I’ve invested so much energy in building up the anticipation for this article that I’m tempted to linger for yet a moment longer and allow the suspense to kill BOTH of you who are waiting with baited breath. Bait the sheol out of your breath, what do I care.

Okay that was fun. But here we go, as promised: what you have before you know is the Rosetta Stone of phone usage, the magic decoder ring found in the bottom of the box of sugar cereal. This, muchachos, is how my family navigates smartphones, dumbphones and the internets.

1. I own a Blackberry. Remember the Blackberry?

I do. The classic blackberry came with great fanfare and was king of the hill for, what–five years?–then was extinguished without so much as a piddle or squeak. WELL I’M BRINGING IT BACK FROM THE DEAD BABY. People see me with my Blackberry and think that I’m somehow behind the times, as if I have yet to catch up the past 10 years. Laugh all you want, simpletons! I’m actually from the FUTURE and I performed a RESURRECTION on the tech you threw out! (Suckaz never learn.) I’ve arrived at my device of choice, I hasten to add, after several failed attempts to implement the dumbphone. One thing I learned early on is that your standard flip phone makes texting so cumbersome that you’ll probably ignore most texts instead of hammering out a reply which will take you 5 minutes (even with the miracle of modern technology that is T9 predictive texting… remember that erstwhile innovation?). Now, you might be saying “sounds great, I hate texting”. If that’s you, pick yourself up a nice flip phone, it’ll do ya just fine, and we’re done here. Pick another article and click away, my smoke signaling friend.

For me, the eventual refusal to respond to text messages as a whole created problems all over the place, and I came to realize that I needed a better option. Namely, I needed a keyboard. I realized that my dream device has a keyboard, a passable camera (at least, a nicer one than the 1 megapixel flip phone standard crapfest), can play the podcasts I so enjoy, can navigate me around town if I need help… and doesn’t kill my relationship with my God and wife along the way. Sounds perfect, right? …well to be candid, I haven’t found all that yet… but the closest thing I have found is the Blackberry Bold 9900. Oh baby.

These can be had BRAND NEW(!) by the Abraham-about-town for about the same price of a flip phone (price = cheap). They will ship with twitter, facebook and all sorts of terrible, privacy-invading, shalom-degrading apps installed, but don’t worry – when Blackberry maker, RIM, went belly up, all those apps stopped working! Hooray! So what’s left is an easy-texting, nicely photographing, not perfect (okay, terrible… but seriously, it’s good enough) navigating cell phone (maybe it’s time you acted like a grown man and learned how to navigate using heavenly bodies?! How about that!? Just sayin’). And get this: If you’re ebay savvy (meaning, you can search for something 3 days in a row), you can find one there for 25 bucks. 25 BUCKS!

I know what you’re thinking. “What about the podcasts? I gots to have my Gladwell!”. Well you can’t have it all, but I’ll get back to that later. The big point is that the Blackberry offers NOTHING that beckons to my attention when I’m going through life. And if you’re worried about the pornographic opportunities presented by a phone, this thing probably could display some pixelated boobs but it would take serious effort and quite a bit of imagination. Kinda like your parents’ dial-up modem in 1998. Last but not least, there is a conversation piece factor in carrying my Blackberry. All the cool startup nerds around me love to chuckle when I whip it out (the Blackberry) and start typing away. “They still make those?” No, coworker/coffee shop patron, they don’t. I BRING THEM BACK FROM THE DEAD. And now, gird your loins for the coming dumbphone proselytizing at which I’m becoming adept as well…

2. My wife uses an iPhone

Hey what can I say – she’s just not as spiritual! I kid. It’s actually quite nice that she has one of these devices that’s a threat to me (and hey, it’s been a threat to her too: more on that below*) When we travel, she’s the AirBnB and Turo operator. We DO sometimes need a good navigator, and she covers that, too. Because she’s never had a hard time avoiding the dark arts on her phone, and she is better than I am at leaving the phone on the shelf when we are having family time, we’ve decided that this setup works just fine for her.

The iPhone is also really useful for her work situation – which echoes something I heard from my friend Amish John, whom I referenced in an earlier installment of this series. It’s important to keep in mind that there is nothing inherently bad about this technology- by that I mean the communication device or the simple fact that information can travel seamlessly from a sender anywhere in the world to a receiver anywhere else in the world. (In fact it’s good! We can create amazing things and reflect the image of the Father when we do it! Hooray for that!) The trouble lies when we mindlessly accept something that is useful in one area (work) into an environment that we should be protecting with the nervous energy of a vegan in a rib joint (that would be, our homes). Again I’ll say: I’m not against technology per se. It’s not as pat as “let’s go back to a simpler time: 2003”. But technology unexamined has a way of ruling us in ways we end up regretting.

