I am a doctor turned write-at-home-mom who runs the Pittsburgh Mommy Blog and is editor of Kidsburgh. I have two wonderful young children and am happily married. My interests include cooking, green-living, gardening, being in the outdoors, listening to great music, checking out the city's cool art, coming up with creative things to do with my kids, and having as many adventures as I can!
Latest posts by Nadine Champsi (see all)
Last week’s events in Boston had me attached to my smartphone more than ever before. I wiped my son’s butt, I checked Twitter. I kissed my daughter’s boo-boo, I checked Facebook. The kick-in-the-pants was the manhunt for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on Friday. I spent the entire day constantly reloading Facebook, Twitter, Boston.com’s live blog, and Nytimes.com live blog in rapid succession, hoping to get news about the hunt for the man (boy?) who was terrorizing my old city. By the time they found Tsarnaev in the boat in Watertown, I had even added the live-stream of the actual Watertown police scanner to my own personal Command Post.
In the meantime, my kids woke up on Friday, got dressed, ate their meals, played with their toys, went to the grocery store with me, and participated in their other regularly scheduled activities. I was with them throughout this day, but I was not really with them. Not at all. During that day, I existed in a parallel universe–an absent-minded, hazy place where my body went through the regular motions, but my mind was constantly focused on my smartphone. After Tsarnaev was found and I finally put the damn thing down, a frightening truth revealed itself to me. I had wasted an entire day of my life caught up in a technology loop. So I decided to turn my phone off for the rest of the weekend and focus on my kids. Here’s what I found:
1) I spend way more time and energy on my smartphone than I actually realize.
I don’t feel like a person who is dependent on their smartphone. After all, I was one of the last of my friends to get one, I have < 5 apps, and I don’t have a job that necessitates checking my email constantly. And yet, being without my phone this weekend showed me just how often I reach for it. Constantly. And I don’t even realize that I’m doing it! And even when I’m not actually using my smartphone, a little piece of my brain is reserved for thinking about it. When I turned my phone off this weekend, I suddenly realized something very scary–I am spending a good portion of my life completely mentally removed from the present world–caught up in the fuzzy alternative social media “life” that parallels my real one.
2) I become more unreliable when I have my smartphone with me.
Over the weekend, I had plans to attend the Pittsburgh Folk Festival with a friend and her kids. En route, my 3 year old started throwing an epic temper tantrum and my 1 year old soon followed suit. I reached for my phone to call my friend and see if we could reschedule. Only–I didn’t have my phone with me. Since I couldn’t call and cancel and I didn’t want my friend sitting at our meeting spot waiting for me–I continued on. My kids soon got over it and we ended up having a great time. I know it seems counterintuitive, but I think I’m actually less dependable when I have my phone with me. It’s easy to be fickle. After all, I can effortlessly send a text message, Facebook message, or email at the last moment and I never even have to actually speak to anyone. I am not proud of this behavior and it’s certainly not one I want my kids to emulate one day when they are more grown.
3) My children are more influenced by my smartphone use than I realize.
During our trip to Oakland for the Folk Festival, I ended up getting mired in the sidewalk construction in front of Soldiers and Sailors. I had my stroller with me and couldn’t figure out how to reach the handicapped entrance to the festival. In an effort to keep my 3 year old engaged (and not to throw another tantrum!) I asked her, “How do you think we get into the building?” Rather than use her powers of observation to answer to my question, she reached into her pretend pocket, pulled out a pretend smartphone, punched in her pretend passcode, and started scrolling across her pretend screen. “I’ll check my phone,” she said absent-mindedly. I was horrified. She had certainly learned this behavior from me. And I do not want my kids to grow up so absorbed in technology that they forget how to appreciate and investigate the vibrant world around them.
4) Smartphones skew my priorities by giving me a false sense of my own importance in the world.
I got an incredible amount accomplished this weekend without my phone. We had a fantastic outing to the festival. I cleaned my entire house, did some planting, cooked up some tasty dishes, went running. And for the first time in a very long while–I actually finished the laundry. So–why don’t I get all these things accomplished on a regular basis? I believe it’s because I am constantly hampered by a false sense of self-importance that is fed my smartphone’s access to social media. “I’ll start the laundry after I check my email [or facebook page, blog, twitter, etc]” because everyone in this world must be dying to get my response to them, of course. Not. In reality, my contribution to the social media world should not take priority over taking care of my real responsibilities–especially when it involves my two little child-sponges who are discovering the richness of this world from me.
5) It is a far more peaceful existence to limit smartphone use.
Even after turning my smartphone off for only a weekend, it’s obvious that my entire family is much happier when I’m not using it. I’m happier because I rediscovered what it’s like to feel intensely connected to my experiences. And my connectedness bred an appreciation for the nuances of it all–the beauty, the emotions, the creative potential. Essentially–the value of each moment that comes and goes in my life. It also made a remarkable difference in my interactions with my children and my husband. I was able to fully concentrate on what they were doing and participate with my entire consciousness. I appreciated our time together so much more. And they seemed far happier knowing that I was present for them. I guess I’ve learned what essentially boils down to a Buddhist lesson– keep the mind focused in the present moment to find peace and fulfillment.