My smartphone tracks how I use it and, more specifically, the length of time that I spend each day on it. At the start of each new week I receive a notification with a weekly screen report that features the average amount of hours I was using my phone throughout the past week. Some smartphone devices call this a “digital well-being report” and I will admit that most weeks the number that pops up is almost always higher than it should be. The report is even more condemning when I open it up and can see a list of what apps I was using all of my time on. I won’t make you guess: social media apps are not strangers to the top of this list on my report.
Balancing Screen Time
I wish I could write and tell you that my Bible app, prayer apps, or memory verse apps are the ones I use the most each week. But that is usually not the case. In this year in which we are navigating a pandemic, politics, and protests, picking up my phone seems more and more like a natural part of how I must act to “stay connected” or informed.
Our churches are navigating this as well. With many churches shifting to online ministry, they are trying to figure out what it means to minister to people who are getting increasingly accustomed to spending hours and hours immersed in screen-based content.
For me, the time that I spend using screens directly connects to my heart attitude by the end of the day. The more time in a day that I have spent scrolling social media, in and out of Facetime calls and Zoom meetings, and listening to podcasts in every spare moment, the more that I am worn out.
The bad news is that, as a human, I am always going to struggle with this. I was probably spending too much time using screens before this year and my lack of self-control has only been made more evident by being thrown into a year with a higher push toward using screens exclusively to stay connected to family, friends, work, worship, among other things. I can imagine you might feel the same way.
Being a Good Steward of Screen Time
The good news is that God is with us as we wrestle through being better stewards of our screen time. He created each of us to desire connection, especially connection to Him. It is in our nature to feel worn down and burned out when we are disconnected from God. When we reach a point in our day where we need to confess and repent over over connection choices, God meets us with these words from John 15:4-5:
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
These words are true for all people. There is grace for screen time usage and there is grace for over senseless scrolling. There is also rest and renewal that is found through being connected to the vine. God’s words to “abide in me” are an invitation to be with God followed by a reminder that He is with us.
Connecting to Him
The more time that I spend connected to Him and His Word, the better equipped I am to face another day of navigating my screen time. When I am abiding in Him I am better equipped to read current events from a posture of grace and peace. When I am abiding in Him I am better equipped to love my neighbor instead of just scrolling senselessly past their names out of habit.
If you are feeling worn down by screen time usage in this season, here are three ideas to consider:
- Set limits on your phone to restrict usage of your most-used apps. When your time on the app is up, commit to not extending your time limit for the day.
- Update your notification settings. Most apps and phones have options to control how notifications show up. Consider turning off push notifications for apps you want to spend less time using.
- Don’t carry your phone around with you when you are at home. Turn the volume on and leave it in a central place in your home for blocks of time. I found that if my phone is in my pocket or in the room, I am more likely to pick it up and use it (whether I need to or not).
Consider downloading and printing off a hard copy of the Everyday Faith calendar this month. Use a Bible in your house instead of on your phone and spend time abiding in God’s word. Each day features a Bible verse and prompt to consider.
Download this month's calendar to abide in Christ during a season that can be draining.