This is the third year in a row that I’ve given up social media for Lent. If I’m truly honest, I have been looking forward to doing so for a while. It’s interesting that I needed a good excuse to excuse myself from the very common practice of mindlessly scrolling, seeing something that evokes an emotion, compiling thoughts and a response and then posting about it for the few people who consistently engage with my particular Instagram. People might “like” it or ignore it. It’s really odd. Stepping back from it, you realize how peculiar this behavior is. Are the friends we have on social media really friends at all? Probably not because that is not truly a relationship. I don’t even know what to call it. We are truly wasting our time.

Last night, I woke up in the middle of the night and reached for my phone to see what time it was, and it was completely dead. Not the battery, the phone, just not responding at all. Like a trained animal, I just kept tapping the screen to wake it up to no avail. Then I began pushing the side buttons, plugging it in again all just to see what time it was. Weird. Putting the useless phone down, I began to think about all the things I could no longer do without my phone and in the same instant I started to think about how different life was when we had to muddle through it without phones. There was a certain feeling of freedom that came over me and quite honestly that haunts me. If not having a phone feels like freedom, is having one some type of slavery? What have we given up in the name of safety and convenience?

While awake in the middle of the night having no idea what time it was, because my phone is also my clock, I started to consider the logo on the back of the phone, an apple with a bite taken out of it. I started thinking about the fruit of the tree of knowledge in the Garden of Eden. Then I thought about the poison apple given to Snow White by the evil Queen that put her under a spell. Why would the creators of the iPhone choose a bitten apple as their logo for a computer company? Perhaps it is a subconscious coincidence. Perhaps it’s more than that. Middle of the night thoughts… Sometimes those are the times when we are thinking clearly, yet for some reason we dismiss the thoughts later. Maybe that is “the still small voice” trying to tell us something. Maybe we should listen to it.

There was a time when neighbors would come to your door to visit, unannounced. It was typical to have refreshments on hand in case someone would stop over for a chat. Imagine that, a friend stopping over to have a real conversation instead of texting you. There was a time when young teenage girls didn’t see all of the fun they were being left out of by their so-called “friends” because they were probably involved in real relationships with people around them instead of scrolling and comparing their lives to people who would otherwise be strangers. There was a time when the bully would have to look at his victim in the eyes and risk push back. There was a time when we didn’t have access to seeing images of every atrocity around the world and the ones we could read about in the newspaper (back when it was still journalism), we would actually discuss looking at a human face with all of its beautiful nonverbal expressions instead of entering into our echo chambers of sameness that distorts our perspectives. There was a time when we looked to the guidance of our Faith instead of our phones when we didn’t know the answer. What have we become?

I don’t miss Instagram. Save for the sense of security of being able to call my husband or kids no matter where I am or where they are, I actually miss how things used to be without phones in our pockets. And there is the hook… that security. I miss pay phones on street corners. We used to know how to do things like get from point a to point b. We used to know how to read a map or politely ask someone for directions. We used to plan our days and memorize phone numbers and remember appointments. How crippling would it be if we all woke up in the middle of the night and found them useless plastic boxes? How sad is it that it is actually a fearful possibility, that our “communication” be cut off? How many things would we have to relearn? Sadly, we may even have to learn how to be human again. But at least we would be free and more connected to the people who really matter.