3. I also have an iPhone

The sleuths among you might be thinking, “hey, I found this blog on Instagram… so I know you actually use a smartphone, Beavis.” Well boys, you’ve indeed found me out. I just wrote all these phone bits to sell magazines… it’s a clever ruse.

Nay, tisn’t so, but I do indeed have an iPhone. I even carry it around with me because I delight in a good podcast (aha! The previous loop CLOSED!). It doesn’t have a cellular plan on it, so it’s basically the same thing as an iPod touch. It is not smart. It doesn’t know where it is, doesn’t know who I am, and isn’t selling my choices to the highest bidder. This allows me to connect to the internet and use Instagram for several business ventures, test out apps that I’m developing, quickly list stuff for sale on my local classifieds as a part of my productive hobbies… the list goes on.

When I’m in line at the grocery store, however, no dice. When I’m in a doctor’s office, no time killers available. When I’m sitting in the carpool line, it’s just me in that car, no boobs. You get the idea; there’s a limitation that I welcome with not being on a cellular plan. The only time this phone works is when I’ve connected it to a network (and I make a point of not connecting it to networks other than my home and my office). So when I cross the threshold into one of these places, my tiny phone-shaped computer updates itself with all my great knowledge-filled entertainment. And if I want to do smartphone things, I can do them there.

At this point you should be thinking, “Okay: you said that your phone takes your attention away from your family at home, and if you’re connecting this thing to the internet it’s basically the same thing as having a full-fledged smartphone”. Thanks for your concern – let me explain how we deal with that would-be truth…

4. Our home internet runs through Circle

The Circle Device is a KEY component our our family’s home internet strategy and, knowing what I know now, I would never never never live without one again. It’s honestly the best $100 I have spent on tech for our home, ever. This device sits between your modem and your router, allowing an admin person to set whole-home controls on the internet for:

  • content (whatever you don’t want in, doesn’t get in);
  • time limits for specific devices (device X won’t work after X o’clock, or it won’t work after X minutes a day);
  • time limits for specific websites or apps (no more than 20 minutes per day on website X), and;
  • profiles for different users who might use multiple devices. It also keeps records of anything that anyone is accessing via my internet connection on any device so that I may review it.

HOW ABOUT THIS THING DUDES? Knowing what I know about you (and that is that almost all of you are trading in spiritual and relational health for things that you hate yourselves for later), I can’t imagine ANY of you not needing this and benefiting from its immediate integration into your scene. Seriously.

So anyway, here’s how the Circle Device shakes out in the real world: If a guest comes to our home and connects to our wifi – they will notice that they cannot access certain sites and content categories that we have banished from anyone in our house who might want to access them (think about things like porno and essential oils multi-level marketing outfits. These must never never be in my home). But we really own this thing for our own sakes. For me, that means my iPhone won’t connect to the internet outside of some small windows. So that iPhone becomes merely a podcasting device once again for all but a few minutes a day in my house. For my wife* (remember that * up above! Imma address that now!), she also noticed that she was wasting time on celebrity news and Facebook (anxiety and self-hatred factories that they are), so she blocked those sites from all of her devices. And so on. So Circle controls what and when we look at on our Apple TV, our computers and our phones. Hooray!!

5. Blammo! Personal tech tranquility!

So let me connect all the dots above for you: At home, my internet access is whatever size I want it to be via Circle (program your Circle right after family prayer and reading The Tech Wise Family or The Benedict Option, NOT right after reading Wired Magazine Online). And remember, because of my dumbphone, I don’t have the ability to just flip over to 3G and ignore whatever limits I set for myself by using the cellular connection. Because I don’t HAVE a cellular connection on my phone, I’m truly subject to the rules I established when I was planning out my ideal time and content allocations – there’s no way around it. And here in this place of self-imposed boundaries, I’ve found SO MUCH FREEDOM, my friends! My phone ceases to be a constant distraction (wherever I find myself) and my time with family is much more frequently undefiled by whatever else might pop up on a screen.

Those 5 steps again, for those of you scoring at home:

  1. I have a Blackberry for life in the wild
  2. Mrs. Abraham has an iPhone
  3. I also have an old non-cellular iPhone at home
  4. The Circle, with my directives, limits us all the way around
  5. And we are happy.

I’ve dedicated a lot of digital ink to the topic of why you should put A LOT of thinking into your choice of phones. Some of you have taken the time to write and let me know that I’m crazy, but I guess this is my thing. And it is my thing because I rarely talk to people on any side of the phone conversation who have thought deeply about how their phones impact so many aspects of their life. Agree with me (and order your Blackberry today!) or don’t – my primary hope is that by the time you’ve read all these articles you’ll have a very intentional position and that whatever you’re doing with your technology is done with eyes wide open.

To recap where we’ve been for posterity’s sake, here’s what has been covered:

I’d love to hear how you’ve thought this one through and where you’ve arrived at similar or different conclusions to my own – email us, social media us or just comment below.

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