Never Your Friend…

I received an email last week from my mobile phone service provider. The message’s subject line read: Say hello to your new best friend! It was pitching some new smart phone or other time-saving gadget.

I am just old enough to remember a very violent movie entitled Scarface. It was filmed in the early 80’s and depicted a ruthless Cuban drug lord, portrayed by Al Pacino, who was staking his claim on the city of Miami.  I distinctly remember that movie as my first exposure to the image of a car phone. It appeared to be the size of a Duraflame fire log but yet it still seemed cool to my teenaged self. At that time, it seemed far-fetched to think that these devices would ever proliferate beyond the mega-rich or those who were the captains of industry, worked in large government agencies, or even those participating in organized crime.

Fewer than thirty five years later, mobile phones have become the most indispensable media devices for everyone in the world.  They are dramatically shaping our culture and the ways in which we connect with others. They do provide some incredibly cool features that keep me connected with loved ones. Sadly though, with all of the time saving apps and other programs built into my phone, I don’t feel as if I have any more time.

The question that I want to always ask myself is… am I using my phone or is it using me?

Separating myself from what I do for work is an increasingly important and necessary discipline that I try to hold to each day.  To be at my best, I must regularly unplug; to break the tether that connects me to the daily grind of emails, texts, and calls that are integral to my work.  Having a device in my pocket that provides fast and easy access to the office is a dangerous temptation to try to fend off. If I fail to regularly break from my work routine, then my primary relationships suffer and I risk losing my passion and sense of excitement in life.

Each evening, with a purpose I turn off my phone’s ringer and then disable my work’s email inboxes so that I can regenerate.  I won’t take a call when in the company of others unless it is urgent and then, I only do so once that I have asked for and been granted their permission. To be clear, I am not Amish.  I do not adhere to old technologies despite the existence of new and better ones. However, I do want to cultivate the type of discipline that the Amish people nurture and maintain in relation to rapidly advancing technologies. Too quickly and without my conscious consent, I can move from using these tools to being used by them.

Being in the habit of checking my phone impacts the pace of my days, turning it into an endurance event.  I am saddened when the gift of a new day quickly devolves into a series of “have-to’s” and back to back appointments. Putting my phone to work for me increases my odds of flipping my day right side up and it helps me to turn my “have-to’s” into “get-to’s!” I look for ways during the course of each day to wean myself from the dependence on my mobile phone.  I try to view it as a valuable tool; one that can be picked up and used and then put back down until I choose to use it again.

I recognize that my phone can be either a positive or negative force in my life….but it will never be my friend!

Are there ways in which you can wean yourself off of time spent on your phone or tablet and nurture other aspects of your life? Maybe start small, perhaps by leaving your device in the car when going to church or dinner with your spouse? Consider the ways in which you can gift your primary relationships with the focus that comes from being unplugged.

Thomas “TD” Dierker
Live like you’re dying….cause you are!

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