The technology culprit

This isn’t going to be a terribly deep post…and may even be disjointed, so I apologize… but I just wanted to note that I’ve really been made aware lately of how dramatically different I exist now with a smartphone in my possession than I did before without it. The differences didn’t happen overnight as I’ve had one for almost three years. I will say as a caveat that a handful aren’t even necessarily bad differences…but… some of them are…

I’ve noticed these differences with increasing regularity and an increase in anxiety. Anytime I have an increase in anxiety, for me personally it’s usually a good idea to check to see what the source is and if it’s anything I have control over or need to pray about. I have a a few sources right now (some of which are not anything I can do anything about and are in the ‘offer it up’ and ‘trust’ camp!), but one of them is very much connected to be this small electronic “thingy” that you would think was virtually attached to my person at all times.

One of the differences in my life pre-phone is my availability, and people’s expected availability of me. I don’t even consider myself to be one of the worst culprits that I see veritably glued to their device walking down the street, but this makes me have the prideful and poor tendency to give myself a little pat on the back. Yet, in actuality I think I desperately need to look at the plank in my own eye, because I do have it with me almost always.  Going to go upstairs to put the baby down for a nap? Slip it in my pocket. Going downstairs to do the laundry? Throw it in the basket, just in case. Going out? Heaven forbid I leave it at home. If I forget to turn the ringer on and miss a call and call or text back not even an hour later, it feels like I’m “late”…because after all, with such portible availability, I should have been able to answer straight away. If I don’t respond, and things (messages, calls, etc) pile up, people think something is wrong.

All of this “availability” and easy access to a phone line and news alerts and Twitter and Facebook and my email means I never really place very necessary personal boundaries for it all. After all, I’m only checking my email really quick for one minute, right? Responding to a text quickly before refocusing on whatever I’m doing? Looking up another recipe for dinner? Just scrolling through my Facebook feed while it seems Pia is safely occupied? Squeezing in a half a news article here and there? I’m staying connected to friends and up on world events, right? I’m being a very efficient mother and wife, right?

But…there’s really not need to be that available at all times. I would posit that (at least for me) if such technology is used too frequently it starts to take on a life of it’s own, a cyclical one, where you can never really quite catch up, never really quite unplug, and, oddly, never really get to what you want to use it for all along.

It becomes an activity or tast with no ending, with (for me) some psychological consequences.

Disciplined boundaries are necessary in so many areas of life – indeed God gives us many for our spiritual, mental, and physical health — so it follows then that some should and must be created even here too. Constant availability, at least for me, ironically ruins some of the very things that I fiercely try to protect or foster or prayerfully form as a part of the rest of our life…family time, a handful of real and true friends, purposeful actions, completely disconnected quiet time, taking time for ‘real’ conversations, and being fully present with what you are doing.  It’s VERY easy to get distracted by what’s possible on such a devices with all the best intentions… but, if I’m honest, most are not really necessary ones.

All of this said, I’m not writing this to dramatically announce I’m getting rid of the phone. I’m not interested in throwing the baby out with the bathwater. As I noted above, there are also many good things that having a smartphone has helped me with, including my faith walk as I hear a streaming homily from my old priest thousands of miles away or find help with confession via an app. I like seeing what distant friends and family are doing on Facebook and having access to email when we are on a trip. I love being able to have Pia video chat with her grandparents and “see” them more. Lord knows I need help with driving directions several times a week. I do very strongly believe, however, that I personally need to use it much more purposefully than I do now, with more boundaries and limits than I do now. There need to be many more ‘ground rules’  in our home to prevent it from being the unwanted third wheel at every waking moment, which is neither healthy nor good. I need to rightly use it for specific reasons at specific points in my day that are appropriate… vice a stream of consciousness entertainment/work device that sneakily robs me of time…and peace.

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  • Kathleen

    I agree with all of this… I am thinking about getting rid of my smart phone because people know you have it and people feel like you owe them a response and if you don’t, there is something wrong… I feel so addicted to my phone.. I was never this way before so addicted to checking my email on a computer, but that handy little phone makes it so easy. I feel bad for my three year old, my other kids never had to compete with mom for attention the way she has thanks to the phone. I went to a talk about Technology and it’s effect on the family and she mentioned a few helpful tips we are attempting to institute.

    1. Turn off phone when you get in the house.
    2. Buy an alarm clock and keep your charging phones out of the bedroom
    3. HAve your internet turn off at a certain time every night (This woman has older children so it helps them finish assignments a a reasonable time and helps keep her from staying up late)

    Another idea I thought about was leaving my phone in the car when running errands or doing things with my kids.. Otherwise I am tempted to pull it out at the park, or check it at a doctors office instead of visiting with my kids…

    That being said, my particular personality might do better with just dropping the smart phone all together!

  • I LOVE the balance in this post. Bravo J! I agree with so much of what you write here and I think boundaries and rules for our devices are really key. Some basic ideas for rules that we have tried around here —
    1) Don’t carry the phone around the house, it sits in the charger or my purse. Having a land line makes this a little easier. If it is an emergency, my close family and friends know to call my land line and if I’m home I’ll answer that.
    2) install time devices on time suck websites. You can limit your time on certain sites to a specific number of minutes (Facebook, twitter, Instagram, etc.). In my case, during Lent, I had Mr. Red install a 30 minutes FB limit. After 30 minutes it would automatically log me out, and not allow me to reenter. I was unable to go off FB entirely because of community announcements (some activities use it as their means of communication), so a time limit was a great solution to this problem.
    3) Give yourself set “times” to check e-mail and news. Best suggestions are early in the am, right after lunch, and at the end of the day, but not after a certain time at night. This idea of “batching” and doing it all at once actually saves time.
    4) Get FB and other apps off your phone (it is actually less efficient to check FB from your phone and it is a temptation 🙂
    5) avoid Tech stuff after dinner and be very limited with your use of the internet and phone until the next morning. When I am doing well, I do a quick check of my e-mail just before 10pm, but otherwise stay off the internet/e-mail until the next morning.

    Kathleen’s suggestions are also GREAT! I think we all need balance in this area and yes, rules! I would love to hear rules from other readers.