Over a year ago, I gave up my smart phone (ok, I smashed it on a tile floor) in lieu of an old Motorola (now an LG) that allows me to send/receive phone calls and texts, as well as the occasional (read: regular) message full of twenty-five rectangular boxes instead of alien face and poop emojis (Sorry, Jenn).
Fast forward to Christmas 2015 when I instated my own version of Cyber Monday, which means that I only use the internet that one day a week. There are, as you probably guessed, exceptions to this rule (finding recipes; printing GoogleMaps directions for lack of a smartphone, just like I did in college; paying bills; giving in to the absurd desire to check my email; losing myself in Pinterest “research” for the bathroom project). If you are one of the few who know I have been doing this, you’ve likely received a message from me on Facebook or seen me like a photo on Instagram on a Friday and thought, “AHA – For all her strong talk on a technology purge, look who is weak and lacks discipline and scruples and can’t resist a photo of someone’s dog doing something amazing? Who’s weak now??!
Me. This girl. Whenever I dance with the devil, he wins.
Anyway, I made the previous choices for a few reasons.
1) My cell phone bill is now $29.58, which in a rural area (I’m looking at you, Verizon), is astonishing. We save an obscene amount of cash from just this one change.
2) I read Last Child in the Woods this past winter, which I recommend (bleeding hearts, you’re welcome), which challenged me to think about how much time I have “lost” (read: willingly handed over) to social media and getting distracted while doing tasks on the internet. As Craig and I say, the internet is exactly like an online mall, with those pesky kiosk employees always reaching out and smearing Dead Sea salts on your face, even though you are loudly pretend-talking on your phone as you walk by them in order to get to the Genius Bar and back without losing your everloving mind. What, you don’t do that?
You will now.
3) Milo. I have only one kid, which I feel like I am always apologizing for, because he is absurdly fun, and yet this one, absurdly fun child has sacrificed at least an hour a day in his first year and a half because I was spending 5 minute chunks of time checking to see who won 5 gazillion rubies on Jewel Thief. This was the come-to-Jesus moment for me. Not only am I am losing in this way of life, but he is losing. Craig is losing. No one is winning. We are all losing.
And for what?
Somehow, in the case of the mall, I wholly, vehemently despise every intrusive, time-sucking, you-need-this-homemade-crystal-neck-warmer distraction, but in another, I seem to have a limitless tank to fill up with cat memes and hiking routes and the host of wildly-colored running tights that inhabit my dreams. What gives?
Why would you waste time on the internet when there's a pile of books to run over, I mean, stuff to do?
I have bounced through life pretty passively, with abhorrence for confrontation or making waves, but I am learning that this whole time I have been living in a choose-my-own-adventure story, and I need to begin make more intentional choices, because the pages just keep flapping by while I’m not paying attention. On a recommendation from my friend Heidi, I am partway through a book called 7, An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess, by Jen Hatmaker, on – you guessed it – simplifying and being mindful, and have been challenged by an idea ingrained in both this book as well as Last Child in the Woods which is that to change our behavior is of secondary importance to changing our way of thought, but that to change our behavior is often the most important method through which we can change our way of thought. Do I need new towels for the astonishingly beautifully bathroom we are renovating? For a hot minute, I thought I did – or rather thought that, of course, it’s a new bathroom, so of course, we ought to have them (“ought” = entitlement, but that’s another vice for another day). So I went out to TJ Maxx and I bought some. And then, 4 days later, I returned them, because guess what? I already have the perfect towels. In fact, I’ve had them for five years, but since our latest move they have been sitting in my linen closet, waiting for the perfect time to come back out into the spotlight.
So what do new towels and smart phones and the Athleta website share in common?
Lies. That’s what.
Lies, and me, a girl who has bought into them. Every lie is only as good as the person who believes it, and I have thrown myself hook, line and sinker into a culture of more is better: more stuff, more friends, more information, more recognition, and more quickly, while you’re at it. Chop chop.
But there is a flipside. There are a host of things that are better as a result of reducing my technology addiction. Here are a few*.
-I figure that I have at least one extra hour each day to spend at the park with Milo, catching up on a project, cleaning, doing yard work or reading (my favorite indulgence).
-I feel less critical of myself, my parenting, and my purpose, because I am not constantly comparing myself to others. This is a big win.
-I get outside more.
-I fall asleep more easily, because I read before bed, rather than scroll FB until ridiculous-o'clock in the morning.
-My unstructured time feels longer and less distracted because I can’t instantly grab my phone to check fill-in-the-blank App.
-Freedom from something you once felt necessary feels amazing. Another big win.
*Unless it’s Monday, during which all bets are off, and you’ll find me liking every hilarious animal video/new baby announcement/beautiful picture on the whole worldwide web.
As a disclaimer to all of these things, I acknowledge that I am a stay-at-home mom, and that giving up computer use, or even surrendering a smart phone is not something possible for every man or woman out there. Also, your vices are not the same as mine. In writing about this, my goal isn’t to guilt anyone, but to spark some healthy curiosity. What if I could transform my thinking from a position of want to a position of contentment? What changes can I make toward that end? For me, a good start was to change my relationship with technology, but that certainly doesn’t need to be the end. In fact, I hope it isn’t. I hope it is just the beginning.
But for now, it’s Monday. See you next week.