Vice Column: Airplane mode will save your soul

Clement Harrold

Student Government Vice President

In his thought-provoking article “7 Reasons Why Your Smartphone Is Bilbo’s Ring,” the Rev. John Hollowell offers a sobering insight into the untold detrimental effects wrought by our cell phones in our day-to-day lives.

Reads the first reason: “You randomly worry that you don’t have it, check your pocket, your heart rate quickens, you check your other pocket, find it, and then slowly calm back down again.”

Or again: “You think sometimes of getting rid of your phone, but every time you get ready to throw it away, you step back from the edge and change your mind.” Sound familiar?

And, to quote one other favourite : “Your phone, as studies suggest, through the course of months and years, slowly changes you into a different version of yourself.”

On that last point, we are probably all familiar by now with the numerous shocking statistics available when it comes to contemporary smartphone usage among young people. Still, sometimes hard truths bear repeating.

About 69% of us check our device within the first five minutes of waking up in the morning. Two-thirds of us have a fear of being without our phone (the clinical term is “nomophobia”). And the average American millennial spends 5.7 hours per day, or 87 days per year, on his or her phone.

Now if you’re like me, perhaps the brute statistics don’t totally compel you. After all, they aren’t super concrete, and they often deal in generalisations which one can easily dismiss as not applying to me personally. Be that as it may, let’s ask ourselves a somewhat more pointed question: namely, how much of my day is spent more than a meter away from my smartphone?

I doubt I am alone in being someone who takes my smartphone to … well, to just about everywhere: to class, to meals, to study, to workout, to church, to bed, and yes, sometimes even to the bathroom (or “restroom” for the more illiterate among you). In fact, come to think of it, there’s almost no part of my day where my phone is not within hand’s reach, or at least within eyesight.

Now perhaps that needn’t be a cause for concern, but then again, perhaps it is worth asking ourselves what it is about this shiny little device that has caused it to play such an integral role in everything we do. And at what point did we unwittingly agree to grant it that axiological priority which it so clearly enjoys in our daily lives?

Five hundred years before Christ, the Psalmist in all his wisdom observed that “Those who make idols will become like them, and so will all who trust in them” (Ps. 115:8). These words are no less relevant today.

And although the smartphone is by no means the only false god worshipped by modern man, it surely ranks among our favourite. How then do we reclaim ourselves?

In the absence of anything more profound, I would offer two simple words of advice: airplane mode. And more specifically: use it, familiarise yourself with it, and let it be an exercise of stewardship whereby your phone remains your tool, not your master.

So go on, Mr. Frodo, be rid of this burden. As the Psalms declare elsewhere, “Be still and know that I am God.” Airplane mode will help you achieve that state, and it might just save your soul in the process.