Have Smart Phones Robbed Us of our Rest?

“I’m going to get you a Blackberry.”

“I don’t want a Blackberry.” I told him. “I don’t need it, sweetheart.”

That was almost five years ago. That was before the iPhone. That was before the entire universe was at everyone’s fingertips in the form of a smart phone.

Nevertheless, he got me a Blackberry, {because he had one and he was being a good husband} connected my email account to it, and off I went into the wild blue of information. I’d already been blogging for a little while but until he put it in my hand, I had had no need for email in the car, email in the drive-through and email everywhere.

And now I do.  I can’t get away from the information.

We have to send out mass emails when we are going to go “dark” or when our phone is broken. I-hope-you-can-excuse-me because I’m out of range for a few hours. We apologize for being without it and get hurt feelings when others don’t check their phones as often as they should.

{Why haven’t they emailed me back? I emailed her over an HOUR ago?!}

Raise your hand if you check your phone when you are waiting in a long line. I do.

Or when you have a lunch break? Or in the line for the kids to get out of school? Check and check.

There are natural times when our brains should be at rest but with the way we live our lives we rob ourselves of that natural down time. No one can sustain this kind of information onslaught all. the. time.

I’m talking this week at the Allume conference about writing and about how writing is something that can help us be closer to God if we let it. The idea of space has kept popping up when I’ve been going through what I’m going to be talking about.


I’m going to suggest that we don’t give ourselves enough space to even think these days, let alone rest or write.

In fact, I think a lot of us are actually afraid to be alone with our own thoughts.

There is no way I can be a good writer if I don’t have space in my heart and in my mind to think. The busier I am (the less alone, down time I have) the less inspired I am. I have no new or interesting thoughts because I can’t be alone in my brain for more than a minute.

And with our phones sewn to our right hands, we don’t allow ourselves that room to think.

So with our smart phones, do we actually rob ourselves of the natural mind-rest, alone times that we seem to need?

What do you think?

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  1. says

    Just before my last vacation in the summer, I turned off the e-mail on my iPhone and removed several apps. And I haven’t gone back to having e-mail on my phone, unless I am traveling for work or in an all day work retreat where I’m away from my desktop and need to have access to e-mail at some point in between sessions. Just having my phone be my phone is enough for now. And it’s freeing. It helps me to breathe better and fuller. And really, I’m liking it a lot. I’ve also been wrestling with whether I really want an iPad, because I don’t really *need* one and so do I really want one? Lots to think about. Mostly, I like thinking of the space where my iPhone used to take up in my days and now it’s just so much quieter, or I am so much more engaged with what’s around me.

  2. says

    My iPhone-devotee father has been asking me for years whether I want one, too. And like you, I’VE been telling him for just as long that I don’t need one! Being a college student, I have Internet access 24/7 thanks to campus wifi and my laptop, which is ALWAYS in my bag…and I spend most of my time on campus, so this system works for me.

    Thankfully, I’m not yet at the point where I’m checking e-mail in the car (although I AM guilty of checking my phone for texts so often that I sometimes hear that phantom vibration. Yikes.) Still, I must admit that the compulsion to always have my e-mail (and my calendar, and FB, and Blogger, etc.) open is draining at times. It actually feels WRONG sometimes to close those tabs!

    “…we rob ourselves of that natural down time. No one can sustain this kind of information onslaught all. the. time” – well said. Here’s to quiet and rest and space!

