Before you reach for your phone, take a deep breath, and ask yourself if you truly need to check something at that moment.
For me, the answer is usually “no;” nevertheless, I find myself increasingly addicted to my phone. I’m constantly checking my e-mail and texts, sifting through social media feeds, reading the news, and sometimes even randomly poking around when there’s nothing left to check. I know that I’m not alone in this, but that makes it no less troubling for me.
Since becoming addicted to my phone, I read less, and I daydream less. Both of these have always been a foundation of my spiritual life, and I’m keenly aware of this shift that has left me at times to feel less connected to myself, my family and friends, and my life in general. I don’t like it, but I also find it difficult to fight.
By being chained to my phone, I’m habitually looking for answers outside of myself that I used to find within.
Although I accept that life will never be what it was before cell phones, I’m realizing more and more that if I want to be my true self and live a life full of meaning, connection, and peace, I need to triple down my efforts to discipline my phone habits.
Here’s what I’m doing, and let me preface it by saying that every day is a Herculean swim upstream, and I fail at my own set of rules routinely. I find it more challenging than being left alone in a room full of chocolate chip cookies with instructions not to eat them.
In the morning…
My phone beckons me immediately, and the urge to check everything is at its highest point. What am I expecting to find? It’s an extremely rare case that I discover something earth shattering at 6:00 a.m., but the thought that I might overtakes my whole being. I’ve made a rule for myself, however, that I must do five things before I get my paws on my phone:
-Say my morning prayers
-List everyone for whom I’m thankful
-Do some simple stretches
-Read a short inspiring passage from a favorite book
All of this takes just a few minutes, but it’s critical that I start my day this way because it sets the stage for how the rest of it will unfold.
Throughout the day…
This is tough for sure, but the constant checking of my phone makes it difficult for me to concentrate and get anything accomplished. I find that what works best is to physically distance myself from it for short periods and turn it on vibrate. It also doesn’t feel good to be accessible around the clock. Just knowing that there’s constant access to me, and I can be interrupted at any moment, makes me feel anxious and even resentful at times. It’s hard to think, breathe, and relax when my phone is pinging left and right.
I definitely do a final check of my e-mail and texts before I go to sleep. There are times when there’s something I need to know for the next day, especially as it relates to my kids’ schools and schedules. I’d like to say I don’t check social media at night, but unfortunately, I often do. I’m working on this because I don’t like how I feel when social media is part of my nightly routine. What’s most unsettling is that there’s no bottom to these feeds. I’m all about “to-do” lists and getting things done. If I check social media at night, I go to bed feeling like I didn’t finish everything. I also feel hyped up because I’ve processed so much during a time that I should have been unwinding.
What does any of this have to do with Judaism?
Our phones offer infinite ways to explore and connect. There are many positives to this, and oftentimes it feels very gratifying. But there’s a price to pay, and our phone habits negatively affect us in ways that we both do and don’t realize.
Judaism also offers infinite ways to explore and connect. Through study, prayer, community, and a steadfast commitment to being a mensch, Judaism gives us a framework for deep and lasting connection—to ourselves, to God, to our family and friends, and to our community and world.
There is room for both our phones and Judaism, but we have to be very mindful about where and when we give our time and attention. Ultimately, when we experience the most magical moments, it has nothing to do with our phone and everything to do with being connected and present in real life.
Something to try:
The next time you’re about to check your phone, take a deep breath, and ask yourself if you truly need to check something at that moment. If the answer is “no,” set it aside and reconnect with real life that’s happening in real time. It’s a beautiful thing. And even when it’s not beautiful, it’s always real.