Your Silent Competitor
Here’s what I know about me, in the face of competition I know I can’t win, I draw back. I’m not the competitive type who digs deep and goes all in if I don’t think I have a chance to win. Now, I will push hard until the moment I realize there is no winning chance. At that point, I tend to wonder why I’d exert so much energy for 2nd place or worse. I’m not saying this is a good thing or the right thing. It’s just how I operate.
I believe this explains why I have a strong dislike for Monopoly. I can try so hard and play so long and still end up never finding the strategy that wins the game.
Smartphones, screens, and devices are playing silently against us. They have been for many years, and they’ve decided they are in for the long game.
I want to win this game.
Try this experiment
Next time you are in a checkout line, decide ahead of time you will not pull out your phone to pass the time. Look around and count how many people have their heads up. Chances are, you won’t count many. Watch how the clerk interacts with you compared to someone who comes through with their eyes fixed on their phone. I’ve watched this play out, and it’s fascinating. To the ones who are available and ready to engage in conversation, the clerk usually converses. But to the ones who are so engrossed in the world of their screen, the world not right there in front of them, the clerk will often only engage to the extent of, “Hi, how are you today.”
Knowing the competition
The smart phone is a feisty competitor; it nearly always wins. What exactly is it trying to win? Ultimately, our heart, but it starts with our attention. Once it has our attention enough, it will hook us in with its fake offerings of laughter, entertainment, escape, information, newest trends, and world happenings that ding throughout the day and night.
If it keeps our attention long enough, it’s winning. And then it only takes the slightest ding to bring us back to it. The body reacts with hits of dopamine. We feel we need it more and more. All the while, real life, real entertainment, real laughter, real people are wanting our attention.
Who wins this game against the smartphone?
How Can We Compete
It’s the most silent competitor vying for the attention of people. Often it’s not worth the effort to compete against it. So, we go silent rather than try to win against our silent competitor.
When I’m in the company of someone captivated by their phone, I tend to draw inward. It’s hard to compete against the stream of constant entertainment of a phone. While screens feed us news reports 24/7, I have only a few new happenings to offer. Screens provide us a hit of dopamine hundreds of times a day. That’s a hard competitor.
Which Side Are We On?
If we are honest we’ve played on both sides of this game. We’ve been the one held prisoner by our phone. And we’ve been the one on the other side hoping the other person would look up eventually.
While we can’t make people around us put down their phones, we can make a personal choice to be the ones who live free of our devices.
What Winning Looks Like
First, we need to form a picture of what winning looks like.
I love watching Steve and Andrew wrestle. Steve will have total control over Andrew’s arms and legs and pin him firmly. Andrew will call out, “Look, Mom, I’m winning. I’m dominating Dad!” Clearly, he is not winning. Steve has total control over all his possible moves, yet Andrew believes he’s winning. Likely, he knows the truth and doesn’t want to admit it.
This is a picture of our relationship with our phones if we don’t decide to win this game. We can think it doesn’t control us, but our actions tell a different story.
Signs our phone dominates us:
- We pick up our phone at every ding.
- Sitting in a room with someone, we find ourselves scrolling or reading online rather than engaging in conversation
- We pick up our phone without having an actual reason. We feel compelled to check.
- We check our phones at red lights, in checkout lines, and in any spaces of downtime.
- Boredom is uncomfortable, and we pick up our phone to solve the boredom.
“All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything.” 2 Corinthians 6:12
This World Needs More Winners
Our world needs more winners. We need more people to decide they want to live the most abundantly alive, full, and vibrant lives imaginable. This world needs people captivated by simple wonders and able to handle boredom. Some of the greatest inventions known to man came when a human was bored. Ideas are given space to develop when the brain isn’t overstimulated.
Empathy grows when we are connecting with real humans. Screens decrease our capacity for empathy and compassion. They attempt to grow cynicism where God desires empathy.
We must decide to win.
Let’s Call It What It Really Is
Let’s be real. It’s not a game. It’s war. We are in a spiritual battle. Choose to stand and fight. Win against the smart devices that is after your attention, your heart, and your real life. Come back to the place where simple pleasures brought delight, where we paused to take in the beautiful landscape, where we didn’t want to rush away from a conversation, and where a child’s joke brings a genuine chuckle.
Life is good. Real life is worth fighting for. The enemy knows if he gets your attention, he can capture your affections and heart. And because he’s so deceptive, he will let you think you are winning. He will whisper to you that you are dominating, you are in control. The way to overpower him starts with recognizing the enemy and turning his tactics back on him. The name of Jesus is a strong tower. We pray for power and we make choices that over time replace our habits.
It’ll be a fight, but this world needs more winners. We have a Kingdom to run. We can’t run it distracted.