Are you reading this on your smartphone?
Moms, we have a problem. The average Canadian now spends over 3 hours a day on their smartphone. I’d like to think it’s all the ebooks we’re reading but even if I add in time on maps, calendars, timers, grocery lists and other organizational necessities my numbers aren’t adding up. Maybe yours don’t either. If there was an app to track your phone usage do you know what it would tell you?
My phone is a life-saver. There’s a gigantic flaw in that statement but I’ll get to it in a minute.
First, the good.
There’s a confidence that comes in being a directionally challenged person who can show up on time for a meeting in a new location, care of Google Maps. My husband is over the moon that I have overcome my propensity for tardiness. I’m glad I could do it without having to resort to his pre-smartphone strategy of being 30 minutes early for everything.
I have many friends who love their smartphones for communication and social media. I can make that stuff work sometimes. Mostly, I love having instant information for my five-year-old when he asks, “How does electricity work?” or the more difficult, “Why can’t boys marry boys?”
“Hey Google, look up Catholic marriage”
It’s nice to have answers. My inner know-it-all laps them all up and revels in the pride of being an expert on everything.
What kind of mom would I be if I unplugged from my phone? The kind who’s late for everything, can’t remember the grocery list, forgets my own wedding anniversary (yes, it’s actually happened), and responds to the questions of inquisitive children with, “Hmm, I don’t know, honey.” In short, I’d be revealed as the imperfect person that I am.
But is my phone actually making me better in the ways that matter most?
I have friends who are social media addicts. I don’t use that term loosely. Every blip or ding sends them scrambling for their phone. Some don’t even notice they’re doing it, others are apologetic. “If I don’t stay on top of all these notifications,” a friend informs me, “it gets a little overwhelming.” I get that overwhelming feeling from social media too, but it makes me want to chuck my phone in the garbage– not because I’m more virtuous, we’ve covered my particular phone vice already.
We are fueled by a need to satisfy our insecurities.
What if I’m at a (rare) social gathering and I’m not caught up on all the latest research on… everything? What if paediatricians change the recommended first foods for babies again and I’m the only one who doesn’t know? I’d better click that headline. People will think I’m a terrible mom if I’m not up on the latest research to keep my children healthy.
When the party conversation turns to babies I’ve got it covered. Would my friends still like me if I didn’t know stuff?
My friend similarly worries what people will think if she forgets to like their latest photo. Will they think she’s a terrible friend? What happens if she doesn’t post for a while? Will her friends move on without her? The word friend is somewhat of a misnomer here.
App developers, and smartphone designers responding to market pressure know what advertisers have known for ages. Fear sells. And affirmation? It feels GREAT! That rollercoaster of adrenaline and endorphins will keep us glued to our phones scrolling down a bottomless news feed for hours. That’s plenty of time for advertisers to sell us on the latest gadget that will solve all of our problems. Instapot anyone?
In the moments we can tear ourselves away from our phones, I think we all know that we’re responding to falsehoods. I don’t care if my friend likes my photo any more than she cares if I know that pureed meat is the new Pablum of baby starter foods, yet we let fear play on our insecurities. We build invisible personal fortresses around ourselves to make us feel good and safe and perfect.
Our real relationships suffer.
Our relationships with each other suffer.
Our relationship with God suffers.
He is ready and waiting to help us get back on track.
If you have time for a push-notification you have time for prayer. If you have time to say, “Hey Google.” You have time to say, “Hey God.”
It’s not likely to get you instant gratification but it is going to help you on your journey towards heaven. Don’t be surprised if God affirms you in the process! Perfect love casts out fear. (1 John 4:18)
Where do you weigh in on the phone and technology use debate? Do you use your phone as much as the average 3 hours? How have you felt the effects of smartphone or other technology usage in your life? Maybe there’s a happy medium between tossing your phone in the trash and drooling over it every waking second. Let’s talk about it!
Here are six questions to get the conversation going with your mom’s group:
Do you ask God or do you ask Google?
Where do you turn first when the minivan finally kicks the bucket or you’re not sure what advice to give a friend in crisis?
Who’s the boss? You, or your notifications?
When you’re with a loved one do you give them your undivided attention?
What pulls you into phone or other screen time again and again?
Do you see smartphone use as a distraction from holiness or a tool leading to your sanctification? How do you use it for the latter?
Do you think social media, apps, and websites exploit our insecurities? If so, what insecurities are best exploited by these platforms and how are you responding?
What changes can you make to your smartphone usage to strengthen your relationships with family, friends, and God?
Karen Keays returned to the Church in early adulthood after more than a decade of wrestling with God. She is a stay-at-home mother of three.