Me and my iPhone
3 months ago Triangle 0
Written by: Nathan Ecarma, Editor-in-Chief
My phone is calling. It’s sitting on the arm of the couch, and it’s not ringing, but it is calling. It’s calling me not because it’s evil but because I am addicted, and my addiction, my connection to my phone, calls me, asking of me my time—little spurts there and there of unfocused attention.
The statistics of how we check our phones every 4.3 minutes and how we swipe or tap our screens 2,617 times a day and how we use our phones for about 5 hours a day, and all the other statistics, conclude that we are addicted. If you’re not, I am.
Even though I flaunt my lower than average statistics, I feel the lull, the pull to my phone. Which means that I, too, am addicted. But what is it that I am addicted to? Although there are many factors in my addiction, I see two primary reasons.
The first is dopamine. Philip Yancey writes, “When we learn something quick and new, we get a dopamine rush; functional-MRI brain scans show the brain’s pleasure centers lighting up. In a famous experiment, rats keep pressing a lever to get that dopamine rush, choosing it over food or sex.” I love learning, or at least the dopamine I get from learning. Which is why my highest used app (besides Messages) is Safari, at more than an hour a day. I read article after article never really finishing but proceeding to the next. Not only is it dopamine but a feeling that, I need to be responsible by being productive with my time, that is, learning—that feeling, which really is a fear of the mundane or the ordinary, also pulls me to my phone, the Athens of the century.
The second is difficulty. Every Monday, Wednesday, Friday at 2:15p.m., when I sit down to read classical Greek, I squirm when a passage has confusing meaning and perplexing grammar, and eventually, I grab my phone for relief. My phone doesn’t ask me to translate articular infinitives or Philo’s version of the Trinity. That’s hard and begs of me my focused attention. My phone only asks for unfocused attention and the moving of my thumbs.
While dopamine and difficulty are reasons, there seems to be an underlying reason, an infrastructure that holds these addictions, even through the ages. Philosophers in ages before the iPhone have written about these problems. “Pascal’s point is a perennial fact,” Tony Reinke writes, “the human appetite for distraction is high in every age, because distractions give us easy escape from the silence and solitude whereby we become acquainted with our finitude, our inescapable mortality, and the distance of God from all our desires, hopes and pleasures.”
The bottom line is this: we are running, and we’ve been running for millennia, building our Babel’s, trying to keep at bay the thought that we are finite. I cannot know everything or even much of anything. I cannot keep from the thorns and thistles. I run from my finitude. What are you running from? The mundane or ordinariness of your life or the lack of validation and affirmation you feel from God or the anxieties of social life or the pain of the east of Eden?
With an age-old problem comes an age-old solution: “To Seth also a son was born, and he called his name Enosh. At that time people began to call upon the name of the Lord” (Genesis 4:26). Call upon the name of the LORD, and He will answer, answering you in what you need and in whatever you might be running from; but, be weary, for his answer may not be as swift as you might be used to by now.