Smart phone. A Year In.

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It has been one year since I got an iPhone. Several years ago, prior to my stay-at-home mom days, when I was working in the advertising industry, I swore I would be one of the first in line whenever Apple decided to enter the phone industry. I have always been a lover of all things Apple. The company has mastered the art of ease of use, top-of-the line functionality, dependability, and outstanding customer service.

The iPhone came out after I became I stay-at-home mom and I simply could not justify spending the money on the phone (my current phone worked just fine) and subsequent data plan. A year or two later when my phone (of three+ years) died, I went back and forth about whether or not to get the iPhone. Finally, after looking at the quality of the other (non-smart) phones on the market, I decided to get the iPhone since I knew it would last. Additionally, my husband was going to be traveling extensively during the next year and we liked the ability to do Facetime.Over the past year, I have started to write a post about iPhones (or smart phones in general), but I decided to hold off till I had at least tried mine out for a while.

Despite working in the advertising industry, I am not a lover of all technology and mass media. I have serious concerns about the social ramifications many technologies pose to our society. I admit, technology is handy and has brought about many positive changes to our world. Yet, as with anything, it also has the potential for serious adverse effects as well.

Having thoroughly studied media effects in graduate school, I frequently find myself in a mental tug of war between technology and ideology. Most of us have heard rants about technology ruining our sense of community and creating a strong desire for instant gratification so I will spare you the discourse here. Similarly most of us know that having a phone in hand can be quite useful in a pinch and invaluable if you are someone who needs to have quick access to information, as is the case for many on-the-go persons. Still, others have substituted using a smart phone instead of a computer/camera/iphone, etc. thus potentially saving a fair amount of money.

Now, as a one-year iPhone veteran, I admit, I still find myself stuck in the middle of a mental tug of war. I am constantly evaluating whether I am on my phone too much versus having enough information about whatever topic to make an informed decision. Last week, I got tired of the battle and stopped by Verizon to see when I could get out of our smart phone contract.

Apple simply has done too good of a job with the iPhone. It is incredibly handy, but I find myself (a research fanatic even before having an iPhone) constantly wanting to look something up, check social networking sites or shop online. There is always something to do on an iPhone. Therein lies the crux of the matter, at least for me. I already have enough to do. I already have enough distractions. I desperately need moments of quiet and solitude to settle my mind and rest my spirit.

Perhaps I should be more disciplined instead of just giving up the phone, but why fight a battle that does not need to be fought? There are enough other battles that require my concentration and discipline without adding an unnecessary one.

Even more important, in my mind, is continuing to hone the ability to think for oneself. Yes, this means I may make a wrong decision here and there, but that is where we all grow. Beautiful things happen when we think for ourselves. We are able to simply “be” and rest in knowing we have a capable brain that can reason and decide what to do without needing to poll friends or consult with Google. We do not need second by second updates on our favorite games; instead we can find delight in anticipation and curiosity. We do not need to share everything with everyone, but can find peace and rest in keeping some things between just ourself and the Lord for this is where trust in the Lord blossoms.

Verizon told me I have another year to go before I can surrender my iPhone without paying an exorbitant fee. It does not make financial sense to break our contract a year early, so I will be keeping my iPhone for another year. I will savor the features I enjoy most about the iPhone over the next year, like its fabulous video recording abilities and being able to facetime with family. Yet, I know, at the end of the year, I will be thankful to return to a non-smart phone.

This post is shared on Raising Mighty Arrows.

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Technological Dependence: Isolation at Polyface

Here is the view on the way to Polyface.

Two weeks ago I visited Polyface farm in rural Virginia. I thoroughly enjoyed my visit there, but experienced one emotion I did not expect to feel: Isolation.

The farm had no cell service. It has been years since I have been “off the grid”. Even though I did not visit the farm by myself, I still felt isolated. Simply knowing I could not reach someone if I needed to left me feeling vulnerable. Being disconnected from the grip of phone calls, texting and the Internet was eery, almost surreal.

Strange isn’t it? Strange, how I felt isolated just being in nature, even though I was with other people. We, as people, existed for thousands of years without cell phones and/or the Internet and now we feel more at home online than we do being in nature. We are more comfortable carrying on conversations via social networking sites or texting instead of carrying on conversations in person.

I write regularly about traditional, wholesome foods, but what about wholesome ways of life? What good is it if we eat healthy, but are not emotionally, physically, socially, or spiritually healthy as well? How healthy is it for us to always share what we are experiencing instantaneously with others? Are we truly so socially (e.g. in person) deprived that we need instant and continuous validation? What about being “off the grid”?

Many of the social networking sites foster comparison amongst people. We know what is going on in, sometimes hundreds, of people’s lives. Many of us are too busy “liking” and “pinning” other’s inspirations that we do not find, develop, and create our own inspirations. We have forgotten how to simply “be”.

Welcome to Polyface! This is the picture I so eagerly wanted to send to a friend when we first arrived at Polyface.

After I got over my initial surprise over not having cell service (and not being able to send pictures of Polyface to a friend instantaneously), I was able to explore the farm and savor each uninterrupted minute. Looking back I have such vivid memories of the farm- probably because I was 100 percent there. I was not getting interrupted by texts or thinking about what I should post on a social networking site. I simply enjoyed the moments I had with my family on the picturesque countryside of Polyface farm.

Our visit to Polyface unexpectedly sparked a personal examination of my use of technology.  I realized that as useful as technology can be, it also limits us. It limits us to communicate and view life through a lens that only partially captures the essence of all life is and can be. When I was in grad school one of the many phrases that stuck out in my mind long after the final exams were taken was “The medium is the message” from Marshall McLuhan. Often we think and worry about what it is we are reading or viewing online. Some people avoid rated “R” movies, others put parental controls on their televisions or computers. Most of us do not realize that the medium we are using (television, iPad, computer, magazine, book, iPhone, etc.) also has an impact on our minds and how we think about the world. Different mediums have different effects. For instance, reading a child a book is going to affect him or her differently than television would. Follow this line of thought for a bit and you will see how the argument that watching a lot of television on a regular basis can affect one’s attention span came into being.

When I visited Polyface and discovered there was no cell service, I was not as disturbed by the lack of service as I was my own reaction that came about as a result of the lack of service. My feelings of isolation were a signal to me that something was amiss. So I took a step back and re-assessed my use of technology. In the weeks following our visit to Polyface I made a conscious effort not to browse my iPhone every time I have a spare second. I also try to not carry my phone around with me all day. If I am out and about, I enjoy what I am doing and I leave my phone tucked away in my purse. All of these are baby steps. I am not brave enough to give up a cell phone completely.  Since I have started distancing myself from my phone, I have found that I am much more productive and creative. I also feel a lot more confident. I make decisions instead of googling them. I am sure I will make a bad decision, one that I could have prevented if I had only googled the question. But, what fun is that? Am I truly learning it if I google it or merely gaining a mere glimpse of all the depth there is in a life truly lived moment by moment- sight by sight, scent by scent, touch by touch, sound by sound, and taste by taste. I hope that I spend the moments I have been given in this life savoring, creating and experiencing all the wonder there is to be found in this life we live.