Last week was eventful, to say the very least. In just seven days, I attended seven live sporting events, serving as the press box announcer for four football games and cheering for my daughter Tiana at three soccer games. I subbed five days at the primary school in four classrooms. I participated in a classic car cruise. I drove our family to Kansas City and celebrated the birthdays of my son Truman and his cousin Olivia. And I found some time to write a newspaper column, watch a movie with my family, and go to a friend’s house to watch the Chiefs game.
Did you notice anything odd about that list of activities? Go back and re-read that first paragraph again if you need to. I’ll wait…
If you guessed, “None of those things involved sitting on a couch and wasting hours on end staring at a smartphone,” then you win a prize! Congratulations!
Last week showed me just how much I miss out on when my nose is buried in my phone all day. Yet the reason I spend so much time on my phone is that I’m afraid of missing out on everything going on in the world around me. Oh, the irony.
Ever since I was a little boy, I’ve struggled with the fear of missing out. I remember sneaking down the stairs, after getting tucked into bed, so that I could listen to my parents talk or to watch whatever they were watching on TV. I watched the nightly news and read my parents’ copies of Time and People so I could keep up with the happenings of the world. I rode my bike to friends’ houses every day for much-needed social interaction with my peers.
These days, I can do all of that from the comfort of my living room with my iPhone. I tell myself that I need my smartphone to keep up with the news and to stay in touch with my friends and distant family members, but the truth is that my dependence on my phone has prevented me from having meaningful interaction with the world outside my living room.
With the aid of my phone, I could have found the scores to all those football games I went to last week, but I would have missed out on hearing the crowd go wild when Colby Philips broke off an 89-yard touchdown run.
Bethany could have texted me updates from Tiana’s soccer games, but I would have missed the emotional moment when my little girl—a girl who was born with cerebral palsy and has overcome so many challenges in life—came as close as she’s ever come to scoring a goal.
Had I spent last week sitting at home, I would have missed the opportunity to teach a class full of second graders about Patriot Day and the heroes of 9/11. I would have missed the chance to teach six classes of youngsters how to build and play homemade musical instruments. I would have missed the magical moment when a struggling learner finally opened up to me, allowing us to experience a real breakthrough in our teacher-student relationship.
My phone was the farthest thing from my mind at the car cruise, where I caught up with some good friends and admired some beautiful automobiles. At the event, I had a conversation with a friend/fellow teacher who was reeling from the recent and unexpected death of one of his young students. Had I stayed home that day, I doubt he would have felt comfortable sharing his heartbreaking news with anyone else.
My smartphone did come in handy at the birthday dinner for my son and my niece, but only as a camera for recording the smiles and laughter in a dining room filled with love. I also briefly used my phone to research some facts for last week’s column, but I could have just as easily done so with my computer.
My phone never left my pocket during family movie night (a rare treat these busy days) or while my family and I celebrated the opening weekend of the NFL season with several of our closest friends in Columbia. At Brett and Lorie’s, we laughed until we cried several times, stuffed ourselves full of great food, and watched a minute or two of the game. I would have missed it all had I opted to stay at home and watch the game from the comfort of my own living room, where I would have spent the majority of the game scrolling through Facebook and missing out on all the fun.
Last week, I lived my life to the absolute fullest, and I never felt for a second that I was missing out on something more important. I realize now that the more I use my smartphone to stay connected to the world, the more disconnected I actually become.
I wonder if my old flip-phone still works…