I love my iPhone. And yes, I used the word “love” for many reasons, not all of them good. I spend too much time on my phone, many times I’m being productive with work, but even that should have its limits. A lot of times though, I’m just wasting time scrolling through social media feeds, Instagram, ESPN, even playing Spades.

smart-phone-addictionJust so I’m clear, it’s not my phone’s fault. It doesn’t matter what type of phone it is, iPhone, Droid, flip, or brick, it’s still a piece of technology. Phones are amoral in and of themselves, incapable of good or evil on their own.

The problem is me.

My friend Marty shared some wisdom with me a few weeks ago, “Wherever you are, be all there.” Ever since he said those words, I’ve been thinking more about what he said.

Have I heard this type of wisdom before? Multiple times. I’ve even shared this same concept before: be present when you’re present. It’s not a new concept. The Roman philosopher Seneca even shared these words, “To be everywhere is to be nowhere.”

It’s another thing to take a good, hard look at how well your life reflects this wisdom. This is just as much for me as anyone else. We need to untether our eyes and thumbs from the all-powerful pixels and quit being screen addicts.

The past two weeks I’ve been working to detach myself from my phone more and more. Some days I’ll intentionally leave it upstairs and listen for the beeps instead of keeping it constantly by my side. Baby steps, Bob, baby steps.

I encourage you to start owning your phone instead of your phone owning you. If you’re not sure where to start, here are a few ideas:

  • Put down your phone. When you’re around other people, try not to use your phone unless you’re making a call. Not sure the answer to a question? Say, I don’t know, instead of just Googling it.
  • Spend time with people who took the time to physically be present with you. People who are calling, texting, messaging, Snapchatting, and emailing you probably don’t need your direct answer. In fact, it’s likely the importance of their need is quite lower than our emotional, Pavlovian reaction might indicate.
  • Limit your screen time, just like a good parent should for their kids. Being an adult is about having the discretion and maturity to delay gratification for a better reason. Just because you have a job to afford a smart phone doesn’t mean you have the maturity quotient to manage your interaction with it.
  • Use your phone to set up face-to-face community with others. Why talk with your best friend on the phone for an hour when you can invest even more time with a 30-minute lunch together? Get face time with your friends, and I don’t mean FaceTime on your iPhone.
  • If you’re really struggling to detach yourself from your smart phone, maybe your phone needs to be kidnapped for a few hours. Or exchanged for a dumb phone. I don’t know any owners of dumb phones who say they spend too much time on their phone. I have heard multiple people say they downgraded their phone to a basic flip phone and it’s been very liberating. Which one’s the dumb phone now?

It may not be your phone, it may be something else: TV, video games, email, computer, anything. Whatever your distraction (read: addiction) may be, you owe it to the people around you, especially your family, to yank your eyes away from it and spend more time being present with them.

Wherever you are, be all there.