Upwardly Dependent » walking the delicate balance of absolute truth and overwhelming grace.

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How I’m Learning to Balance My Home and My Phone

People love their cell phones.

I remember riding through the streets of Port-au-Prince years ago, completely overwhelmed by the poverty and hunger and mounds of trash. My doe-eyed, nineteen-year-old self hadn’t quite figured out how to process all of the hopelessness.

But one vision of that day still stands out to me so clearly: It was a line of hundreds of Haitians waiting outside the cell phone store.

One mass of people, likely without the means to provide a nutritious meal for their families that night, but they all wanted a cell phone.

Every country I’ve visited, the story is the same. No matter how wealthy or how destitute, how urban or how rural, cell phones are a status symbol for people.

Some carry the latest technology while others don’t even have a working SIM card, but I have yet to meet someone in the modern world who doesn’t want to have a personal way to be reached.

Last week my house helper pulled up Facebook on her phone to show me how she was online. I speak regularly with teachers I worked with briefly in the bush of Kenya. Yesterday, I saw a picture of a friend from South Carolina—in Peru—with the same translator I had there three years ago.

It’s really crazy how the whole world is now a few finger taps away from us via our phones.

Since I now live across the globe from my largest network of loves, connecting to social media is high on my value list. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Voxer…even old-timey email and this blog—they all keep me feeling like I can still be in the lives of people I care about.

And people in general. I just really like people.  A lot.

Isn’t that why we always return to our phones? At traffic lights and in waiting rooms, during TV shows and even out at dinner?

I don’t think it’s because we’re total mindless idiots. I think we genuinely like people. We want to know who’s having babies and getting married and posting another ridiculously unnecessary rant vomit.

People are entertaining! I’d like to kiss the cheek of the person who conceptualized screen shots so that I can relive some posts again and again. And share them with my sisters via iMessage {RIP Steve Jobs}.

But now I’ve already used 389 words and haven’t said what I really want to say.

I must confess that I have been overly attached to my phone.

I’ve been checking for updates while I feed my daughter lunch. I have missed multiple things my husband said because I was reading a blog article. I’ve wasted tons of time set aside for household chores because I was scrolling through my news feed.

What’s more, my quiet time was always being interrupted by a text or alert. My sleep was affected by dings and buzzes. And my judgment was clouded by masses of opinions filling my inbox.

So my wiser, stronger, good-to-me husband helped me take a break. He disabled my cellular data, monitored my wifi use, and filtered my emails.

For seven days, I lived my life to the fullest with my family and my God.

No noises interrupting my prayers. No distractions as my daughter learned to walk. No pressure to respond to messages.

I was breathing clean air.

It was a glorious week, but staying completely disconnected isn’t a true solution for me. I’m social by nature, and I crave community—extroverts need their people time. And after a week, it was time to log back on.

So I made a few personal rules for how I would balance my physical and virtual existence. Four weeks later, I am still practicing these rules, and I think our family is benefiting from it.

I’ve learned that people will move on without my photos and updates, but my husband, daughter, and soon-to-be son will forever be changed by my presence in this house.

My family needs me, and they need me more than anyone on the other side of a screen.

But I’ve also learned you don’t have to be totally excluded from social media to enjoy its goodness.  Everything in moderation, right?

So here’s how I’m learning to balance my home and my phone.

Photo Credit: The Hamster Factor via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: The Hamster Factor via Compfight cc

1.    Recognize the importance of quieting the voices.

Before I fall asleep, I turn off my cellular data {airplane mode works, too} so that I’m not bothered by middle-of-the-night alerts. Undoubtedly, I will roll over during the night to check the time. And if my screen is full of notifications, I will of course be reading these at 3 AM. NOT HEALTHY FOR MY SLEEP.

2.    Value the opportunity to be present for my family.

I have limited my internet use {mostly} to the first 15 minutes I’m awake, naptimes, and post-bedtime for my daughter. It’s been the hardest change for me, but I remind myself that my phone will still be there when the baby’s tucked in.

3.    Believe in the necessity of stillness with God.

I no longer bring my phone along for quiet time in the morning. If I absolutely need a clock, I control the settings again to shut off the noise. It’s taught me once more to believe in the ways the Father works in stillness.

4.    Reclaim social media for all things good.

I’ve become quite liberal with the ‘like’ button, I’ve quit making blogging a check box on my list, and my Instagram feed is vomiting all the godly thoughts I used to be ashamed to share. 

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What about you? Am I the only one who has had a hard time juggling social media + home life? What are ways you’ve learned to have self-control over your cell phone attachment? 

Comments

comments

AleshiaJuly 24, 2014 - 10:06 am

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately and I am ready to take back my freetime and give it back to God. thanks for the encouragement, the openness, and just being you :) Glad you are using social media for all things good! (as it should be)
-Aleshia