I haven’t attended any 12-step program yet. But it’s clear I need to.
They say that the first challenge for any addict is to first admit they need help. Denial, it seems, is part and parcel to dependencies. That’s why I’m determined to air my dirty laundry and get it out in the open. I refuse to hide my compulsive smartphone tendencies any longer.
Let me back up on this confession a bit and explain.
Earlier this month, a friend and I crossed into Canada by rental car and I put my phone in “airplane mode.” We were heading to Young Life’s fabulously beautiful Malibu Club in British Columbia (where I also became a Christ-follower years ago) for what’s called a Tool & Tackle Session. About 50 of us met there to paint, scrub, repair, do electrical, plumbing, and in our case build a deck around a floating house (which you can see to the right).
Malibu Club may be exceptionally magnificent, but to say it’s off the grid is an understatement. Even its electricity comes from harnessing the power generated by a nearby stream. For five days I was unable to call, text, check emails or surf the Internet. Quite frankly, those five days were tough.
I realized just how compulsive my smartphone usage is. I regularly text family and friends, and being unable to do that was just plain weird. I’m not an everyday Facebook user, but I do check it a few times a week. Now I’d have to do without the We’ve been married 10 years today! posts and the photos of someone’s last night’s dinner. I do a Facebook status update maybe once a month, and being at Malibu Club is the kind of event I would post about. Ironically, being at Malibu Club made it impossible to post. Couldn’t do it. Felt oh-so strange.
I like knowing what’s going on in the world. When I shut my phone off, I had just learned that Nepal had had a major earthquake. There was talk that people may have been killed. I came home to learn the number had risen from zero to 7,200 … and counting.
Even when I’m on vacation, I regularly check my e-mail. Even work ones! Now I couldn’t do that. Nothing from my wife. Nothing from my kids. And absolutely no updates about faux Rolex watches for $19.99.
Okay, so going non-digital for five days did have a bit of an upside.
I still carried my phone in its usual hip holster, but only so I could take pictures. But I found myself reaching for it regularly to check things I normally check. Compulsive. Addictive. Habitual.
Which led me to wondering about the answer to these two questions: How much cell phone usage is healthy? And when does it cross a line?
I’m not sure I know.
You may have caught our recent Culture Clip that pointed out that 24 percent of teens say they’re online “almost constantly,” according to the Pew Research Center. Okay, I know that’s too much. But the same study found another 56 percent logging on several times a day. That didn’t seem that much to me. I guess it never does for phoneaholics.
Okay, I’ve written this blog a bit tongue-in-cheek. But not totally. I appreciate my smartphone and all the things it can do. But now that I’ve been five days without one, I really do wonder how much is too much. And what’s just right.