It can be hard to take Sabbath rest amid the pressures of academia. This is at least partially because of how technology allows us to be available and able to work at almost any time, irrelevant of where we are. Yet, Sabbath is a gift from God: a reminder of God’s good gift of rest and how even our best efforts cannot save the world. So as we enter into Lent, I encourage you to take Sabbath weekly, including taking a break from our smart phones (i.e., not touching it for a time except to make pre-arranged calls to loved ones).
The point of putting our smartphones down for awhile is to become more aware of how we use our phones in life (and how often we use it). Actually putting it away prevents us from allowing it to distract us from the world around us. The following are some further suggestions to grow in awareness of how much time we spend on our phones, as well as suggestions for preventing our phones from interrupting our lives unnecessarily:
- Put an app on your phone (like quality time) that tracks how often you pick up your phone and which apps you use most.
- Keep your phone out of reach (or in a bag if it’s with you); at the least, don’t put it on the table near you (and perhaps don’t even have it with you).
- Figure out which app you use too much and delete it.
- Turn off all notifications on your phone (if not all the time, at least some of the time). Decide what times of what days you won’t look at email.
- Do one thing before looking at your phone in the morning.
- Put a picture of that which is important to you as background on your phone.
- Rearrange the apps on your phone so that you’re reminded of what’s more important.
- Before picking up your phone and using an app, think this through a. what is my goal in opening this app? b. how do I know when my goal is accomplished? These are also helpful questions for any technology uses.
All of the above suggestions are about trying to remind ourselves that our smartphones (and any technology we have) are tools. They are a gift that can make our lives a lot better, especially in terms of being connected to people we care about. At the same time, smartphones can be addictive, especially as we can use them as a means not to feel bored or to be present to the world around us. Paying more attention to them is one way of allowing them to be more of a positive tool than a bad habit.
- A helpful podcast with suggestions (a number of them given above) is that of Aaron Enfield and Jeff Sajdak of Calvin Theological Seminary.
- Further thoughts on Sabbath from The Bible Project.
- Has the Smart phone destroyed the next generation? An extensive article by Jean M. Twenge.
- Short article on how it’s not just young people who could use a break from screen time.