Have you noticed how we use our phones as escape routes from uncomfortable situations? In a conversation with someone new there’s an awkward pause, so you whip out your phone to check time/weather/facebook/texts. You’re walking down the hallway and have to pass someone you don’t really feel like talking with, so you pull out your phone and keep your head down, safe knowing that you have an excuse for not interacting. You’re at a party and not sure who to talk to, so you find a quiet corner, pull out your phone, and start scrolling through some social media feed, immediately feeling safely insulated from loneliness.
When our phones become security devices and means of escaping the uncomfortable, they’re taking on a role that Jesus is meant to play in our lives. To the extent that we do that, we’re making our phones into little electronic gods, worshipping them for the way they protect us by devoting our attention to them. Let’s not do that. I’ve written before about the danger of finding security in anything other than Jesus, so I won’t re-hash that point here.
But that’s not the only problem with going to our phones as a means of escape. On top of subtly allowing our phones to become gods, using an electronic device as a means of escape from human connection is making a huge statement about what is valuable to us. When we choose a comfortable, digitally-mediated world of social media over the opportunity for direct human connection we’re declaring that we don’t value the person in front of us. We’re declaring that our comfort is more valuable than another person’s God-imaged humanity. That we will gain more from our phone than we would from them.
Let’s not be people who turn to our security devices at the least sign of awkwardness or discomfort. Instead let’s press into conversations, honoring one another by giving each other our full focus. If you’re in a large group gathering and left standing by yourself, rather than turning to your phone look for someone else who’s by themselves and go connect with them. If you’re in a conversation and there’s an awkward silence don’t check the time – instead smile, remind yourself that quiet is ok, and compliment the other person about something small.
In all of this let’s turn first to Jesus, the only one who truly gives security and peace and power to connect with one another. Don’t replace him with a 4-inch LCD screen.