Have smart phones become enemy number 1 to having real relationships and productive lives?

There is a recurring trend in recent online videos to demonstrate how attached we have grown to our mobile devices, specifically smart phones. If we consider the old saying “a picture is worth a thousand words”, then videos like the ones that follow are worth so much more.

One in particular, called ‘Look Up’ has over 27 million views (as of this writing) since it was first posted on April 25th.

The basic premise is that we’re missing out on much of life — and possible relationships — by failing to ‘look up’ from our phones. Take a watch —

Another one from 8 months ago called “I forgot my phone” with over 42 millions views addresses similar relational problems of which smartphones are to blame —

Lastly, we have comedian Louis C.K . talking about why he hates smartphones, and specifically the “toxicity” they can have on kids. While this video takes a slightly different approach, I felt it important to include here as he actually goes deeper and hits on what might be the reasons for our society’s attachment to these devices.

At the 1:00 minute mark, Louis talks about phones taking away “the ability to be yourself and not be doing something”.

And later, he discusses “that forever empty thing… that knowledge that it (life) is all for nothing, and you’re alone…” And when that “alone feeling” comes, we have to reach for our smartphones. Take a look (FAIR WARNING: some vulgarity, but it’s “bleeped” out) —

Louis’ solution — let the sadness hit you like a truck (keep the smartphone in your pocket), and you’ll be a better person for it!

As a quick aside, and because I never pass on an opportunity to point my readers to God, life isn’t meaningless as Louis C.K. claims. And also, it is a personal relationship with Our Creator that ultimately fills the emptiness that he is referencing.

But my main motivation for writing this article is because I see a lot of myself in these videos. I’m a follower of Jesus, and yet I still feel the need to whip my smart phone out at the smallest hint of ‘idle’ time. There typically isn’t a stop light I don’t pull up to where I don’t feel the need to grab my phone. Then when I fail to put it down after the light turns green, I become part of the problem of endangering myself and others on the roadway.

So this article isn’t about pointing the finger, but rather about sharing a topic in which I have felt convicted.

More Productivity vs Mindless Scrolling

To be honest, I’ve thought about just going back to a simple “flip phone” in light of these videos. But then I start to “count the cost” of getting rid of my smartphone, and I see how truly my life has become intertwined with one.

First, these devices can legitimately make us more productive. To name just a few things — I do my Bible reading plan on my phone, read various e-books on the Kindle app, use Google Calendar for tracking appointments and meetings, as well as a scheduling app for the tech team I lead at church.

But then comes the mindless scrolling of my social media feeds. Something that can at first seem so mundane and innocent, becomes an hour or more of not “looking up”. An hour of not reading stories to the kids, not cuddling with my wife on the couch, or not spending more devotional and prayer time with God.

Life is a vapor, it passes by so quickly. Are we really meant to spend a large majority of it staring into little screens? Obviously, that is a rhetorical question.

How can we keep the productive aspects of smart phones without falling into the snare of time wasting activities that keep us from the real relationships with the people that mean the most to us – the ones in the room with us?

Seriously, I’m looking for honest suggestions. Do you fight with these bad habits, and how do you unplug and maintain a proper balance?