It started out as a joke, the piece called “15 Signs You’re Addicted to Email on Your Smartphone.” But as I thought more about it, I realized it had teeth. Some of these things were true for me—I did check email on my Smartphone an awful lot.
At first I tried to minimize and justify:
I’m a company director, so I’m just being responsible.
I’m an aspiring writer, what if my agent emails me?
I’m in community with people, what if they need me?
Oh come on, it can’t be that bad.
But as I worked on the 15 signs, I had a sinking feeling: I came up with them way too easily. Way too easily because they were all true for me. I didn’t have to research or imagine what Smartphone Email Addiction might look like because I saw it right before me, right inside of me. The 15 signs were my behavior, taken from the pages of my life.
This concept wasn’t new to me. Two years ago I wrote a fictional piece called “Time Traveler” and recently, a blog post called “Missing the Glory.” I have been aware of my tendencies, but now I’m ready to deal with them.
The boy tries to hide, but the man takes ownership. I am a Smartphone Email Addict.
Some of you might laugh, but I’m not trying to be funny. I’m not trying to be dramatic. This is me being honest. One thing I’m called to do in this lifetime is to lay my life out in words so that others might be changed. I agree there might be worse things to be addicted to. But for me, this addiction has damaged my relationship with God and people I care about. Heck, it might even have hurt you.
When I see unread messages on my phone, that’s all I can think about. If you’re right in front of me, I don’t see you or hear you. I just wonder what’s on my phone. When I wake up in the morning, my heart beats faster because I can check my email. When I check and there are no new messages, I check again two minutes later, hoping to correct this terrible wrong. When a new message comes through, I am rewarded for my actions and my behavior is reinforced—see, it pays to check it every two minutes.
But things cannot go on like this. I fear for what it’s doing to my walk with God, how it’s separating me from others, and what it reveals about my own identity. This is my confession: I’m addicted to email on my Smartphone. On my own, I can’t handle it.
So here’s the first thing I’m going to do: I’m getting rid of my iPhone. It’s not as simple as turning off the data plan because data plans are required on iPhones. So I must discard the iPhone altogether, addicted to it as I am.
But changing the behavior isn’t all there is. You must also change the heart, dig into it, and see what’s there. Because if you change the behavior but not the heart, the addiction will take another form. So I’m entering into prayer and introspection. I’ll examine these 15 signs, account for the damage, and ask why, in the pursuit of a changed heart.
I’m excited for what’s over the horizon when I’m not chained to my phone.