Don't let your smartphone keep you from God--and other wisdom from RECONNECT, by Ed Cyzewski
|My smartphone has nothing on these. And stopping by my sister-in-law's to pick them up and chat with her--even if we had to stay several feet apart--was a beautiful moment of real connection.|
Have you ever glanced at the clock on your smartphone after what seemed like a few seconds of idle browsing, only to realize you'd wasted the last half hour of your life on social media? Have you then slammed the phone down in disgust, berating yourself for not having the willpower to stick to your resolutions about phone use?
Yeah, me too.
With the rapid changes brought to our world over the last several weeks with COVID-19, I starting turning to my phone more and more. What new changes were there? What should I do? What did I need to know?
And then one morning, after spending a sleepless night warding off panic attacks, I realized the answer was simple: Little to nothing. There was very little I could do other than what I was already doing (common sense hygiene and staying at home all the time). There was nothing I needed to know that a five minute local radio news broadcast wouldn't tell me. I could pray, of course--but my constant news checking and growing anxiety had made that very hard to do.
So I turned off the internet on my phone and picked up a book.
Suddenly I had an insight into what addicts must feel. I'd always thought I had my phone usage under control, but now I'd read a page or so, then feel anxious and jittery again. "I should check and see if anyone emailed me..." I'd think. I resisted--then after another page or two, I'd wonder whether browsing through Instagram for a few minutes would settle my nerves. Again, I resisted. Eventually, after a full day of these jittery temptations, they started to go away. The next day, I read 80 pages of Daphne DuMaurier's Rebecca in just a couple nursing sessions with the new baby. I read the Bible and prayed a rosary peacefully.
The disgust I felt at myself made the resolution to start again easy. But it was a moment of grace that led me to open a new book on my e-reader app (despite generally disliking ebook reading): Reconnect; Spiritual Restoration from Digital Distraction, by Ed Cyzewski.
One of the first points that Ed Cyzewski makes--very compellingly--is that using your phone less isn't something most people can just decide upon and then do. It's not only because we're humans and therefore weak--it's because we're humans and therefore susceptible to the carefully constructed plans of social media entrepreneurs who go out of their way to make you addicted to their product. The amount of evidence Cyzewski provides to make this point is staggering. Over and over, he quotes the developers of media and "connecting" technology who fully admit that their plan was to get as many people addicted as possible. They want to make you anxious, because anxious people keep clicking. They want to make you outraged, because outraged people engage with their product. The problem isn't--and was never--all about your weakness or poor time management skills; you've been struggling against an enemy you didn't know was there.
The second point that struck me was how social media and smartphone use has the power to draw us away from the practices traditionally associated with drawing closer to God. Yes, you can absolutely use technology to spread the Gospel (and you should). You can use technology to remind you to pray, or to help you learn the liturgy of the hours, or--these days, especially--to livestream a liturgy when you can't be in church. BUT... you can also get addicted to the quick dopamine rush that comes when you check news or email or Instagram, making it harder to sit silently with God.
Don't worry: Reconnect is not out to make you feel guilt about technology use, nor to demand that you give it up. In times like these, especially, technology is an invaluable tool when it comes to staying in touch with our friends and family, among other things. What Reconnect does argue admirably is that technology is never the deepest or truest way to connect with family, friends, or God. Ed Cyzewski offers sound advice for going above and beyond connecting with a friend by hitting "like" on a post--and he reminds us that connecting with God is the most important connection of all.
I couldn't think of a more perfect time for this book to come out. I'm sure it's rough for an author to go about marketing a book when bookstores are closed and in person events canceled--but you can still order from your favorite bookstores online! If you need a shot of peace in a crazy world--if you need solid encouragement and sound advice, I can't recommend this book highly enough.
Thanks so much to the author for providing me with a copy of this book to review; all opinions are emphatically my own. ;)
Reconnect will be released on June 2; you can pre-order it from your local bookstore by clicking this link or the image above. I'm an Indiebound associate, so if you order by clicking over from here, I'll receive a small percentage of the sale. Please continue to support your local, independent businesses however you can!