Dear Pope Francis,
Last weekend I went on a self-imposed phone fast. I was visiting a friend and decided that I would disconnect from Facebook and texting for the weekend. In the vein of fasting in the Catholic Church, I allowed myself two short opportunities to check my phone and Facebook each day from Thursday evening to Monday morning. I had to stay in my room to check my phone because it had to stay there. I found the fast easier than I had anticipated, but that may have to do with the fact that I stayed busy with Mass and visiting with my friend.
The fast got me thinking about how much I check my phone, which includes Facebook and my email, and how it impacts me, especially in light of my focus on self-care and trying not to compare myself to others. I realized that while there are definitely benefits to having a smartphone (like being able to write posts on the go, stay connected with my friends from across the country or keep my calendar up to date), the excessive connectivity really isn’t helpful.
I find it very disrespectful when people are on their phones when I’m hanging out with them, especially one on one. It’s as though spending time with me is somehow not enough, that I’m not entertaining enough. It really hurts. I know there are times when people need to be connected, maybe they’re expecting a really important phone call or email, but I doubt that’s the case every time.
A solution to all of this isn’t as easy as saying ‘put your phone away.’ There’s a whole mentality around popularity and phone use, although much of it is unconscious. People feel good when they receive texts and Facebook notifications. It means others are thinking about them, and that’s not a bad thing. But it can develop into a bad thing. In my case I was becoming way too concerned about what was being posted on Facebook, and how many texts I was sending and receiving. In some subconscious way, I had tied my self-worth to those numbers, instead of the overall quality of the relationships they were contributing to. I was comparing my whole life to the my friends’ highlights, the snapshots they gave into their lives on social media, which made it seem as though their lives were fantastic and perfect, while mine has been far from. Instead of making me feel closer to my friends, I feel more distant and isolated.
Since the phone fast, I have been mostly successful at continuing to limit my phone use. It’s usually around somewhere, maybe on the dining room table or in my bag, but very rarely is it within easy access 24/7, as it was in the past. I am still limiting my Facebook use, and actually went so far as to change my settings so that I wasn’t getting updates as frequently. It’s not that I want to be anti-social, or that I think that social media is detrimental, but as the saying goes, “where your treasure is, there your heart is as well.” If I substitute ‘time’ for ‘treasure’ then it applies perfectly to this situation. If I spend all my time on Facebook, rather than on the things that are really important to me, like practicing my German, prayer, spending quality time with people, or writing, then it suggests that those things maybe aren’t as important to me as they first appeared, and that the newest Facebook post or text is more important than it really is.
When all is said and done, I am not planning to give up my phone or deactivate my Facebook profile anytime soon, but I do plan to continue with the reduced screen time. For the most part, I am happier, and I have more time to do other things that really are important to me. Technology use is a habit, and as with any habit, I want to make sure that it is helping me, not hurting me.