It's a familiar and vaguely depressing sight. We are a culture glued, stuck firmly to our smartphones. Wander through any airport, sit on any train, and you'll see hundreds of slaves: people ignoring people, transfixed instead by the small screen that they clutch in their hands. Obviously technology can be a wonderful tool, including the internet generally and the smart phone specifically, but it shouldn't take over our lives - whoever thought that our gods would be small, handheld devices before which we kneel, figuratively speaking, in humble homage? So do yourself a favour: dethrone that god, give your phone a rest, and for good reasons.
1. That little screen might be sucking the life out of you
We tend to think that information is power, that we're invigorated when we're in the know. But that's a lie. In 1988, Gordon MacDonald wrote 'Restoring your spiritual passion', and pointed out that we often live as emotionally drained souls because we're overloaded with choices and information. That was three years before the dawn of widespread email and internet use. Now we're drowning, awash with useless knowledge.
2. The world doesn't need to know that you like porridge
Before Instagram, you never did call a friend after breakfast and say, 'Guess what! I just ate oatmeal! Let me describe to you what it looked like!'. The world will keep on turning if we fail to report that we've eaten, gone shopping, or have recovered from a season of constipation. Honest. It will.
3. While finding out about people, you're missing out on people
Here's the news: unless you're extremely selective, those hundreds or thousands of followers on Twitter are not your friends. They won't be snacking on the sausage rolls at the bash that follows your funeral. But if you half-listen to the people that you're with while concentrating on the souls that you'll never meet, your actual friendships will go offline at high speed. Don't miss out on engaging with interesting, colorful, needy, inspiring people in favour of the faceless (apart from a dodgy profile photo) on Facebook.
4. Life was meant to be about conversation, not a newsflash
Twitter often feels more about declaration than conversation. But life was never meant to be a series of pithy pronouncements made in 140 characters or less. Don't issue a press release: have a real chat instead.
5. Your phone won't feel hurt if you ignore it
I have a friend who is wise, loving and a brilliant listener - until his phone rings, beeps or chirps. He is then compelled to answer it, even though he might be in a critical conversation with someone who is sharing a marriage crisis, a major career change, or a forthcoming amputation. There might be a person on your phone, but your phone is not a person. Take control. Be the boss. Ignore it. Being a machine, it won't get wounded, feel neglected, or withdraw into a sulky silence, not talking to you for three days. Believe me, it'll be ready to talk again whenever you are.
Jeff and his wife Kay will be hosting a tour of London and Israel this autumn. Find out more about joining them here.