We are bound to our electronic devices with emotional chains that we often don't realize. Most studies agree that the average person checks his or her phone every 6 minutes. If you do the math you learn that we can't even go one percent of the day without reaching for our phone! We are consumed with the idea that we will miss something important if we don't have our eyes constantly on that screen.
We like to tell ourselves that this is out of a desire for connection. We want to be available to all people at all times, we say. Of course, the truth is that this isn't about availability at all. It is about control. It is about fear. We have this fear that if we do not have control over our surroundings, then everything will fall apart. What will people do without our input or our statuses? Surely life cannot run without these things? So we tell ourselves that everything is of utmost importance. Everything is an emergency. Everything demands our time, our response, our input. Why else would we check our work emails while on vacation? Why else do we refuse to turn off the device? We are simply enslaved to the notion that anything important will be mediated through beeps and chirps, and unless we are there to receive it, to manage it, then something will be thrown off balance.
Of course, in this striving to see ourselves available to all, we actually keep ourselves unavailable. We fill our moments always looking to something else. We wait for the next beep. The newest notification. The latest post is never as interesting as the one to come. Life is spent in anticipating what will come next, rather than what is present now.
It can be hard to put down our phones - especially if we have trained ourselves to feel uncomfortable without it in our hands. Yet when we do so, we are able to uncover the Kingdom of God which is present. We enter into life in the Spirit as defined by the presence of God here. In refusing to look at our social media devices, we remind ourselves that the world around us runs to a bigger agenda. We put down the desire to control, to be the one who knows, who answers, and we sit with the reality that God is able to run the things of heaven and earth according to God's good purpose, and not our own. We remind ourselves that in pursuit of the Kingdom of God, we are not called to be the ones who lead, but the ones who follow. After all, we cannot be open to Jesus and his kingdom, in the sacrament of the this present moment, if we are too busy waiting for the newest gossip and the latest notification.
There are times which we need to check our email. And Facebook today is a constant source of communication. But will anything really be lost if you do not turn on your screen for a few hours? Do you really need to respond to every email, every tweet, every message the moment in which it comes. Or can you take some time, to breath, to pray, to seek God's wisdom and guidance in the life in which you are called? Can you stop long enough to remember that the Kingdom to which you belong is held in His hands, not in your own.
Through the discipline of putting down your phone, you don't lose your beeps and notifications. In fact, I'm willing to bet that you wouldn't actually miss anything. What you gain, however, is freedom, and joy, and life in the Holy Spirit.