Smartphones & Boundaries

Holy Family SelfieAll of us with smartphones are – ostensibly – available 24/7.  This is potentially a soul-sucking reality.

There are some excellent new articles out there about U.S. culture and smartphone usage.   A.A. Gill wrote this  for Vanity Fair which cites an unnamed study reporting  that “speaking into it was the sixth thing (respondents) did with their phone.”  And Pew Research recently shared a detailed report full of fascinating factoids (e.g. 46% of respondents said they couldn’t live without their smartphones.)

I am one of the 46%.  Of course, I could indeed live without my smartphone.  I just don’t want to.

I use my phone for texting, email, directions, photos, weather, time, and reading – not necessarily in that order.  But talking on it is at least the sixth thing I do with my phone.  In fact, on the outgoing voice mail message, I share the fact that I’m most likely to get back to you if you text me your message.  Even my dentist and hair salon text me with appointment reminders.  I appreciate that very much.

But when we love our smartphones, we risk working All The Time.  I’m trying to curb this.

My cell phone number is included in the clunky institutional directory available to all ruling and teaching elders with whom I work.  I personally share that number with church people who need to reach me for an emergency.  But my cell phone is my home number and I’m trying to remember that your cell phone is your home number.  Call me Old School, but I’m trying to hone those communication boundaries by encouraging people to contact me via my office voice mail and email.

[Note:  if you are my friend as well as my colleague, text away.  We need to meet for coffee/drinks/donuts/therapy and texting is the way to go.  Yes, the boundaries between work and non-work are fluid.  We know each other well enough keep good boundaries or to hold each other accountable when we don’t.]

But what about non-emergency church related questions that come to us via cell phone text, Facebook message, Twitter or other social media venue?  For a long time, I have answered those questions even though they were possibly interrupting my perusal of family photos or linking to interesting articles.  As a boundary-challenged pastor, I have always wanted to be helpful, even at three in the morning.  I grew up in the South to be nice.  Always.

Nevertheless I have started a simple yet (for me) life-changing practice.  When I receive a non-emergency text or message I make myself respond this way:

“Let’s do this via my office phone or office email.”

Sounds pretty tame, doesn’t it?  But it’s changing my life.

Pacing ourselves is a spiritual practice just like honoring a Sabbath Day. Keeping social media boundaries makes for a healthier spiritual life as well.  I’d love to hear about how you handle this.

Image source here.

4 responses to “Smartphones & Boundaries

  1. Pingback: » Smartphones & Boundaries

  2. This is hugely helpful. I have been trying th figure out exactly how to deal with this. When it’s 8:30 pm and I’m happily playing Candy Crush while watching TV it’s hard to figure out what to do with that random very much not a crisis text that comes in. It is easy to just answer a quick one, but, well, sometimes disruptive. Not hugely but enough. I’m just happy to not be in that mindset for a little while. And many times a short one turns into a short two, or three, or four. Or an email to clarify a question to a whole groups. Or… Etc etc. Your answer is concise and helpful. Thank you.


  3. So simple. So practical. So helpful.


  4. Pingback: This Week’s Links « Timothy Siburg

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