  3. says

    I don’t have a iphone but I often feel like i want to have one. I always talk myself out of it. This has given me one more reason not to jump on that. This is smart Sarah, are we missing the natural rest places in our lives? When one of those times comes along i do try to fill it with something rather than just resting, enjoying and taking in the peaceful moment. Again you’ve nailed it :)

  4. ro elliott@http://tuningmyhearttopraise.blogspot.com/ says

    I love how you raise these great questions…sometimes I think it is just a generational thing…I am a bit troubled by what I see with young moms…it seems they never give themselves a break…a rest from taking in information…whether sitting to nurse a baby…standing in a line at a store…in the car…with their kids at the park…I do think these phone can rob us from rest…and from being fully present where we are. I told my kids when they were still home…you use technology…don’t let it use you. thanks for thoughtfulness here…blessings and grace as you go a encourage others this week~

  5. Sharon O says

    YES I have refused to get tied to my phone. I have a home computer and use that frequently but my opinion is this: Unless someone is dying, or having a baby anytime I do not need to have a phone stuck to my body or head at all times. I am old fashioned and would rather have an answering machine at home that connects to my rotary dial on the wall. We have let technology take our relationships to a lower level and it has hurt so much of our lives. It is very sad when I see people out for dinner together and instead of talking, face to face they are looking down and checking the ‘phones’ in their hands.
    Lord God help us to repent of all of our ‘decisions’ to create ‘new kinds’ of walls in our relationships. It has hurt us.

  6. Bonnie Jean says

    I didn’t get a cell phone until 2003 when I was almost killed by my former husband and needed it for saftety reasons. I got a very simple model and have only had one upgrade so I could text my sons as it is cheaper. But I hardly ever use it. In fact it tells people who call not to leave a message because I won’t answer it. If they want to talk to me they need to call my home phone. I prefer to write real letters and send cards. E-mails and texts seem soul-less. I only use them when necessary and I use the phone to call people… again… only when I really need or want to. I also shut my computer off every evening well before I go to bed… and shut off my phones even earlier. My close friends and family know how to get in touch with me in an emergency. But as Ann Voskamp said in “One Thousand Gifts,”… Life is not an emergency. Most of what we think is urgent or important is not. Being in the moment with your friends and family and God is imporant. I think we need way more down time and time just to “Be Still.” I have also read recently that “real deep relationships” are becoming fewer and farther between because of “social networking.” Real life relationships take work and people are getting lazy. It takes more effort to go out and get a card for someone than to send an e-card…. and real cards are so much better. And computers are not eco-friendly…. that is a whopping lie. There are landfills full of computers and I-phones, etc. which will not biodegrade for about 400 years and contain toxic substances. A tree can be grown and paper can be recycled. We just should use all resources wisely. Face to face communication is even better…. how often do we get together with friends in our homes anymore ??? We have become lazy and complacent in sooo many ways.

  7. says

    Great post. Thanks for sharing and I couldn’t agree more. It’s definitely a battle. One of those “simple but not easy” decisions. Keep the great content coming.

  8. Nadine says

    Excellent post, Sarah. I completely agree. I have had my iPhone for a few years and have noticed how it has changed the way I communicate with my family and friends, not to mention my husband. The “Organic” way of connecting (meaning meeting people in coffee shops, at church, at bible study, etc.) has become a thing of the past. I miss writing letters, having coffee dates with friends, sending/receiving cards, all the things that were the way of life before. My relationships with friends have taken a huge beating with the introduction of technology into my life and it’s sad.

    “So with our smart phones, do we actually rob ourselves of the natural mind-rest, alone times that we seem to need?” YES!

  9. says

    Oh my goodness! I couldn’t agree more! My husband has tried to get me an iphone/smartphone for two years now and I just continue to refuse. I know it would not be good for me to have one. I get so bogged down on my laptop at home and waste so much precious time there, what in the world would I ever get done if I had it at my fingertips?!! I know that some would totally disagree with us, and that is fine, I just know that in my own personal life, I don’t need the temptation. I become frustrated with myself and how much precious time I steal from my children on Facebook, blogging, and just mere browsing around online. I have put myself on a FB fast for a week to try and free my thoughts and time! Maybe after this week is over, I’ll decide I don’t need it at all! I truly have been blessed time and time again from blogging and reading other’s blogs so I am so not throwing off on all internet access. I just need some moderation :-) Thanks so much for this post!

