This post kind of goes hand-in-hand with the post TV is not evil. So, if you haven't read that one yet, please do!
So, I finally got a smartphone. And it was with some reluctance. Right before I got one, actually, Andrew and I went on a rare date alone, and as we were waiting for our table I was struck by the fact that almost everyone but us was glued to their phone. I don't want to be that person, but I definitely see the temptation. Smartphones are pretty nifty! I just got mine today, and already I have a whole host of apps on it that can enable me to watch videos, take pictures, check my e-mail, read Kindle books, keep up with my blogs, blog, follow the daily Mass readings from home, etc...
The possibilities really are endless! There is so much you can do! And you can virtually never be bored, ever again. That sounds so tempting, doesn't it?
So, just to put this out there, I am not anti-smartphone, but I am very wary of them. I don't like how they've changed social situations. It used to be that if you were standing around waiting for a table at a restaurant, people would actually interact with each other. It used to be that if moms and daughters were sitting across from each other at a cafe, they would be talking - not glued to their phones! A few years back, Andrew and I were in a social situation with some other friends - all of whom we didn't see very often - and we were the only two people not on our phones. It was pretty awkward, and kind of sad.
Okay, so I got that out of the way. But that's not what this post isn't about.
This post is in favor of smartphones and the like. Because, if used right, they can be wonderful tools.
My daughters are lovely. Absolutely positively lovely. If you have daughters (or sons) of your own, I'm sure you know how intoxicating they can be. Honest to goodness, all it takes is one good sniff of their little baby heads and I'm in love. And those kissable cheeks? Don't even get me started!
All that being said...I've started with you the fact that I struggle with post-partum depression. When my oldest was a baby and I would be trying to rock her to sleep, my PPD made it really difficult to stay calm enough got her to relax. I would sit there, rocking her in the dark, and my thoughts would race and my anxiety climb. It was hard.
Things have been less stressful with my second, not because she is an easier baby to get to sleep (to put it in perspective, my first did not have colic or reflux or screaming fits as a newborn, and my second did). What has made it easier is having a wireless device (a Kindle, usually, but now my phone, too). I typically start off by snuggling my baby girl, drinking her in, smelling her sweet milky smell, engaging her in her babbly language. But often, as I lay there, if she's struggling to sleep or I'm struggling to relax, pulling up an e-book to read, or a favorite blog, or an episode of the Duggars, helps me chill out a bit. And having a relaxed mother makes my sweet girl drift off ten times faster.
This is just a personal example, but I'm guessing that I'm not the only mother who needs help relaxing. And a smartphone, when used correctly, can be a great tool to achieve that!
Helpful Tip: don't reach for the smartphone first thing. Don't let it be an automatic response. First, snuggle that baby, squeeze in some prayer time, and then use your phone as needed. The key is to use it as a tool rather than let it rule you.
There are a million and one moments every day that I want to capture forever. And sometimes, at the end of a very long day, I desperately need to be able to look back at cute and funny pictures to remind myself that it's all worth it. Every phone I've had up until now has had less than ideal picture taking capabilities, and our family camera is never where I want it when I want it. And leaving the room to retrieve the camera tends to have a way of spoiling the moment.
But now? I have the ability to take a picture (a good quality picture) whenever I want! My phone is almost always tucked in my pocket (since I typically use it as a clock throughout the day) so I'll always have a camera on hand and the ability to share the pictures with family and friends.
Helpful Tip: Don't live behind the lens of your camera. There is no way that you can capture every moment, despite what Instagram and Pinterest would have you believe. Be intentional about putting the camera aside and just living sometimes. But, don't be wracked with guilt for occasionally whipping out your lens to capture a joyful moment. It's the ideal tool for that very thing. ;-)
My oldest daughter has creativity spilling out of her ears, much like her mother. I've heard one of the complaints about smartphones and screen time being that they squelch creativity.
But again - smartphones are a tool. They can, incidentally, be a tool to help grow creativity. My girl gets so many fantastic ideas for play from her favorite movies and cartoons. Her vocabulary and the complexity of her storylines increases with access to movies. Granted, she's three and so she has little self-control...so it's my job to help her to find the balance between gathering ideas from screen time and acting out those ideas in playtime.
The same goes for adults! I absolutely love the ideas I get from blogs and Pinterest, and I'm often itching with excitement to put them into practice. But, of course, that means having the self-control to put down the smart phone and act on those creative ideas.
But here's the thing...the smartphone isn't keeping me or my daughter from being creative. It can be a fabulous tool for creativity! A good dose of self-control can help strike the necessary balance.
Helpful tip: Have set times a day when you let yourself browse for ideas, or when you let your child have screentime. I'm pretty liberal when it comes to these things, because I really do think that screentime can be a good thing. But, liberal or no, I still have certain times a day that I aim for us to have our screen time. Typically, we watch a little TV and I check e-mail during breakfast, repeat during the baby's morning nap, maybe a bit of Netflix time before naptime (if we need to wind down a bit from playing), and a little TV with Daddy after dinner. I tend to avoid screens much of the day, but I give myself a break when I need to (and morning and afternoon naps are fair game). Of course, if I'm sick or the baby is fussy or the weather is awful, that all may vary. But, for us, that's what our balance tends to look like. And it works!
The possibilities for witnessing to the beauty of our Catholic faith and living out that faith are endless, with the help of a smartphone. Moments like ashes on a baby's forehead can be immortalized on social media, an insightful quote shared on Twitter, daily Mass readings accessed from an app in seconds...you get the picture. A smartphone can be a powerful tool for bringing Christ to every nook and cranny of life.
Helpful Tip: Praying a quick "Come, Holy Spirit!" prayer before you post anything can keep it all in perspective!
Finally, I keep coming back to some of the posts I've been reading lately, like Jenny's, which honestly reflect on the reality of being a mother in the 21st century. It's hard. And lonely. Even if you love your kids and love spending time with them, you can still feel very alone sometimes.
But, with a few clicks of a button you can...call a friend. Or e-mail her. Or text her. Or send her a picture. And BOOM. Connection.
Helpful Tip: Okay, I'm really guilty of sticking to texts and e-mails and not calling people. But I have some friends that really do love talking on the phone. So, identify how each of your friends connects best with you, and be willing to use their favorite mode of communication to stay in touch. I try to remind myself, after all, that a smartphone is...well...a phone! Good grief, one of these days when I don't have a fussy or sleeping baby on hand much of the day, I can try out that function again. ;-)
The bottom line is this...a smartphone, like anything else is a tool. Of itself it is not good or evil, but it can be used for either, obviously. But my oh my...what a powerful tool for good it can be in your life!
What are your tips for smartphone use? Oh...and any good android apps that you know of?