Media-Wise Moment: Gain Mastery Over Your Phone

Media-Wise Moment:

Gain Mastery Over Your Phone

By Peirce Baehr, Contributing Writer

Did you set New Years resolutions for 2019? In the Baehr family, we get pretty serious about our annual goal-setting.

This year, I’m trying to gain mastery over something major: my phone. I’m tired of being a slave to my phone. My phone should be a tool.

There are four connected issues for me. Maybe you can relate:

  1. Phone Face — I’m glued to my phone.
  2. Phone First— I give the digital world primary attention, over the real world.
  3. Phone Vomit Vortex — I return to the phone again and again, like a dog to vomit, from first thing in the morning to last at night.
  4. Phone Stupor — I use the phone mindlessly.

These problems apply to other tech, but the phone is my worst culprit.

To tackle the problem, from years of getting serious about resolutions, I’ve learned my goals need to be simple. No fancy caveats. Keep it simply worded and simple to action and it will be hard to wiggle out from.

I also know a good goal has to be personal. As a word of warning, if you’re battling your own phone, feel free to use my ideas, but don’t adopt my resolutions without reflection. Otherwise, legalism. You can’t solve your heart problem by legalistically applying my resolutions. A resolution, like a phone, is a tool not a master. It should be used with care, keeping in perspective the ultimate object of loving God and your neighbor.

With that in mind, here’s my battle strategy for mastering my phone this year:

  1. To battle Phone Face, no browsing. That means, no roving about seeking what I may devour, hunting for dopamine hits from new content, endlessly surfing from link to link. No browsing: not on the web, not on Facebook, not on the app store, not even on my favorite news sites. My goal is no browsing. This is different from purposefully looking up something specific. A search to fulfil a task or find a piece of information is one thing; taking time to study a topic diligently is also valid; but browsing is a beast, and the word is “no.”
  2. To battle Phone First, others around, default to down. This is a little fuzzier than I like for a goal, so I reckon it will be a little trickier. But, the idea is to put the phone down around others: my wife, my kids, our guests, and quiet time with God. A phone can sometimes be useful to bring people together, but too often it drives a wedge. I want to be there for my family, my ministry, and most vitally, God.
  3. To battle Phone vomit vortex, scarcity. I won’t give you a specific time limit, since I don’t want to bind your conscience. But, I’m restricting my time on certain trouble apps. Each day, my phone only allows me a limited time on these apps, and only my wife has the override code. The idea: with great scarcity comes great responsibility. “Do I need to use my phone on this?”
  4. To battle Phone Stupor, ask why. I’m going to use an off-the-charts hipster buzzword: mindfulness. You were warned. How much more trendy could I get? Mindfulness is frustratingly on trend as a secular substitute for prayer and Bible mediation. But, being mindful is something God actually teaches us to do (“number your days” Ps 90:12). So when I pick up my phone, my goal is to ask “what am I using you for?” Then use it for that, and put it down.

Again, my hope with these resolutions is to gain mastery over my phone. I know these goals are only part of the solution, and that my heart has to remain in it. But, to win the battle would be worth it. I want to be able to use my phone as the good tool it can be, rather than have it use me.

Consider also this: there’s been a lot of attention lately to phone use among kids, especially looking at all the damage a phone can do to a young brain. If we want our kids to grow up with good phone habits, we need to master phone use in our own lives.

The year 2019 is young. If you haven’t done it yet, there’s still time to set your own goals. Feel free to join me in trying to gain mastery over your phone. I’d love to hear how you go and what you learn.

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