How Your Phone Is Robbing You of You

cell phones psychology

My son is waiting by the road for his ride to school.

I remember being fourteen and waiting for my ride to school. Sometimes, I would try to walk the balance beam of railroad ties separating our yard from the shoulder of the road. But I bored of that quickly. Then, I would pass the time walking into myself. I’d think thoughts. Feel feelings. Wonder about who I was and where I was going. Daydream of dating girls who were way out of my league. Feel insecure, even in my own daydreams. In other words, I’d wander into my humanity.

My son is not walking railroad ties.

But even more importantly, he’s not walking into himself. He’s not wandering into the infinite abyss of his humanity. Rather, he’s wandering into the infinite abyss of something else. He’s on his phone. Rather than venturing into his interior world, he’s venturing into his digital world.

This is tragic.

I know that sounds a little alarmist. And I know I sound like an out-of-touch old man, pining for the good ole days of an analog world. But the truth is, I think it’s tragic not because my son is different than me, but because he is like me. For much of the last year, I got lost in my phone. When a silent moment arrived, rather than exploring the world happening within me, I reached for my phone and dove into the world within it.

Again, this is tragic.

It’s tragic because we are here to discover ourselves. We are here to wade into all the mess that exists just beneath our carefully crafted facades. We are here to have a reckoning with our arrogance, to understand the roots of our rage, to befriend our fear, and to sit with our sorrow. We are here to silence our shame.

We are here to wade into our mess until that moment—that graceful moment—when we’ve waded far enough to finally catch a glimpse of what lies on the other side of the mess: our true self. Our soul. God, love, grace and mercy and every beautiful thing, residing right there, at the center of us.

My son’s head is bowed and his phone is raised and this is tragic, because in any moment, there are two infinite journeys you might embark upon—the journey into your phone, or the journey into you. The architects of your phone have designed it so you will become addicted to the digital journey. They are robbing you of you.

The architect of your soul is much less manipulative.

The only incentive for the journey into you is delight. The delight that arises from discovering that you are good enough and worthy, just the way you are. The delight that arises from discovering you are not alone, never have been, and never will be. The delight that arises from discovering that you matter, that there’s a reason for your life, that it’s all heading somewhere.

I’ve been trying to detox from my phone and to become intoxicated, once again, with this journey into me. As a therapist, I can tell you this is the most powerful thing a therapy room has to offer—the space to enter into yourself.

As a parent, I want to tell my son that’s the most powerful thing a roadside has to offer, as well.

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Loveable is about the journey into yourself, and it is available in paperback, digital, and audio and can be purchased wherever books are sold, so you can also purchase it at your favorite bookseller.

Kelly is a licensed clinical psychologist and co-founder of Artisan Clinical Associates in Naperville, IL. He is also a writer and blogs regularly about the redemption of our personal, relational, and communal lives. Kelly is married, has three children, and enjoys learning from them how to be a kid again. You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

12 thoughts on “How Your Phone Is Robbing You of You

  1. Ouch! I can feel the tip of the pin pricking my conscience on this one! I need to start spending less of my quality time with my phone and more of it with me!

  2. I decided that if I am home and tempted to look at Facebook on my phone, I will only do so while walking on the elliptical machine. In the basement. Now for the resolve to keep that decision.

  3. Oh man! My phone has definitely become my safe space. My place to go when I am bored, frustrated, want to be liked, don’t want to face my own stuff…so look at someone else’s for the next four hours. And I notice it with my kids and get frustrated with them about it..when I’m really just frustrated with myself for showing the same behavior. It’s such a negative cycle. Sending you love and light as you also embark on the “less phone, more you” journey. I’m with you!

  4. My husband and I still have flip phones, “dumb phones” I call them. And we are constantly amazed how pervasive the “smart phones” have become. I have so many great memories, not only in childhood but through the decades, that would not be had I had my attention tuned into a digital device rather than into the world and people around me. I wonder how my own children will handle parenting, should they choose that path, in this device driven age. My challenge is my iPad, but I am trying to use it less, especially in the evening so that I can do meaningful tasks that keep me present.

  5. Agree. But once a person gets started, it is hard to stop. My problem is not so much the phone, but the internet. I was challenged to get off facebook, so I have been for over a month now, but I find I just go to another site to pass the time. I have a problem, but …I am still loveable and worthy. 🙂 Your podcasts are very helpful. Thanks.

    • Ginny, you are not alone. And it’s true that phones are only part of the problem. The search for an easier journey is. May you continue that challenging journey into your loveable self, and thank you for your kind words!

  6. “We are here to wade into all the mess that exists just beneath our carefully crafted facades. We are here to have a reckoning with our arrogance, to understand the roots of our rage, to befriend our fear, and to sit with our sorrow. We are here to silence our shame.”
    Timely… needed…perfect <3

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