Being the ripe old age of 30, I remember life before the internet and cell phones. As a child one of my biggest pet peeves was when someone forgot to rewind the VHS because it meant I had to wait longer before my movie was ready. I watched commercials and was limited to whatever shows were playing at the time. When I wanted to call a friend I called their home phone and had to talk to whoever happened to answer and then wait patiently for my friend to get to the phone. At one point, just before my little brother’s voice changed, no one could tell his voice and my voice apart on the phone which made for some interesting conversations when his friends asked if I could come and play or if my friends started venting boy drama to him. When I started driving, if I didn’t know how to get to a place, I had to mapquest it before I left. If I got lost, well, good luck.
My kids will never understand the frustration of rewinding. Goodness, we went on a trip this summer and my son watched cable TV for the first time and couldn’t understand why he couldn’t watch the show he wanted WHEN he wanted, and commercials, those were crazy. About a year ago, my son, who was 2 at the time, picked up an old corded phone that we keep around as a toy and shouted at it, “Ok google, show me some pictures of dinosaurs!” With those googling skills, he certainly will never be lost while driving or be in want of random factoids.
I’ve been catching up on some old Star Trek recently on Netflix. They had the concept down for a tablet to read reports and such from, but they had to have a separate one for each report, book, etc. It’s a little funny to watch this “future” technology now, when we actually have things that are more advanced. My cell phone alone holds the Bible, Book of Mormon, other scripture, multiple magazines, and audiobooks, as well as offering me the ability to check messages, emails, the news, and the weather wherever I want all in one hand held device. Take that Star Trek!
Just in my lifetime I have witnessed some amazing technological advances. In many ways our society and culture are very different because of these advances and conveniences.
A few weeks ago my phone died. Not like it ran out of battery died, it gave up the ghost, went the way of all the earth, went to the great charger in the sky. I had some warning signs, it was kinda coming in and out, so we ordered a new one and I hoped that it would stumble along until the new phone arrived, but none such luck. It left me with about 5 days with no phone.
It was weird to say the least. I had to physically write out a grocery list, think of the poor trees that were sacrificed! I had no idea what time it was when I was out and about, a lot of places don’t have wall clocks anymore. I didn’t really know what to do with my hands. And overall, I actually kinda liked it. Not enough for me to cancel my order for my phone, but it definitely got me thinking about the impact of technology on my life.
Technology can be an amazing tool. As I’ve already mentioned it allows us to be in contact when we need to, find places easily, and gives us access to the media we want to enjoy. It has done amazing things in advancing the work of family history, you can track health goals, find recipes, find ideas for basically everything, learn how to replace or fix pretty much anything, stay connected with friends, and share ideas all with a few clicks or thumb swipes. It is truly amazing and such a blessing.
So then why did I kinda like not having a phone for a few days?
Technology is a blessing and a curse. It can be such an terrific tool, but it can also be a terrible trap.
There’s some obviously dangerous traps such as pornography, and predators that stalk the internet, but I don’t want to focus on those. I’m going to focus on things that are a little less obvious.
Before my phone broke I was definitely guilty of aimless Facebook scrolling. I am by no means anti-Facebook. Chances are if you are reading this, you found it on Facebook. I really like keeping in touch with old friends and connecting with new friends. I regularly use it to plan play dates and it’s how I connect with Lifting Hands International to sign up for opportunities to serve refugees. But all too frequently it turns into a major distraction. As a mom who does not work outside the home, sometimes I can start to feel a little isolated. I think I turned to Facebook thinking that it would help me feel more connected to people, which sometimes it does connect me to people, but more often than not it turned into a mind numbing abyss that distracted me from reality. You know, like my kids that are growing up too fast, the food that doesn’t cook itself, the dishes that don’t wash themselves, and just actually living my own life. I would finish a scroll sesh feeling unfulfilled, bored, and sometimes rather anxious. It got to the point where I couldn’t even claim it was relaxing and I certainly wasn’t feeling more connected to other people.
Now I’m not suggesting that this is what everyone should, or must do, but if you find yourself falling into the trap of aimless scrolling, here’s what I did. When I got my new phone, I did not install the Facebook app and I vowed to myself not to open it through the browser. When it was on my phone it was just too easy to hop on when I had a second of time that was not specifically designated for another task, which then turned into too much time. I didn’t have to think about getting on. Regularly I would grab my phone to do something else, check Facebook for a second which turned into lots of seconds, and then forget what I actually got on my phone to do. Now, I have to grab my computer if I want some Facebook time. It has to be an intentional decision to get on. Now Facebook serves as the tool it should be. I use it to connect, make plans, share my blog, and some relaxation time. It’s far less of the time sucking and mind numbing trap it was before.
This issue isn’t limited to Facebook, really it’s anything that sucks up your time and distracts you from your reality. It might be Instagram, the news, a game, Pinterest, or whatever other new fangled things the kids are using these days. All of these have a time and a place and can be amazing tools. I use Pinterest frequently to find healthy recipes and help with creative ideas. Playing games can be relaxing and can even help keep your brain sharp. Keeping up with current events is important for many reasons. I’m not on Insta- but I hear it’s cool and less political than Facebook. The problem is when these things prevent us from living our lives. Are we actually playing with our kids for the sake of playing with them instead of either ignoring them or just hoping for good photo ops to show off on social media. Keeping up with current events is good until it prevents you from keeping current with your family and friends or contributes to anxiety and depression. Playing games can be relaxing and mentally stimulating but unfortunately can also take over people’s lives and prevent them from having a reality. There are so many great ideas on Pinterest, but if you spend all of your time searching for the perfect idea or meal and never actually making them then what is the point.
The April 2017 Ensign (a magazine published by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints), had an amazing article titled “Growing a Healthy Technology Garden.” While published by a church affiliated magazine, notably this article is not specifically religious in nature, I would definitely encourage readers regardless of religious preferences to give it a look over. The main point that really hit me was creating a “family media plan.” The author, Marissa Widdison, offers some guiding questions, or if you click on that hyperlink it will take you to a search with several organizations that offer ideas for how to set one up.
I wanted to highlight the first guiding question: When is using technology OK, and for how long? I can’t answer this for anyone else, I’m still working on completely answering it for myself. But here’s some things you might consider as you create your plan:
- Will I designate a certain amount of time, or designate specific times when I don’t use technology (family time, meals, etc.), or a combination of both
- Are there things I should get done before I allow myself designated media time (household maintenance, exercise, church/ community responsibilities, personal/ spiritual development)
I am working on putting my phone away for specific times to devote to my children without any distractions and have decided not to have any Facebook time until I have exercised for the day. This is what’s working pretty well for me (far from perfect), but again, figure out what works best for you.
Here’s what I have kept on my phone to make it a tool:
- Fitness tracker- counting calories, tracking macro nutrients, reminding myself to drink more water, tracking exercise, it’s all super convenient
- Gospel library app- now instead of browsing Facebook while I feed my daughter her bottles I read scriptures or church magazines- a really great pick me up in the middle of the day
- Facebook messenger- I can stay connected easily with friend and family
- Audible/ Overdrive- audio books have kinda become my thing lately, check back later for some reviews of some of the books I’ve “read” recently
- Organization apps- I’ve got my calendar of course, but also meal planning, and Wunderlist to make checklists that can be shared with my husband
- Pinterest- so I can access and find recipes conveniently
It’s liberating. I don’t miss it. Don’t let FOMO (fear of missing out) make you miss out on your actual life. Make your devices tools not a traps.