“Do you know where my phone is?” I asked my husband.
“I thought you said everything has its place?” He responded.
“You’re right, everything does. My phone’s place is in my hand.” I quipped.
Our joking aside, my phone usage has caused issues in our marriage and family. As an introvert and people watcher who used to get tongue tied in face to face conversations, I have always struggled with the ability to disconnect from social media. Well before marriage, I much preferred making new friends through browsing and interacting on Facebook rather than going to new environments and events that brought me anxiety.
My outlook on new environments and social media drastically changed when I became Managing Editor of an International Education and Parenting magazine in Beijing. I found that I love to network with others and connect people. Events were easy because people wanted to talk about my job or I needed to find out if their story was a fit for the magazine, which acted a bit like a community newspaper for expats in the city.
Unfortunately, my boss required me to monitor social media for growth of the website and responding to requests from our readers. A ton of our work and digital meetings took place on China’s most popular social media network. This job atmosphere fueled solid bad habits to constantly check my phone.
I started checking my phone at home, during dinner, during down time, when I was playing with the kids, all just simply out of the habit of my job. An hour here and there would easily slip by and I would reflect on my day, wondering where all the time had gone.
Through my actions, I was showing my children and my husband that my phone was of greater value than the time I was spending with them. I was grieved to think my children’s most common memory of me could be staring at a phone.
My husband would get defensive every time I picked up my phone. My children started to say my name over and over again because I was so focused on my phone.
What scripture calls me to as a wife and mother though is not to check out. I’m called to teach my children in the ways of the Lord. I’m also called to be a helper to my husband. I’m not helping anyone in my family when I’m an absent member by default.
Embarrassingly, during my devotion time, I would remember a message I needed to respond to and so I would. My devotion time would then be eaten up by this distraction.
This was the biggest red flag for me in my phone usage. It’s fine to use my phone when I should for my job during work hours, but my usage of my phone is clearly wrong if my family and my God have to fight for my attention.
My usage of my phone is clearly wrong if my family and my God have to fight for my attention.
I stepped down from the job this year and noticed my usage going down significantly. A few months later, I began to work on my own blog, as I had felt the meaninglessness of the Managing Editor position for some time but had been avoiding the calling to write about my faith. I was a little scared, to be
I was a little scared, to be honest, because in China sharing your faith with the Chinese is technically illegal. I didn’t want to draw unwanted digital attention to our family. But in obedience and with the support of my husband, I began to write.
Yet, with this new blog, I started forming those obsessions again. I started checking my phone and social media much more than I should. I asked my husband to talk with me about why I was spending so much time checking out on my phone so we could identify the areas in which my heart was falling short of the glory of God.
We identified through my actions:
- I found worth in comments, views, and shares. The truth of the Gospel though is that the true measure of worth is whether hearts are being changed and whether I am being obedient to him.
- I had doubt about obedience. Even though I had felt this calling to share my faith and my testimonies for some time, I still struggled with if what I was doing was God’s will or my own. With anything that you have a God-given ability for, it can be hard not to give into the temptation to seek your own glory.
- I had anxiety about the growth of my blog because it was becoming an idol. There’s this paradox in scripture where those who are following God are blessed. I reasoned if I was following God and his will, if the blogs were impactful, they’d be shared. But my husband pointed out if I really believed God was the one who would change hearts and impact others, I wouldn’t be going to my phone. I would be getting on my knees to pray. If I believed I could grow my blog of my own effort, I was actually frustrating those efforts, seeking an idol, and killing the blog’s intended purpose.
So, I saw I lacked faith by turning to my phone in this situation. I believed in lies founded in fear rather than the Gospel. I idolized the growth of my blog. I placed worth on the validation from social media.
My phone acted as an enabler to my sin.
Turning to Christ and placing my faith and trust in him has helped. If I tried to just limit my phone usage, I would have been trying to fix the symptoms of my sin rather than dealing with the truth of my sin.
If you are also facing struggles of too much phone time, ask yourself a few questions:
- What do you spend your time doing when you check out on your phone during designated family and marriage time? Does it have to do with work, ministry, or leisure?
- Are you using your phone to engage in any sort of overt sinful behavior, like looking at pornography or flirting with someone who is not your spouse?
- What do you feel like you’re trying to accomplish in using your phone during these times? Are you bored? Are you seeking praise from the opposite sex? Are you seeking joy? Are you seeking purpose from your phone rather than what God has called you to?
- Why do you choose to do this rather than giving focused attention to your family or children? Are you escaping problems? Do you have anxiety about your work or ministry? Do you feel inadequate about what to say or do as a parent or spouse?
- How does the Gospel apply to what you’ve reflected on above? Are you believing in a lie? Are you worshipping an idol? Are you believing in a false Gospel?
You will probably need help from a friend to examine your heart and find the depth of the source of why you’re excessively checking out by looking at your phone. I certainly needed my husband’s help in identifying the reasons behind my actions.
Just to reiterate, looking at your phone is not sinful in and of itself. But there is definitely concern if it is negatively affecting your relationships with God, your family, or your friends. I pray this helps you in your own battle against sin and the fight for a Christ-centered marriage.