I have this amazing friend who has been with me through thick in thin.
Seriously. When I was plugging away through my college courses, she sat up with me late into the night during cramming sessions. That time my first boyfriend broke my heart, she rode with me in the car with the breakup songs pumping at full blast. The day I met my future husband, she was right there at my side and saw the whole thing coming. During wedding prep, cross-country moves, and pregnancy, she was always available to offer support, guidance, comfort, and information. She was one of the first to see my newborn son, and my late-night companion when cramming sessions turned to nursing sessions and breakup playlists gave way to parenting podcasts.
She has been so faithful and so available these last ten years that whenever she’s absent, I feel a little tug on my heart.
So last night, when she fell into three inches of water, I panicked. The last time this happened (my clumsiness is legendary), I sat shiva for hours on end until my husband went out and bought a replacement.
Her name is iPhone 6, and sometimes, I act like she’s everything to me.
A Friend Who Loves At All Times
Now, I do have real life friends — one, in particular, has been with me through all of those events and has borne my burdens in every way that she possibly can.
But no one can be as available to me as an object that I own. No actual person can ride around in my pocket during the day, sit on top of my nightstand at night, and ride in my cup holder everywhere I go. If I called one of my best friends at 3 AM just because I couldn’t sleep, her husband would most assuredly object; if I called the other and mindlessly talked to her until the wee hours of the morning, I don’t think her boss would be happy.
Nor can my husband live up to this level of bestie capability. As near and dear as he is to me, if I clung to him with the same degree of emotional dependency that I sometimes cling to my smartphone with, our intimacy would burn out in a matter of days. Believe me — I’ve tried it.
Our smartphones don’t have any needs other than to be used by us. So all of the emotional dependency that would suck the life out of a flesh and blood person doesn’t affect my iPhone much. It is a tool, and I am its master.
The Tool Becomes The Master
… Until I’m the tool and my technology becomes the master.
The thing about my iPhone is that it’s not a friend who loves me at all times (Proverbs 17:17) because it’s not a friend since it’s incapable of love.
Relationships are messy. My friends and I have had brutal arguments and bitter disagreements. Some of us have parted ways over petty drama, and some of us have stuck it out and grown stronger as individuals and in our relationship to one another. My friends challenge me. They pull me outside of my comfort zone and point out things about me that I may not see. They sharpen and help me grow (Proverbs 27:17). No, they are not available three hundred and sixty-five days a year, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, but neither is my iPhone, at least not in a meaningful way.
There is no return on the amount of time we invest into our smartphones. Even if we are using our smartphones to connect with other people by texting or social media, we are trading three-dimensional intimacy and community for two-dimensional fellowship that we can control. And, further, the more we’re attached to the false intimacy we can control, the more likely we are to choose it over authentic intimacy that we can’t control.
The Cure For Awkward Silence
The obsession with our smartphones is so often an obsession for power. We have become increasingly uncomfortable with awkward silences, quiet moments, and thoughtful conversation. Smartphones are an easy way to dull the pain of difficult circumstances, stay removed from the messiness of confrontation, ignore tough realities we would rather not face, and expend as little effort as possible to stay connected with other people.
To use my iPhone as a haven from the messiness of face-to-face friendship is the enemy of authentic intimacy.
The Detox You Might Need
When my iPhone was out of commission for several hours (not even a day) last year, worrying consumed me. I was afraid that I was missing out on something. What I’ve come to realize since then is that, often, it’s my iPhone that is causing me to miss out on life. Nowadays, yes, I am concerned when I drop hundreds of dollars worth of technology — but I don’t miss the glazed eyes, the shakes, and the rage that accompanied smartphone loss not too long ago.
I still love my iPhone. What can I say? I’m a millennial. I like carrying hundreds of pictures of my son in my pocket, and I love connecting with family even though they live thousands of miles away; I love being able to update my friends about hilarious or troubling details of my day. One quick look around my site will show you that I am not against social media or connectivity.
However, I also hate my iPhone, and it’s ability to get in the way of intimacy. Keeping my iPhone usage in check is a constant struggle, one full of accountability from my husband and, apparently, providential tumbles into the sink. I am far too occupied with keeping myself in check in this area to try to police the number of hours that you spend on your smartphone — but when investment with our real friends takes priority over investment with our smartphone-friends, I think we’re on the right track.