see … and I move nearer to hug the hollow away.
But how many times did I fail to see?
How many times am I busy with yesterday or tomorrow or a lit-up screen in my hands that I fail to love the people God has given me today?
Yesterday a 7-year-old I’m quickly bonding with, gave an innocent, hilarious monologue on how “men don’t wear purses, unless they’re carrying them for women.”
A friend noticed my phone videoing and said to me, “Hey, why don’t we just live our lives? Let this moment be sacred.”
The little boy goes, “Sacred…yeah…like no one else has got ta’ know about this.”
He understands what I haven’t yet.
He’s paying attention and being astonished.
May we all.