Could You Unplug for a Day?

Ryan McKenna. Do you know that name? He’s the adorable 13-year-old that happened to be at Super Bowl LII when Justin Timberlake took his half-time show to the fans in the stands. There was Justin, singing and dancing, right next to Ryan. Great moment right? Once in a lifetime you might even say. After all, Justin Timberlake is Ryan’s favorite singer. And Ryan was captivated... by his PHONE.

Millions watched as Ryan, face in his phone, tried to get his camera app to work because he wanted that selfie with Justin. Haven’t we all been there? Not with Justin Timberlake but wanting a really special moment to pause so we could get a selfie with it? I know I have. The funny thing about life, it just doesn’t pause for us to get our cameras ready and before you know it, that once in a lifetime moment is gone. And we kind of missed it.

Whether it’s fiddling with the camera app, checking social media, or texting, we are becoming increasingly attached to our devices and perhaps even a little addicted. Don’t you think it’s strange how common it is to see people out together but not talking to each other because they’re texting with someone they’re not with?

I love to go to concerts but now my view is blocked by people holding up their phones to record video of the concert. If you want to see a video of the artist, stay home and watch it on YouTube. I’m sure they’ve got some video up there. Or how about this one? I’ve been in the middle of a great conversation when a topic comes up that there’s some debate over, like, who starred in that movie, or how old is that old actor, or what is tofu, etc… and what happens? The phones come out and everyone is now googling to find the answers. Great, we’ve got the answers, but the conversation is over. 

Just so you know, I am not coming at you from a “smugly above it all” position. I am fighting this battle, too, with myself. About a year ago, I was challenged to go a day without my phone and I thought, no problem. I can do that. Easy.

But whoa… what I discovered is that as much as I believe in being present in the moment and connecting with real people, I, too, was feeling a strong pull to my phone. I could justify that I need it for my job. I need to know what’s going on in the world. I use it for ministry. All of those things are true. But if the times I “need” my phone have become my whole life, maybe I need to re-examine what’s most important to me.

If you’re concerned about your attachment to your phone, maybe you’ll want to join with me in participating in the National Day of Unplugging. Yeah… it’s a real thing! I love the purpose of this movement. It’s a call for all of us to take a 24-hour respite from digital technology so that we can intentionally connect with the real people around us. This year it will be from sundown March 9, 2018, to sundown March 10. You can sign a pledge to be a part of it and they will even send you a sleeping bag for your phone! Check it out here.

Things turned out well for Ryan McKenna. He became internet famous, was even invited to be on a few talk shows, and Justin Timberlake invited him to be his guest at an upcoming concert. That makes me happy. Most of us won’t get the chance to get those moments back that we missed while on our phones. The apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 6:12, “You say, 'I am allowed to do anything'--but not everything is good for you. And even though 'I am allowed to do anything,' I must not become a slave to anything.”

Yes, Paul. I hear you. I don’t want to miss what’s happening now right around me. I don’t want to miss looking into the eyes of people I’m talking to. I don’t want to miss the beauty, the connection, the humanity, those unplanned moments of grace and vulnerability. I am going to unplug March 9-10. Care to join me? I’d love to hear from you! 

Jim Elliot said it best: “Wherever you are, be all there.”

Co-host of Tracey and Dave on SHINE-FM.