rebelling against low expectations

4 Ways to Control Your Phone Before Your Phone Controls You

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What is it about vacations that make them so wonderful?

Depending on who you are probably determines your favorite vacation, but I think we love them so much because we crave rest. We crave a break from our normal routine.

My vacation was extra sweet this summer. Not because I got to read three books in one week (what a dream!), but because I left my phone in my room and took a week long hiatus from social media.

I spent quality time with my family and experienced everything through my own two eyes rather than staring at a 4×2 screen. I was present and intentional so that I could engage in relationships and enjoy everything real-time.

For some of us, it’s hard to admit the control that our phones have over our lives.

While there can be a lot of good that comes from our phones, we must admit that they can also develop bad habits in us that can bring out a love and care for everything that isn’t Jesus. The way we use our phones tends to take our eyes off of Jesus and onto ourselves.

Here are four steps to take to make sure you control your phone before it controls you.

1. Take Breaks & Set Limits

As I’ve been trying to grow as a writer, I’ve been using social media as a platform to share my writing. I became more and more preoccupied by my comments or likes. I recognized jealousy and comparison in my heart as I followed other authors who are inevitably more “successful” than myself.

I stopped focusing on how my writing is an act of obedience to God and I started focusing on myself in comparison to others. We’re lying if we say that social media doesn’t have the ability to bring out familiar lies, fears and insecurities.

We need limits. We need long breaks.

We need limits. We need long breaks. Click To Tweet

Choose a limit for yourself that will apply every day. I personally use the Screentime feature on my iPhone to set a time limit for Instagram. When that timer goes off, I don’t hit ignore. I exit the app and move on.

Maybe you need to pick a certain time of day that you will allow yourself to be on social media or other time-consuming apps.

I also set breaks for myself. The last week of every month I go off social media. The first week I did it, it was almost like going through withdrawal! I found myself automatically going to my phone—with nothing to do. Plus, what would I be missing out on?

That was a red flag. Why did I care so much? The Instagram world went on without me and probably didn’t notice I disappeared.

After that week, I found myself bored more quickly on Instagram and ignoring it all together some days. I formed new and healthier habits.

What will your daily limits be? When will you put breaks on the calendar? Set them now and stick to them every day. Put your breaks on the calendar and don’t move them around for anything.

2. Spend Time With the People in Front Of You

It’s amazing how many friends will spend time “together,” yet they are on their phones the entire time. At a sleepover they’re texting other people or scrolling through Instagram. They’re Snapchatting countless other people with very little interaction with each other.

Did you know that 40% of Generation Z claims to be lonely? Yet, we’re the most “connected” generation that has ever existed. I had a middle school friend tell me that she has no one in her life that she feels she can be real with—yet she’s snapchatting, communicating on Instagram, and texting people all day long.

The deep, real, messy, face-to-face, gracious friendships we were made to be in that can’t be sustained through a screen. Click To Tweet

What if we’re so lonely because we are missing out on the kind of connection that God created us for? The deep, real, messy, face-to-face, gracious friendships we were made to be in that can’t be sustained through a screen. We crave connection, but the connection our phones give us usually leave us more empty and alone than before we began.

3. Set Priorities

For many of us, our phone is the first thing we look at when we wake up and the last thing we see before we go to bed.

And we wonder why God feels far away.

We complain about being too busy to read the Bible, but if we look at our screen time we will see the reality of how we spend our down time. We will fill our time with whatever sounds the best in the moment unless we are intentionally adding what we want into our lives. If we truly believe that God is the giver and sustainer of life, then he will be our priority.

I started trying to set the priority of not allowing myself to spend time on social media until I have spent time in God’s Word. Not just a cursory glance at the verse of the day, but a real study in God’s Word and time in uninterrupted silence and prayer.

It’s time we stop making excuses for ourselves and start setting our priorities with intentionality. We have 24 hours in a day. How will we use those hours to cultivate a deeper love for God?

4. Be Intentional

What is your intention for downloading and spending time on the apps in your phone? If you had to give an explanation for how and why you use each app in your phone, would you have good reasons for every app? It may seem extreme, but if Jesus says “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26).

Jesus calls us to radical love and devotion to himself. We must be willing to leave anything that distracts us from that love.

Jesus calls us to radical love and devotion to himself. We must be willing to leave anything that distracts us from that love. Click To Tweet

Our intention needs to be something that will set our eyes on Jesus and grow our affections for Him. If we find ourselves wasting time on social media, YouTube or gaming apps, we will find our souls painfully empty.

But if we set an intention to grow our hearts for Jesus, then we will be very careful about who we follow on social media, who we spend time talking to, what we watch, and what games we play. If it doesn’t grow your affections for Jesus, get it out of your phone. It’s not worth it.

If you’re not sure what grows your affections for Jesus, here are some red flags: If you find yourself jealous, angry, hurt, lonely, or fearful, it may be time to investigate what is causing that and how you can get rid of whatever is causing those feelings. If you find yourself trying to be someone you are not or comparing yourself to others, then maybe it’s time to take a break and re-evaluate your intentions.

Praise God that he wasn’t distant, but he put on flesh and entered our mess as a servant who would love us in extravagant ways. We don’t have to rely on distant relationships through a screen when we have a God who is that intimate with us.


About the author

Elizabeth Davis

Elizabeth Davis is in her eighth year of joyfully sharing the Gospel of God and her life with middle schoolers, high schoolers and college students in student ministry. Her plan is to invest in students forever because she believes they are the World-Changers and Kingdom-Advancers (and adults are boring). She can be found in a local coffee shop writing, reading or spending quality time with good friends. Elizabeth writes about faith in Jesus and finding joy in battling a chronic illness on her blog, Elizabeth R. Davis.

rebelling against low expectations

The Rebelution is a teenage rebellion against low expectations—a worldwide campaign to reject apathy, embrace responsibility, and do hard things. Learn More →

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