Imagine that you lived in a world where you wore a powerful bracelet. The bracelet is so powerful that it can steal your time, drain your energy and focus, damage your ability to make meaningful connections, and even decrease your mental health. The bracelet becomes a black-hole for some of the most important things in your life.
Despite its power, all you have to do to defeat it and reclaim everything it has taken from you is to take it off. However, the designers of the bracelet have engineered it to be addictive and make you fear that you cannot live without it.
What would you do? Would you take it off and get your life back?
The truth is that you are living in that world. The problem isn’t a powerful bracelet; instead, it’s a pocket-sized supercomputer and the social media platforms on it. Many teens have already discovered they are living in this world with a life-stealing device and are concerned about it. I want to give you some practical steps for how to get your life back. But first, I will share a few of the problems with the invasion of these smart devices into our lives.
The Life-Stealing Devices
Apple released the first iPhone in the summer of 2007. In a little over a decade, smartphones have gone from being a luxury for the few to an essential for everyone. According to a 2018 Pew Research Center study, nearly 95% of teens have access to a smartphone. These powerful devices have a greater impact on our lives than we might assume.
First, they are stealing your time. YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat and all of the other social media/entertainment platforms are sucking the time out of your day. Forty-five percent of teens surveyed in the Pew Research Center study reported that they are online “almost constantly.” Another forty-four percent said they go online “several times a day.” What does that translate to in real numbers? According to Common Sense Media, most teens are spending six to nine hours a day listening to music, watching videos, playing video games, or on social media.
You might not think that spending that amount of time online or on digital devices is a problem. After all, you’re chatting, being entertained, or seeing what is going on in other people’s lives. But consider what you could do with an extra six hours every day. Would your grades improve? Would you spend more quality, face-to-face time with your friends and family? Would you develop new hobbies and skills?
So, it’s not just your time being poured into digital devices. It’s also your energy, focus, and potential to do better, more important things.
Second, they are harming your ability to make meaningful connections with others. This should be obvious from a simple observation. When you’re with your friends, where are the smartphones? When you’re eating with your family? Examine people interacting around you next time you’re at the coffee shop. You’ll discover that our “hanging out” is often mediated over digital devices. We might be sitting together, but our attention is to our phones.
Moreover, your social skills will suffer when you aren’t regularly getting real interactions with people. Social media allows you craft the perfect response, every time. You don’t deal with all of the non-verbal aspects of communication that happens in real connections (we try to replace them with emojis). From my own experience, I know that many people start to avoid actually talking to others because it’s so much easier to do over texting or some other kind of digital medium.
Lastly, they are damaging to your mental and spiritual well-being. I have written more about that elsewhere. I’ll speak from personal experience once more. I have seen in myself—as well as in many of the young adults in my church—how their mental and spiritual health increases when they decrease digital time in their life. The most significant one is social media. When people give up social media, even for a short period of time, their inner peace, happiness, and contentment always goes up.
Get Your Life Back—Today
Where do you begin? How do you get your life back? The first step is to declare that Jesus is better than the promises of social media.
Do you know why it is so difficult to keep ourselves away from social media and other online platforms? Because they promise us that we never have to be bored, that we can be in community with thousands of people, that we can be popular, that we can be important to thousands of people, and “liked” by tons of people. Those are powerful propositions that are hard for us to resist. The engineers who create the platforms you are using know this and are designing their apps to get you hooked.
The most effective strategy to get your life back happens at the level of the soul. You must recognize how your heart is believing these alluring promises that social media is telling you. Choose to believe the better news that Jesus Christ loves you, provides you with an identity in him, and approves of you.
The second step is to cut those social media apps, games, and entertainment platforms out of your life. You read that right. Delete the apps. Cold turkey.
The best strategy for breaking the hold that these digital devices have on you is to do a “digital detox.” A digital detox is a thirty-day break from digital media by deleting all of the apps and investing our time and energy into more meaningful pursuits. I know this sounds drastic, but a drastic strategy is exactly what we need. After the thirty days, you can slowly start to re-introduce certain apps back into your life. You might be surprised that you have no interest in them after the detox.
Finally, you need to have regular, scheduled time away from your smartphone, games, and social media. These frequent breaks will help you to keep healthy boundaries around your digital devices. They will also protect your valuable time for actually giving your time, focus, and energy to making real connections with the people that actually matter to you.
The good news is that you can get your life back. There’s a growing movement of people who are embracing the freedom of a life without dominance from digital media. Join the movement and see how good life can be.