It’s not too often I get the same lesson from both a late British royal family member and an American game show. But that happened this week.
A headline caught my attention early this week: “Prince Philip had ‘only one complaint’ about Queen Elizabeth during their 73-year marriage, author claims.” I could not imagine any husband having only one complaint about his spouse after a seventy-three-year marriage. So I was hooked.
Prince Philip told his biographer “She’s never off the phone. Never off the phone.” The royal author said that was the only time Philip ever complained to him about the queen.
Before his death on April 9, 2021, at age ninety-nine, he spent more than seven decades supporting his wife and, according to the royal writer, happily so.
How often do you touch your phone?
While watching Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? later in the week, one of the questions was about how many times a day a person touches their phone. The contestant missed the answer. Although I got it right, it was only due to the process of elimination. All the choices were low numbers but one: 2,617. And that was the correct one.
That answer came from a survey which I am not sure is reliable. Every touch would include each time a person touched a letter or space on the keyboard to type a text or email, each time the device was turned on or off, each tap, swipe, or each move made while playing solitaire, or other games.
Based solely on personal observance, I see a disturbing trend: our cell phones have become an addiction.
That does not mean that smartphones are bad. There are many, many usages that are commendable, just as there are bad usages. I use my phone to take lots of pictures of nature and grandchildren. And to do Bible studies. I do a lot of work-related research using my phone. And I keep up with friends and family with it.
But, when we are more available to our smart devices than to people in the moment, it can become a problem.
Our tendency to escape
Around thirty years ago, the mobile phone made us accessible at all times, no matter where we were (except outside satellite range). We were no longer limited to phone jacks, cords, and desks. Today, when we choose to answer a cell phone call, a text, or email while having a conversation with a friend or family member, or anyone, it sends them a message.
I honestly do not believe Prince Philip was criticizing the queen’s use of the phone. After all, she is queen and she has to talk to a lot of people. If she were at her desk working, I don’t think he would have complained.
Smartphones have actually revealed a problem with humanity without necessarily causing it. We have a tendency toward escapism. We see that in all kinds of dependencies, alcoholism, drug abuse, eating, and other escapes.
The cell phone just replaced a newspaper opened up at the breakfast or dinner table, making conversation difficult years ago. But, eventually, the paper was folded and put away, which is impossible to do with a cell phone. However, we can turn off notifications and sounds so that we can be “in the moment.”
What are we missing?
I have waited in some of the largest airports in our nation and have noticed in all of them that almost all the people in sight are on their phones. I have been in restaurants where entire families are on mobile devices. The same is true wherever I go. Personal interaction is often replaced by mobile devices.
We are losing out on valuable connections when we sit across from someone and, rather than engage in conversation, we choose to answer text messages or emails.
Statistics listed by a tech magazine show that 85 percent of cell phone users check them while speaking to family members or friends. We are cheating our family members when we talk with them with a cell phone in hand. The message that gives is “you are not important enough for me to put my phone down.”
I saw a meme on social media which showed a little girl looking longingly at her father on his cell phone as she said, “I wish he liked me as much as he does his phone.”
I wonder how many sunrises or sunsets we have failed to watch or opportunities we have missed because we were too busy looking down instead of looking up. How many great conversations have we sacrificed, or bear hugs from small hands have we passed up, because we were too accessible to our phones than living in the moment?
How many conversations with our heavenly Father do we have with our cell phone close by? It may be time for a spiritual tune-up if we are more accessible to our phones than “in the moment” during our quiet times.
If you wonder if he wants to spend time with you, remember Scriptures that show his personal interest, such as this one: “The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing” (Zephaniah 3:17).
Then look up: “I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:1–2).
When you look up, you’ll be less tempted to look down.