Along about Christmas my smartphone began to tell me I’d been spending an appalling amount of screen time. What with texts and Facebook and searching the internet, I’d spend more hours on the phone each day than I did anything else except work and sleeping. At the same time, I was complaining about being overwhelmed with activity, to the point where my prayer was limited to grace at meals and a hurried “thanks for letting me make it through the day, God,” before I fell asleep.
With New Year’s right around the corner, I made a resolution to spend less time staring at the screen and more time talking to God. This hasn’t been as simple as it seems. I can’t go cold turkey on Facebook – I’m responsible for the office’s social media, so I update the page a couple of times a day. As any user knows, once you’re on the page it’s incredibly easy to follow one link, then another, and another, until you find that an hour has gone by.
I’ve also found that, in need of beauty before falling asleep, I’ll open my phone’s photo albums. There, too, is the siren call to keep scrolling down, recalling memory upon memory.
Then came the Jan. 6 entry in “Three Minutes a Day,” a book by The Christophers that I use as a daily reminder that there is in fact some good in the world, even when it seems all is evil. The Christophers’ motto is “It’s better to light one candle than to curse the darkness;” their book reflects this by telling the story of small (and sometimes big) deeds of goodness, hope and charity.
The Jan. 6 entry quoted author Gary Jansen, writing at Angelus, suggesting that we do “microshifts” of 15 minutes, seven minutes, one minute, 10 seconds, one second. Within these short periods of time, we can pick up trash, pray the rosary, write a letter, allow someone to go ahead of you in line, laugh, tell God or someone else, “I love you,” Jansen writes, according to “Three Minutes a Day.”
The difficulty lies in putting down the phone to make the time for these microshifts. I’ve found that if I set a schedule for checking Facebook I’m much better at keeping the scrolling to a minimum – if I only pick up the phone every four hours, and stop once I’ve scanned all the new posts (and not taken the quiz that will tell me which saint I might have been in my previous life, and avoided clicking on the link that will take me to a page detailing vacations I could never possibly afford), then I spend much less time staring at the screen.
Another problem I’ve decided to address this year is that of rushing through life. I won’t give anyone a minute if 30 seconds will do, I’m in such a rush to get to my next chore that I cut corners on the project in front of me, even before the “Amen” at the end of grace is out of my mouth the forkful of food is on the way in. I may accomplish more by hurrying through the day, but I can attest to the fact that at bedtime I won’t have fully experienced anything I’ve done, much less savored it.
As if to encourage my new behavior, the saying on my calendar today is this, from St. Vincent de Paul, “Grace has its moments. Let us abandon ourselves to the providence of God and be very careful not to run ahead of it.”
I cannot see grace if I am staring at my cell phone; I cannot experience grace if I am worried about what’s next on the schedule. God, let me open my eyes to the world around me, and to see and feel and taste and hear and smell you, and most of all to find you in others so that I might share the love that pours out from you in every moment. Amen.
Marie Mischel is editor of the Intermountain Catholic.