Wake up. Roll over to shut off the alarm clock on your phone. Notice that you have fourteen new emails — and one is from Twitter. Check your retweets. Snap a photo of the sunrise through the window. Open Instagram to choose a filter. Hit send. Check your texts. And finally, stumble to the kitchen for coffee.
Your day might not begin like this, but I can guarantee that someone you know has a morning routine that’s eerily similar to the one I just outlined. Technology has changed our lives in all the obvious ways, of course, with faster communication and touch-of-a-button convenience. By now, however, you may have already realized that it’s been subtly transforming our lives in the little things, too. Technology allows us to stay connected anytime and anywhere, but has convenience started to consume us? A quick glance around a restaurant, airport, or coffee shop will confirm it: We are technology-obsessed.
Please don’t hear me advocate for a world without technology. I love so much of what it’s brought to our world. Social media, email, and smartphones are not fads that will disappear a few years from now; because of this, I believe that we are responsible for the way we use them. If we’re not careful, we can flip the switch . . . and it can begin to use us. When we’re caught up in a world that exists solely on the screen in front of us, we miss the world that’s in front of us.
Technology is a socially acceptable addiction; if we don’t fight it, no one will. As leaders, we need to be especially mindful of this, and establish safeguards from a technology takeover. Without them, it’s easy enough to be fooled into thinking technology is our ministry, rather than a tool to enhance our ministry. All the encouraging posts in the world don’t make up for time being present with the people we’ve been entrusted to lead. Our lives are so much richer than we could ever fit on smartphone screens, and choosing to lean in to healthy practices help us journey toward healthy lives. And when we lead healthy lives, we can teach others to do the same. This tip can be the first step on that journey.
I’ve become increasingly mindful of this responsibility in my own life; so in response, I’ve found some practices that quiet the noise that technology brings to my head, and stop addiction from taking root in my heart.
My first priority is to guard what’s first. When I think about the things that matter most, overnight emails definitely don’t make the list. So why do I spend my first moments scrolling through them? “First things first” is tried and true, so I try to give the first hour of my day to the One who deserves it most. I still stumble to the kitchen for that first cup of coffee, of course. But that coffee is accompanied by stillness, not stress. I want to fill my heart with God’s Word before the words of others fill it to the brim so that there is no room for Him. I find that if my first waking hour is spent well, the next sixteen hours go a lot better, too. Spending the opening moments of my day with Jesus helps me to remain focused on Him in all the moments that follow.
Sometimes, this means keeping my phone in my pocket so that I can focus on the person sitting across the table from me at a meal. Other times, it means taking my phone out of my pocket to give an encouraging call to someone who needs it most.
Technology is a problem only when it becomes the primary voice we hear. I am already loved by the voice who tells me I am enough. I don’t need to look to social media for popularity, or to productivity as the judge of my worth—and neither do you. When we allow the priorities we preach to become the priority we practice, we are leading well. We are quieting the addiction. We are putting first things first, and we are putting technology in its place. So let’s invest in alarm clocks and leave our phones on the nightstand for a while. Our hearts will be better for it.
Jessica Fralin is an author, blogger, and staff member of a five-campus church plant called Church of the City in the Nashville, Tennessee area. As a worship leader and aspiring women’s ministry leader, she conveys the message of love, acceptance, and worth that can only be found in the gospel. On any given day, you can find her holding a guitar, a book, or a latte and passionately teaching others who they are—and why it matters—when it comes to social media. Her book, #Stolen: Is Social Media Stealing Your Identity? released last summer and is available on Cokesbury.com.