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Digital Distractions: What Can We Do?

Christian Living

by Andy Deane

Digital Distractions: What Can We Do?

In my last post, I discussed the damage digital distractions can inflict on our lives if we don’t find a healthy balance. Not only are we susceptible to physical pains and compromised productivity, but we become insensitive and apathetic to the purposes God has for us. Distractions are causing us to live boring, shallow, mundane lives, all the while pretending we are living an adventure. The quality of our relationships—whether it’s fellowship with friends and family or intimacy with God—also suffers under the weight of mindless activity. I suggest that God’s design is better. If you feel like digital distractions are getting the best of you, then here are four steps that you can take to find a healthy balance with technology.

1. Decide that God’s Plan for Your Life is Better.

Ecclesiastes 4:6 states, “Better a handful with quietness, than both hands full, together with toil and grasping for the wind.” A healthy digital balance begins with admitting there is a fuller life available to you in the presence of God. Our Lord Jesus not only calls us to a quiet life, but He modeled it while He was here on the earth. The first 30 years of His life are called "the silent years." Jesus lived a quiet, simple life, working as a carpenter in His hometown village of Nazareth. He knew He had come to save the world, and yet He found value in living peacefully and waiting for the right time to go public. We also need to prioritize our quiet time with the Lord each day so that we know when we are to follow God’s leading towards the ministry He is calling us to.

Perhaps some of the hesitation on living a quiet life stems from needing to feel purposeful and celebrated with the things you are doing now. You want to feel cared for, justified, encouraged, and the connection social media provides on the day to day events is enough instant gratification to keep you going. But is that really what you want? A few likes and comments on the little mundane things? What about the enduring blessing and encouragement from a job done in obedience to the Lord that provides lasting fruit for the Kingdom? There is value in a slower life, waiting for God’s prompting for meaningful interaction. Our day may come later, but it is worth the wait. Colossians 3:3-4 says, "For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory." On that day, believers will shine brightly with the Lord.

2. Cut the Digital Leash.

There are several practical steps you can take to begin this slower life. For instance, try turning off your cell phone notifications. This effectively cuts the leash of bondage you have to the constant interruptions. According to Roberts in his study published in the Journal of Behavioral Addictions, “The Dopamine system is especially sensitive to ‘cues’ that a reward is coming. If there is a small cue that signifies that something is going to happen, that sets off our dopamine system. When there’s a sound/visual cue when a text message arrives, it enhances the addictive effect.”

Because of this, I encourage you to deal seriously with this distraction, which can be easily interpreted as sin because it removes our focus from the Lord. Take practical steps, like scheduling the “Do Not Disturb” feature on your phone, making yourself fast from technology or leaving your phone at home. If notifications aren’t constantly interrupting you, the cycle of dependence will break and you can move toward moderation and intentionality. Matthew 18:9 takes anything that monopolized your mind seriously, stating, “And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire.”

3. Take Control of Each Day Through Planning.

If you are able to take steps toward lessening the dominance of screens, you will gain space to consider your life and effectively plan your time to include the things you enjoy and the God-given goals you want to accomplish. “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:15-17). God’s simple plan for devising how you spend your time is to, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).

The more wisely you use your time, the more fulfilling your life will be. I have found that as I prioritize my time for the things God values, I am more rested, but I also end up with enough time for the simple things I enjoy as well. It all fits, as long as we prioritize. This begins with being intentional with our time. Try setting spiritual goals each week and then planning your days to achieve them. When your day is filled with godly objectives to meet, you usually don’t have time for useless digital distractions.

4. Learn to Appreciate Solitude.

Take some time to reflect on what God wants for you in this. The aim is not to throw technology away as evil but to embrace it in moderation. Use it as a tool to get the gospel out, but as you do that, you’ll likely need digital Sabbaths to make sure you put it in its place. If you are constantly plagued by the voices of technology, you won’t be able to hear the still, small voice of God. In solitude, you’ll find the peace, comfort and love for which you’re searching. You are not alone in quietness, “But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly” (Matthew 6:6). Take some dedicated time each week to shut out all distractions to pray and be alone with the Lord. Pascal’s famous line: “I have often said that the sole cause of man’s unhappiness is that he does not know how to stay quietly in his room.” He hears you; He recognizes the struggle, and He will open your heart to an abounding life.

This is a chance for all of us to acknowledge the possible consequences of the technologies to which we are so vulnerable. As author William Powers states so well, “It is time to adopt a new digital philosophy, one that recognizes the value of not just connectedness but disconnectedness.”