Have you ever wondered if you control your phone or if your phone controls you?
…some researchers have estimated that an average person will have scrolled the equivalent height of the Burj Khalifa (i.e., the tallest building in the world) in a week, and Mount Everest in a year.
…an average person will likely perform between 201 to 257 thumb strokes on their smartphone a day…on an iPhone with a six-inch screen, the average person is likely to cover 890 inches [22.6m] of text daily…. That probably doesn’t seem like a lot, but when you extrapolate it out, Qin estimates that a normal person will have traveled at least five miles [a smidge over 8km] a year with their thumbs.
According to smartinsights.com the average time spent on social media per day is 2 hours and 29 minutes.*
If you round that up to 2.5 hours per day that’s 17.5 hours a week, 75 hours a month and 912.5 hours a year. That’s about 38 days spent on social media every year.
No wonder we all feel like August just disappeared this year, it did.
What about your Netflix habit? You’re in control of that right?
As of 2020, Netflix users watched an average of 3.2 hours of video per day through the service—that’s 6 billion collective hours per month. If we assume that each hour of streaming uses 3GB of data, this means we’re each using around 288 GB per month on Netflix alone. Of course, this assumes you’re watching HD video; if you prefer to stream in 4K, your data usage will likely be significantly higher.
The average Netflix user has watched 49 days’ worth of TV shows and movies since creating an account.*
The Bible says, in 2 Peter 2:19…For you are a slave to whatever controls you.
And in John 8:34 – Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave of sin.
Sin is not just stealing a cookie out of the cookie jar or kinky sex. That’s the way that our culture describes it and it does include both of those things but it goes far deeper.
Sin can be described as missing the mark, failing to live up to our potential, falling short of God’s standards. It can be about breaking God’s law, offending God, ignoring the right thing to do, a.k.a. Justice.
When sin is in the picture it almost always creates a victim. That victim could be a vulnerable person, a family member, a significant other, a whole group of people like the black or LGBTQ+ community or even the environment we live in. When sin is involved someone misses out.
It’s not just actions either but goes down to the thoughts and motives of our hearts. Jesus says if we look at a woman lustfully we’re cheaters. He says if we hate our brother, we’re murderers. He says if we really really want something someone else has (even if we want it more than they do) then we’re robbing our lives of its true meaning.
The point is that sin is a vast and wide concept and it encompasses a whole lot of behaviours, thoughts and feelings. It’s not just a one-off act, it’s a lifestyle. And Jesus says that everyone who sins is a slave of sin.
But here’s the crazy thing about that. Just like no one forces us to open up our phones and scroll up Mount Everest every year, no one forces us to sin. We choose spiritual slavery for ourselves.
In fact, it’s often those things that we try to use to get freedom that ends up trapping us in a vicious cycle. We feel bad about our life circumstances or ourselves and need an escape which leads us to go to our secret guilty pleasure. This in turn makes us feel bad about ourselves again. And so the cycle continues. You can tell why Jesus calls that spiritual slavery. We search for entertainment and fulfilment but keep going to the places and things that just further compound the problem.
There’s a great scene in Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief where Percy and his friends are on a mission that takes them into the Lotus Casino. They go in with a purpose and a task to complete but once there they get caught up in the vibe of the place and with the help of some possibly hallucinogenic flower cakes, they lose all sense of what they were there to do and get sucked into the belief that all they need is to have fun and never leave. They end up choosing their own prison and Percy only truly wakes up to that reality when he comes across a man that’s been playing the same pinball machine since 1971. Trapped in the search for endless entertainment. Choosing to be a slave to the very things that they thought would bring freedom.
Aren’t we the same? When we feel trapped by the things that we do – when we’ve been scrolling for 1 hour straight and finally look up at our children doing the same thing across the room, and we realise that we haven’t even made eye contact with them since they got home, that’s what the Bible calls slavery to sin. We may not have intended to do anything wrong, but by our choices, we have not lived up to our potential as parents and role models for our kids. We have created a wound in their hearts from subtle rejection. We send the message that “you are not as important as this 6-inch screen.”
I don’t say this from a place of judgement. In fact, I say this because I’ve been there. God has confronted me recently with my technology habits and I have realised just how much I have missed out on spending time with my family because I wouldn’t put down my phone. Let’s be better. But how?
Romans 6:16 says, Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living.
While we may have the freedom to do whatever we want in this country, whenever we choose something other than God, the life that we have chosen leads us down the path of slavery. The door to our spiritual prison is locked from the inside.
But that’s also the key. If we want to have freedom we need to choose God instead.
So here’s a practical step to choose God instead of your technology today.
Whenever you open your phone in order to look at social media or a streaming service or anything else, open up the Bible. If you don’t have a Bible app on your phone there are a bunch of great ones that are completely free.
You may still be looking at your phone, but at least you will be filling your mind and heart with God’s word that will trickle down positively into your relationships and from what I’ve experienced, lead to a lack of desire to keep filling my time with social media to begin with.
If you’re interested in exploring this challenge further check out “The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry: How to Stay Emotionally Healthy and Spiritually Alive in the Chaos of the Modern World” by John Mark Comer.
Isaiah Logan, College Pastor