“Turn my eyes from looking at vanities; give me life in your ways” - Psalm 119:37
I read an article this week that probably wouldn’t mean much to those of you who don’t use smartphones or social media a lot. As an avid user of smartphones, tablets, computers, and social media, however, I felt as though the author took aim and hit me right between the eyes.
Social media and other technologies have made it possible for us to be connected to information (and to each other) more than at any other time in human history. Unfortunately, it has had the effect of distracting us more than at any other time in human history, too.
Jake Knapp, the article’s author, told the story of how he bought into the perceived “need” of having a smartphone… and then the secondary notion that to get everything out of the technology that you can, you need apps. In order to get the best use from those apps, however, they need to be able to alert you to things. He told of a time when he was supposed to be playing with his kids but found himself, in the midst of playing, checking the latest bing or beep or banner on his phone. One of his children asked, “What are you looking at, daddy?” — and with that simple question, he knew he had to make a change.
Knapp took every app off of his phone with the exception of the camera, the phone app itself, and the apps for listening to music and podcasts. There was nothing on his phone to distract him. He set out to do it for a week, and before he knew it a month went by, and now six years. He still checks email and other social media, but he does it at set times on his desk computer, and he claims to be really happy.
I loved the story. I loved the attitude. I loved the priorities in his heart. Knapp even had some great ideas for people like me, who can’t get rid of all our apps (I need those ways of connecting for the ministry that I do) but who still want to keep our technology from running our lives. I took those suggestions to heart. I deleted A LOT of apps that day. I changed A LOT of notification settings. I have already noticed that I look at my phone less and find better things to fill those moments with.
Psalm 119 is an amazing psalm. It is the longest single chapter in the bible with 176 verses, and every single one of them, in some way, shape, or form, mentions God’s word. In the case of verse 37 above, God’s word as referenced as “life in your ways.”
When Psalm 119 was written, there were no smartphones, or twitter, or facebook, or instagram, or even electricity for that matter. Yet the psalmist still feels the need to ask God to turn his eyes from looking at vanities (things that DO NOT matter). Even if we lock ourselves away from technology, it is possible for any of us to get distracted. As Christians, most often we get distracted from the things that really matter to our spirit — the things that, in the end, will cause us to regret the time and energy we gave them, rather than focusing on more important things, or the people we should have spent more time with.
As prayers to begin the new year go, this is a pretty good one: “Lord, turn our eyes from vain distractions, and give us the strength to follow you.”
Looking at other things,
- jakeknapp.com/posts “Six Years With a Distraction-Free iPhone”