The public transportation company in Aargau is putting out a new safety campaign. The ads show videos of people and cars with near tram mishaps. Some of the videos show a car or van turning onto tracks, unaware of the tram. Others show people with headphones in or focused on their phones wandering into the path of an oncoming train. According to the tram drivers, the biggest problem these days is the way people are distracted with their phones. Their plea to people, “Put down the phone and watch where you are going.”
It’s easy to take a shot at the overuse or overdependence on technology, especially phones. However, being constantly connected or constantly ‘checking’ has an impact on our overall well-being. Researchers are starting to come up with some clear evidence of how this can affect us and most of it is not healthy. Many schools this fall are now requiring students to put their phones away for the day. The negative impact on learning is significant for young minds.
What about adults? Truthfully most of us need to be connected to the internet for work purposes. It is hard to avoid. But are we spending too much time just scrolling or being on social media? Is your weekly screen time increasing or decreasing? Are we developing unhealthy habits?
What about taking a phone Sabbath? Sabbath, as we know from scripture is a day of rest. The principle of a day of rest is important for Christians. We honour God by ceasing from our labour, worshiping him, and enjoying life. I know it might be unrealistic to not check your phone for a whole day but what about giving it up for several hours?
In Deuteronomy, the Israelites were told they could take a day of rest because they were no longer slaves. “Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm.” (Deuteronomy 5:15) It was a sign of freedom, and liberation from control. When we recognize that we are being controlled by our need to check the phone, it’s time to put in some boundaries.
So, what would a Sabbath break from technology or your phone look like for you? How long can you go without checking your social media and updates? Start slowly. Can you leave it alone for an hour, or two? What about all of Sunday afternoon so you can read or play or nap? Practicing Sabbath is a spiritual discipline. The benefits of regular practice take time to build up but ultimately set us free.