At the end of 2019, I read a New York Times story that would shape the first part of my 2020. It was titled, “Do Not Disturb: How I Ditched My Phone and Unbroke My Brain. It was published in early 2019 but didn’t find me until the end of the year. It sparked a few questions for me and how I was functioning under the influence of all things revolving around my phone. While I knew I wasn’t as dependent on my phone as the writer in the aforementioned story, I knew I was somewhat dependent. Like food, we have to have our phones. We need food to survive. We can’t just stop eating. That’s why food addiction is so prevalent. Bottom line, we need to consume it in a healthy, balanced way. Our phones are no different.
So, I sprung into the new year with restricted access to my phone. Early on, I realized how many things I used my phone for- email, bank accounts, social media, Bible, devotional, calendar, weather, news, stocks, Waze, Google Maps, GOOGLE, Kindle, Audible, August Lock, Lutron and the list goes on. My phone was literally a portal to my world.
I knew I was going to have to communicate some by phone, but for all the other things, well, I took it back to the old school. The notion of that was exciting for me because “old school” for me is the 1990’s. I pondered life in general back then and without my phone. Rewind, I did have a cell phone in the 90’s. But, it was giant, expensive and only to be used in case of an emergency. So, what did I do? I opened up actual books, read the words and turned the pages. I turned on lights with my fingers and opened doors with actual keys. I peeked outside my window to get a sense of what the weather was going to be like. If I had a question about something important like who Brad Pitt was dating, I pondered it instead of googling. I used the navigation in my car (that I’d never used before) if I’d lost my way here in the concrete jungle. And, I searched through my books to find a multitude of devotionals just waiting for me to dive into.
I adapted to this easily. It felt natural and also rewarding to be more resourceful and self reliant. I didn’t need to start my morning off, opening app after app. Instead, I was enjoying my evening with a good documentary and waking up to the sounds of the city while I prayed, meditated, stretched and read a little before starting my day. To compensate for the time I spent on my phone, I was doing things that were fulfilling. Like food, we can eat junk upon junk and never get full, or we can eat good food and be satisfied and full in the way it was intended to be consumed.
But, I won’t lie, there were many times in the early days of my month long sabbatical with restricted use of my phone that I reached for it out of habit. And, where did I immediately go? Facebook or Instagram. As soon as it opened, I quickly shut it down and put my phone away- far, far away. I knew that once I got on social media, I would be carried down a roaring rapid of information that I couldn’t get off of.
As I reconnected with myself, I started feeling disconnected from my people. You know, the people I kept up with day in and out on social media. Though our interactions might have been somewhat superficial, I still felt in touch. And, that was a good thing for me. What was the newest finding on Alan’s sesame centered Facebook page, “Sesame In the City?” How many months old was sweet little Baby Teagan (I missed seeing her cute little smile and dimples)? What adorable thing was my sister and brother in law’s doodle, Rougie, doing today? Was the Wills Point Tiger tennis team in full swing and whipping up on the competition? These were things I actually missed. The heartfelt stories, photographs of families on vacations, news of promotions, praise reports for good health, encouraging scriptures and quotations and the simple thumbs up for “like” and heart for “love.” For me, these things are heart warming and affirming, and I missed them.
But, the greater revelation for me was this. We may know from what we see on Facebook or Instagram, for example, that sweet little Baby Teagan is eight months old and smiling ear to ear, but what we can’t know is if she didn’t have a good night’s rest or if she’s got an ear infection or if her mom is tired and needing support. No, we can’t know that by a photo on Facebook. We can only know these things if we’re organically connecting people in conversation that exists ear to ear and heart to heart, not through a social media post. I say it again and again, everything that glitters isn’t gold. There’s a lot going on behind some of these posts and pictures that we’ll never know if we don’t connect on a deeper level. And, why do we need to know these things? Well, God may have appointed you to pray for or encourage a particular person or group of people.
When we connect in an organic way, we learn ways in which we can better serve our tribe. That brings up another question? Do you know who your tribe is? Knowing who the people are that God has placed in your life to support and serve you and you them is essential. Recently, on a Facebook post, my beloved friend Tanisha gave a super sweet shout out to her cousin, friend and god mother to her daughter. The person she was referring to is also my friend, Norma. What she was saying to her was, “I know you’re someone I can count on because you’ve always been there for me and my daughter. And, I’ve got you.” Who’s got you? Really ponder this, who are your people, your tribe.
Once you know the answer to that question, then you know where your energy should be. You can focus on these people, investing in them the way they’ve invested in you. And, that may be by an occasional “like” or “heart” on Facebook or Instagram, but it will be more impactful when you’re involved in their day to day, leaning in, loving and serving in the way God’s called you to.
I could pretty much disregard most of the apps on my phone that I use to check this or that. The vast majority of them are not necessary. But, I cannot be without my phone in terms of connecting. More than my phone being a portal to my life, it’s a portal to communicating with my tribe. I love my tribe. It’s filled with new friends and old friends, friends of friends, friends through business, friends with similar interests and family.
In conclusion, restricted use of my phone was revelatory. It put what’s important in life in perspective. We can ditch our phones, but we need our people. To every member of my tribe, thank you for reading this humble little “blob,” for liking and loving and sharing the things that are both on my heart and make it smile. I see you. You are special, important and loved. Always and forever, be sure of this.
P.S. The little cutie pictured on this blob is Teagan. Her smile makes my day. Can you see why I missed it. Teagan’s mom and aunt and grandmother and great grandmother are all members of my tribe. I love them, a lot!