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My Phone Taught Me About Life

Apr 5, 2016

Do you remember your first cell phone?

Mine was an Ericsson. It was heavy and mostly hard plastic, but I learned how to text like a madman using my T9 predictive keyboard. I mean, the idea that I didn’t have to call someone but I could text them was such a cool concept!

Since then, I’ve used about 10 mobile phones, including Blackberry, Android and now iPhone.

I can remember how amazed I was to be able to send and receive picture on my phone. I could barely make out anything on it, but it was super cool!

The game changer was when I could get on the internet on my phone to send and receive email. Wow! And just 10-11 years later, that now seems like ancient history.

phone person using iPhone in winter

Smart phones have changed our world. According to Techcrunch, 2.6 billion people have a smartphone and by 2020, that number is projected to be over 6 billion. Every day over 6 billion text messages are sent involving an emoji. According to a recent Pew research study, 93% of 18-29 year olds admit to using their phone to avoid boredom. 47% of this same group admit to using their phone to avoid people.

Recently, I began thinking about how our understanding of our phones could lead to greater understanding of ourselves. My mission at ScottSavageLive.com is to empower you with new perspective. I’m always looking for avenues to shine a unique light on a well-known subject. As one person told me yesterday, I “talk about common things in uncommon ways.”

Life Lessons From Our Phones

Today, I want to use our phones as an analogy for challenges of life in an always-connected, digital age. My phone usage has led me to five reflections about myself.

1. Like our phones, we are limited resources

Our phones are limited resources. We’re used to the idea that we can’t be on them for hours and hours on end, watching videos, SnapChatting and making phone calls without the batteries running low. We know that our phones either need a case which charges them or we need to keep a charger handy to plug in when we hit that dreaded “low-battery” zone.

As humans, we are no different. In his book, How To Lead and Still Have a Life, Dale Burke writes, “We have an omni-everything God. He can do it all. Nothing is too difficult for Him. By contrast, we are not omni-anything. We are omni-nothing.”

We cannot work crazy hours, eat terrible food, exercise occasionally, cheat on sleep and function at a high capacity. Most Americans leave vacation days on the table every year. We struggle to put our phones away and be present when we’re not “at work”. And we struggle to say no in order to create boundaries. Whenever we see phone alert “low-battery”, it should be a reminder to say “you have a battery too. how’s yours doing?”

2. Unlike our phones, we don’t recharge fully in 15-30 minutes

I had a car charger once which promised to fully charge the phone battery in 15-20 minutes. That was awesome, but humans don’t work like that. Over time, we need a healthy rhythm of rest, sabbath and vacation to live life to our fullest. Whether it is the example of Jesus (who slipped away from the crowds after exhausting seasons of ministry) or recent research about the importance of rest, we cannot treat ourselves the way we treat our phones.

Some simple steps can go a long way, though. In writing this post, I’m reminded how helpful when I left my phone by the door when I got home at night. I’ve gotten away from that and need to renew that habit. I’ve never been a big nap guy, but Michael Hyatt has shared a ton of research on the power of naps.

3. Unlike our phones, we can’t trade ourselves out every two years or on-demand.

I’m due for an upgrade on my phone this summer. However, I realize the two-year upgrade plan is going the way of the dinosaur. It’s now becoming normal to pay a monthly fee which enables you to (in essence) lease your phone and upgrade whenever you want. In an on-demand world, I guess it seems silly to keep your phone for 2, 3 or 4 years.

The trouble is we can’t trade ourselves out on demand. We get this body and this life for 70, 80, or 90 years (if we’re blessed that way). An on-demand mentality with planned obsolesce may work for a phone, but it doesn’t work for a human. We need patience and a long-term perspective to live a successful life. As a follower of Jesus and a pastor, I believe we are all made for eternity. So, living with such a short-sighted mentality has its faults, some larger than others.

If you knew you were going to live for an eternity, how would that change how you lived today? If you were thinking about your legacy instead of being enslaved to this moment, what might you rethink?

4. Relationships can begin and even be maintained via a phone, but the real magic happens in person.

I’ve made the joke multiple times recently, but our phones do still work for calling people. The app with the little phone on it lets you hear people’s voices. It’s amazing! Don’t get me wrong – I think the possibilities of relational formation via a smart phone are incredible.

Four weeks ago, I met a friend on Twitter. We began texting daily and we’ve built a rapport. But meeting in person has been a whole other level. I just wrapped up a six-month season in an author coaching network. This group included monthly video calls and a private Facebook group. But when we met for 2 days in person this winter, it was a game changer. Relationships grew in 2 days 10x over what we experienced in 3 months online.

Relationships can start over a smart phone or social media. I think relationships can be maintained over a phone when long-distance is a must. But nothing replaces in-person for certain interactions and dynamics. While we now have the ability to capture certain relational moments online, I think we know deep down that phones just can’t compete (yet) with an in-the-flesh encounter.

5. Our phones reveal our true selves.

The speed at which we send, post and publish from our phones is crazy. We have the ability to post a new status or send out a tweet before we can process what is going through our mind. The process of “type, tweet, think” produces sharing without reflection. Even Gmail has added features which can save us from emailing something we should have thought twice about sharing.

When it comes to our phone use, we may not be showing our truest selves, but the selves we are showing are true. It is very difficult to be someone you are not online. Who we are eventually gets found out because the medium allows us to be our most unfiltered selves. We feel more courageous behind a keyboard than we do in person. We are lions online when we might be mice in person.

Our phones reveal our true selves to the people we are with physically. Sure, we used to be distracted at home with the TV or the paper, now it’s our phones. In church, we used to make grocery lists or play games; now we just text. We could get mad at the device or we could deal with the person.

I love my iPhone and my wife is right – I’m not sure how I would live my life as I currently do without it. When I forget it at home, I feel a bit…naked. In this post, I’m not speaking from a place of having it all together. These are the lessons I’ve learned which I’m humbly passing on to you. We use our phones enough, they ought to provoke us to think and reflect. 

I’d love to hear from you. What have you learned about yourself from how you use your phone?

If this article was interesting for you, check out one of my most popular posts – 8 Things to Consider Before You Click Send

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