my priorities

For the past 20 years, I was stuck in a dysfunctional relationship.

Lonely, depressed and frustrated, I was unable to get out, even though the change would have required little work and could have dramatically improved my life.

Here was the situation: nearly every day of my life, I had prioritized a small-glowing rectangle that fit in my pocket over nearly everything else in my life — my friends, my family, God. My dysfunctional relationship was with my iPhone.

Decades ago, I purchased a phone that promised to improve my life. Its advertisements showed a magical combination of freedom and connection with others.

And every new feature seemed to fulfill that promise. GPS on my phone meant I would never get lost again.

Twitter, Facebook and Instagram put me in contact with friends I had not seen since high school — never for a second questioning why none of us had reached out for decades.

Email access meant anyone could reach me at any time.

The result was: I loved my phone.

I mean that in the truest sense of the word. It was the first thing I would look at when I woke up in the morning. Checking my email was the last thing I did before going to bed.

One day as I ran to work, I realized I left my iPhone at home. I was already three miles away from home, on the steps of my office, but my anxiety and racing heart were too much for me. The fear of being without my phone for a day sent me into a panic that resulted in my running right back home.

The worst moment came when my then 3-year-old daughter, Fiona, was standing on the floor with a stuffed animal in her arms. She grabbed my knee, saying, “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy.” But I was too busy reading an email: “One second, Fiona.” She persisted, “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy.” Frustrated, I yelled, “WHAT FIONA? DAD’S BUSY! WHAT DO YOU WANT?”

She started to cry.

With tears in her eyes and stifled breath, she said, “Daddy… I… just… wanted… you… to… play… with… meeeee.”


That was the moment I realized I was addicted to something I loved, but that didn’t love me back. It was hurting those I do love.

Every day I was spending over 2.5 hours on my phone.

How much time was I playing with my kids, or talking to my wife, or meeting with friends? How much time was I praying?

I can promise you, not even close to 2.5 hours per day.

Even when you know you have a problem, it’s hard to get help. Friends would tell me, “Just remove some apps, and spend less time on your phone.” That was like telling the alcoholic to “drink less.”

After trying everything, eight weeks ago I got rid of my iPhone.

I traded it for a “dumb phone” called the LightPhone.

My new phone has three main features: phone calls, text messages and a calculator.

It is the worst phone I’ve used in decades. I hate it. It’s a terrible phone.

And every day is hard.

I’m back to printing off directions from MapQuest. Texting is so difficult, I usually end up calling the person. When I want to check my email, I pull out my laptop.

But here is what I’ve learned: I shouldn’t love things, I should use them.

The result is I have recovered 2.5 hours every day to spend with the people I love.

The last thing I do before I go to bed now is kiss my beautiful wife.

If I leave my phone at home, I couldn’t be less concerned.

And Fiona and Rocky are never tugging on my leg, because I’m usually on the floor with them wrestling, reading books and playing dolls.

Do I miss my iPhone? Of course. It was way easier to use.

But I’ve again put my job, my friends, my family and God way ahead of any device.

My memo to myself: My memo to myself: Use things; love people; worship God.




Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Matt Paprocki

President @illinoispolicy the nation’s leading state-based think tank.