Heather + Smartphone: A Reflection for Our First Anniversary

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I was a flip phone lover from the start (and there’s still a very special place in my heart for that sturdy little beast). I loved the simplicity. I loved how cheap it was. I loved how long I could hang on to one flip phone while Smartphone screens shattered all around me. I could throw that guy across the room, and he still turned on.

And I was a little afraid to change my life by getting a Smartphone. People talked about all the negatives—how it sucked up their time and made them feel disconnected from the world. I didn’t want to be obsessed with my phone. Simultaneously, these people said they couldn’t live without their shiny rectangles.

But I finally broke down in 2016 and joined the Smartphone club. And looking back, I’m so glad I did. I’ve been thinking lately about this year and what I learned.

As a sidenote: I did have an iPad mini before the Smartphone (and before its screen shattered in an unfortunate incident). It stayed at home (I didn’t have a network for it or anything), but I did use it to keep up with blogs and Instagram, read, and take pictures at home. Still, it was a big deal that it stayed in my bedroom, as I’ll talk about later.

I am generally pro-technology. I grew up as improvements came out every year, and each improvement seemed to open up more possibilities, from a microscope connected to our computer to AIM to watching videos online.  So ultimately, I love technology and believe it can make our lives so much better and easier, allowing us to focus on important things. Technology is currency—better technology and the know-how to use it really can make our lives easier and better and make us more efficient.

I found this out this year.The Smartphone ultimately simplified my life.

 It’s so nice to not have to plan for every possibility. If I need a coupon when I’m out, I can just scan my phone (rather than printing a bunch out ahead of time). The same is true with directions and recipes. I do find that I still prefer a paper list I’ve written beforehand for grocery shopping. But there have been many times when I’ve been out and wanted to double check ideas for a recipe.

 Prior to the phone, I had to remember my iPad, camera, and phone on trips and all the requisite chargers. The Smartphone could take the place of all of those (and was only one thing to keep charged!). It is also only one thing to check. 

The Smartphone makes me feel so prepared on outings. It’s one device that meets many needs (including music). It syncs with my car and actually makes talking on the phone in the car easier.

I love how easy it is for me to listen to Podcasts or Audiobooks without having several devices. I can listen in the kitchen and then in the car and then when I’m cleaning. It allows me to feel inspired and use time better.

The biggest reason I got a Smartphone was for pictures. I love taking pictures, and since I make a family Adventure Book each year, I love having pictures of daily life. It was hard lugging my DSLR, and sometimes I wanted to be able to capture those every day moments (like a baby asleep in his carseat or a meal at a restaurant). I love this aspect. I did have to learn to reformat my book layouts to accommodate more portrait photos (and I learned to try to take more photos in landscape). I also have to remind myself that it’s still worthwhile to have the DSLR out from time to time. Still, you can’t beat a camera that you always have with you.

The Smartphone also makes it so much easier to keep up with friends. Texting was just challenging on the flip phone when everyone else had smartphones. At a certain point, I had a hard time due to the odd format or length of Smartphone texts. The Smartphone has made it much less cumbersome for me to respond to other people’s texts. I feel more connected, and I love how easy it is to respond.

The two biggest challenges for me are mindless surfing and the feeling of urgency.

I realize it became habitual so quickly to pick up my phone and just scroll through Instagram one more time. I didn’t have this problem with the iPad because it lived in the bedroom (and there’s something about size, too, that makes mindless surfing easier on a small device). I especially want to be careful about this mindless picking up of the phone around my kids.

The other challenge is the feeling of urgency. When your phone is always with you and often out, it is easy to feel like you have to check every notification and respond to every text. I don’t enable many notifications (what is it about that red bubble with a number that makes me feel so urgent?!). I try to be really careful about this in the car, but I do need to be more careful around my boys. I hate that phrase, “Let me just check one more thing,” but I utter it far too often.

Going forward, here are two things I’m trying to let my phone be more of a tool for me (which it really can be!) and less of a distraction.

First, I read somewhere this year that we need to design technology that allows us to accomplish needful tasks and then lets us go. Typically our phones suck us in (or at least this happens to me—see, “check one more thing” above). There’s always something to check, something to alleviate boredom, something to make us feel that flicker of excitement.

When I get tired, especially, I can just surf mindlessly (that little magnifying glass button on Instagram is a trap for me!). So the first thing for me was realizing that when I’m tired, I need to put down my phone (or limit myself to reading).

Another thing I’ve been trying  is giving myself something worthwhile to do on the phone. When I’m nursing Walt, I love to check Instagram. So I let myself check it. Then I stop. I found that I need a BIG goal on my phone. So I set out to read through the Bible in 90 days. The plan is on the Youversion App, so all I have to do is click on it, and there my reading is. It’s a big goal because I need that to force me to stop wasting time.

I found early on that I spend less time scrolling mindlessly when I have an engaging book, so I do this too. But the Bible goal has been the best use of my phone so far. I’m loving that it’s lofty enough to keep me from mindless surfing while not feeling like some kind of self-imposed punishment.

The second thing I’m trying to do is keep my phone out of our daily lives. I try to have paper books I’m reading too (so I can pick up a book in a spare minute), I leave my journal out for jotting down ideas, and I try to leave kids’ books lying around. I want to experiment with keeping my phone in the bedroom or on the counter more.

There are so many good things about Smartphones, so many things that can truly simplify our lives! My goal this year is to continue to find out how I can integrate the Smartphone into a simple life.

I would love to hear your ideas for helping our phones simplify our lives!