How long is your attention span, d’ya reckon? Short, medium, long? Solid, average or shockingly poor? Have you noticed that your attention span has changed?
Let’s be honest.
The world of social media is one gigantic enemy of keeping a focused life. Versus all of its obvious advantages is the simple fact that it exists to insatiably tug on our coat tails like a bored child seeking attention so that we might make it the soul focus of our lives:
We watch movies with our smartphones; we wake up with our smartphones; we go to bed with our smartphones; we read the Bible on our smartphones; we go on holiday with our smartphones; we have ‘quality time’ with our lovers on the sofa…with our smartphones.
The devil is laughing, isn’t he? As the redeemed of the Lord wastefully, even unknowingly, follow suit and fritter the calling of their lives on the relentlessness of media notifications; as the concentration of their calling is diluted, rendering them watery instead of potent.
The devil is laughing.
So, if we want to keep healthy and focused in our digital world, the question for all of us this Friday is,
How much of the attention-seeking, high-maintenance, distracting world of social media am I prepared to tolerate?
Have You Ever Actually Buried Your Head In Some Sand?
The other option to thinking about this question is to smash your head down into the sand in the hope that Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, SnapChat, etc etc are innocently ‘part of the 21st Century’ (true), ‘lots of fun’ (true) and, essentially, ‘harmless’ (untrue).
Considering this option, you needn’t have actually ever dived head-first into some sand to know that it would be a fully unpleasant experience to try and bury your head in a beach. Likewise, reviewing your relationship with social media will also be an unpleasant prospect because it’s a process that’s both anti-intuitive and anti-cultural: opposite to your personal, private instincts as well as opposite to the great swaying currents of public trend.
That sounds difficult.
I believe it was the legendary John Mayer who stopped using Twitter because he became addicted to it. (Google it). Reviewing my own relationship with social media reveals to me that my concentration span is now not what it used to be. I will sometimes catch myself needlessly scanning through social feeds when my beautiful wife is sat next to me, rather than sparking up convo with her or praying together or listening to how her day has been. You know – that kind of ‘real time’ moment. I now realise that I have been far too tolerant of the encroaching of social media on my personal/spiritual life.
Way too tolerant.
When you graze through the different apps on your phone, for no reason, when you pretend your listening when you’re not, when you interrupt your nearest and dearest to show them something innane, when you don’t fully engage in the real time moment of life, when you can’t focus on the task at hand… You have given social media too much permission in your life and you need to review your relationship with it. Quickly.
Some Helpful Options
Coming up for air a little, spitting the sand out from your mouth, you have some options as you review your relationship with social media:
- Reduce the time you spend on social media, not only every summer time but every week. Protect one or two days when you intentionally don’t use it at all. Deactivate notifications or even delete apps from your phone.
- Read instead of watching videos on your phone. Take one or two days when you intentionally don’t look at your phone apart from to make a call or send a text – especially in the evenings.
- Talk to a friend about your decision to be anti-intuitive and anti-cultural in reviewing your social media usage. Ask them what they think about social media in their own lives – how it makes them feel. Ask them to ask you how it’s going.
- Have a ‘smartphone ban’ at certain times of the day. At dinner times or during movies and, obviously, throughout prayer times.
- Respond to the aim of the devil to distract your life by intentionally targetting distractions from your daily routines: leave your phone in your locker at work rather than taking it to your desk; when you get in to the elevator don’t immediately look for your phone – just stand there and see what happens. When you’re at the bar in the pub, don’t wast time on your phone. See what happens if you make convo with the staff or the people next to you who most likely have not come near the Holy Spirit that day.
- Create a culture in your home that’s more about face to face than face to screen. Value the conversations with people in your house more than the high definition of your smartphone’s screen.
- Don’t allow the quality of your work or the quality of your day to be controlled by your phone.
Do you have any other suggestions?
I fully believe that the difficulty we have in not giving constant attention to our notification stream says something about how we are created. God wants us to be alert to Him at all times. The Holy Spirit wants our minds to be attentive to Him and able to ‘look up’ at any moment. Jesus wants our reflexes to be toward Him not towards ourselves.
What notifications have jumped on to the screen of your soul, as it were, as you’ve read this post?
What notifications from God are possible?
Just watch what happens in your life as you decide to kick the devil in the face and make some space to become undistracted as you go about your Father’s business.
What do you think – sound good?