You may have heard of Photographer Eric Pickersgill’s portrait project, “Removed.” (If you haven’t, check it out.) Pickersgill’s portraits are utterly striking, but not because of the elements — like composition or lighting or background — that make portraits great. Rather, it’s what’s missing from the portraits that will strike you: cell phones.
Despite the obvious benefits that these advances in technology have contributed to society, the social and physical implications are slowly revealing themselves…personal devices are shifting behaviors while simultaneously blending into the landscape by taking form as being one with the body. This phantom limb is used as a way of signaling busyness and unapproachability to strangers while existing as an addictive force that promotes the splitting of attention between those who are physically with you and those who are not.
His project tugged deep at my core and forced me to realize how much I’ve allowed technology to consume my daily life — especially when it comes to my phone.
After waking up in the morning, I often go to the kitchen to pull my cell phone off its charger (giving myself props for not keeping my cell phone at my bedside) and then crawl back into bed to scroll through what I missed on Instagram. I walk around with my iPhone in my hand wherever I go, although there’s a perfect pocket for it in my purse. At dinner with friends, our phones lie on the table with screens flashing intermittently, distracting us to no end. And in the evening, I scroll some more, right up until the moment before I call it quits and go to bed. But evening slumber never comes easy, and it’s far from a good night’s sleep.
All this would all make me sad, yet I would still allow myself to give in, as if I couldn’t say “no.”
I’m speaking for myself here, although I’m 99.9 percent sure it’s true for you, too. I was so addicted to my cell phone. So addicted to the instant gratification of something new and unexpected and unpredictable popping up on my screen. So addicted to the validation from likes and comments on social media. So addicted to making sure I didn’t miss out on something.
That’s why I decided to fast from using my phone from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. — the hours of the day when I use it most, as I sparingly use it during the work day — for this year’s 40 days of Lent. To say it wasn’t difficult would be a lie; however, I was surprised by how quickly my phone attachment began to diminish. A huge part of that was from realizing just what I was missing: being fully present in amazing conversations, enjoying distraction-free quality time at home, seeing the beautiful details I always miss as I walk around with my head down and more. And since this was a fast, I also focused on filling the time I wasn’t on my phone with prayer, meditation and reading scripture. Being intentional in that alone led to such a restful peace that I can’t ever find another way.
And as I sit here at the end of the Lenten season, I’m reflecting on a few things.
- First, I’m grateful that our God sent His Son to save us from our brokenness, and that Jesus is alive and ever-present with us. This fast would NOT have gone well, had I not looked to Him constantly.
- Second, I am over the moon that I forced myself to unplug because it forced me to hit reset and refocus in a way I haven’t ever done before.
- Third, the effects I feel from consciously detaching from my cell phone are ridiculously amazing, and I can’t fathom how I allowed it to control me the way it did for so long. (Still a work in progress though.)
Last and most importantly, I’ve decided to continue this as a general practice for me — it’s far too much of a good thing to let go!
Have you had to force yourself to say “no” to technology for any particular reason? Would you ever commit to phone-free hours?