  10. says

    Oh my, you speak the truth, Sarah! Because of my iPhone (which I absolutely LOVE), I’m always connected. That’s both a good thing and a bad thing. I’d definitely be better equipped to “disconnect” if I had just a regular old cell phone with no fancy apps and no internet connectivity. And yet, I can’t imagine giving up my “electronic leash”. Haha. :)

    Great post, thanks for sharing!

  11. says

    I try to leave my iPhone at home when I go out for short errands or when I’m walking the dog. It gives my mind a break, and I don’t need to be available to everyone everywhere.

  12. says

    I think this is spot on. I so worry about the younger generation. The young ones whose brains will never know any different. My iPhone screen cracked (really good) 3 weeks ago and I almost hate to have it fixed. My constant checking of messages has slowed dramatically trying to read and type through a screen I can hardly read through.

  13. says

    I’m sure I don’t have anything revolutionary to add, so I’ll just nod in agreement and say this:
    We are a culture of over-information and I’m afraid one day I’ll wake up, older and hopefully wiser and regret all the time I spent, reading other peoples thoughts/tweets/experiences/opinions….rather than shaping my own.
    Trying to combat that, daily.

  14. says

    I’m hoping I can make it to your session, Sarah. I need to create more margin so I can be a better writer. I’ve noticed this need for a few months now but I haven’t come up with any answers quite yet. I have, however, tried to check my phone less and be more present, whatever the moment.

  15. says

    We choose to have one flip phone because we like to keep it simple. We like to see people, and not be tethered to our phone or apps on the phone. Personal choice–yes. I’ve been known to be ‘out of contact’. When a person says they couldn’t get a hold of me, I ask if it was an emergency. Insert *sheepish* grin here, because that is usually the look I get, and the answer of ‘well, no.’. If I need to learn the iphone or the Blackberry someday, I will. But I like the quietness of being able to just be. I think Albert Einstein was a bit prophetic when he said, “I fear the day when the technology overlaps with our humanity. The world will only have a generation of idiots. ” We need the silence of our thoughts, and quiet conversation spent with other PEOPLE.

  16. says

    This was just spot on, Sarah. It helps explain why even though I have to have a housekeeper part time to keep me afloat here living in Peru, I can’t give up all of the dishes and laundry. I realize now it’s the space it provides – time to not feel guilty for not doing something else and time to just think while my hands are busy doing something productive. It’s the space to breathe it provides. Not that it alone is enough, but you are right and it’s not just the phone… it’s wi-fi and laptops too. Thanks for the good food for thought (once I make the space!) 😉

  17. says

    How about “checking in”? I was tagged in a “check in’ by others I was spending an afternoon.. I need the space to be where I want to be without EVERYONE knowing where I am. I think this might just me but someone might as well be “in my box” if they need to know where I am all the time. We live incredible times to be able to hit a screen button and put ourselves on a map.! Move back please—I need some space.

  18. says

    I completely agree with you. That silly phone taunts me to check email, FB, twitter, and the gram constantly! God forbid i miss some important tweet. geez.

  19. says

    I agree. We need that space — like seasons, like inhaling and exhaling. We’re not meant to be “on” all the time. But it gets more difficult when the entire world seems to be moving on while we do “nothing.” It leaves us feeling out of the loop somehow, like we’re missing out. But I know I need that quiet, down-time, as a writer, as an artist, and as a person.

  20. says

    I totally get this!!! My boyfriend lives in Zambia, Africa and oh boy — do I EVER get stressed out when I don’t hear from him within an hour of texting him. It is absolutely, positively ridiculous. I’ve had to tell myself over and over and over again — girl, this is a cultural thing. :) America is information-overload — give him a break!

    While I was visiting him for a month in August, nothing “big” or “life-changing” or “earth-shattering” happened on facebook or the blog world. It was actually kind of funny….in a “You can actually live without that information” kind of way. :)

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