A while back, I stumbled upon this post at Hands Free Mama…and finished reading it burning with shame and cringing inwardly with the sharp, sucker-punch-to-the-gut guilt that comes with realizing a bad habit in yourself you have never seen before.
I realized that I had been spending far too much time online and on my smart phone, and that I had been robbing my family of the gift of my presence.
I won’t bore (or maybe shock!) you with how many times per day I was checking my email, Facebook and Pinterest. It was many times per day, all day long. I didn’t realize that I couldn’t even take my kids down to the park, fold laundry, build a Lego tower with my son, or sometimes even get through a meal without using my phone to check emails or browse through news blogs.
One part of the blog post I read talked about what being on your phone (or iPad, or Kindle, or computer) all the time “says” to others–whether we intend that message or not. You’re not important. At least not important or interesting or special enough to give my full attention to.
Note to my precious little children and patient husband: That message has never been my intention!
It is so wonderfully quick and easy to do everything from taking pictures of my kids to looking up how to get glitter marker out of linen (no luck on a site that tells you how three-year-olds manage to do that!). My phone is my constant companion while cooking, too. I’d be a goner in the kitchen without Google as a quick reference for search terms like, “quick substitute for eggs” and “brownies made with unsweetened chocolate.” I think I even exercise more because I love to listen to Catholic podcasts while walking or jogging with the kids. For that matter, with a few neat Catholic apps I have on my phone, I use my phone for things like reading the mass readings, praying a novena, and praying a Scriptural rosary.
Having a smart phone and spending time online on Facebook, email, and other sites are not inherently bad activities by nature. In fact, the forward-thinking work of the Church’s New Evangelization embraces technology and especially new media as tools for spreading the faith and pointing others to Christ.
But let all things be in moderation. And let all things be examined regularly, put back into perspective, and re-prioritized when necessary.
I’ve been actively disciplining myself lately in being temperant with my online time, getting online only during certain times of the day, and even getting online more or less depending on the day of the week. My children are either sleeping or having a scheduled quiet time or play time when I get online now. I pack up my laptop and head to a coffee shop two nights per week to keep up with my blogging, freelance marketing work, and radio show responsibilities. I work to make sure that I schedule blogging and online time in such a way that my husband and I have plenty of regular free time together.
Beyond temperance, I’m also in the midst of that all-important and never-ending work of detachment from anything and everything that stands in the way of a free, intimate, and whole-hearted relationship with Christ. St. Philip Neri is said to have issued the challenge: “Give me ten truly detached men, and I will convert the world with them.” (How I’d love to step up to the plate for that team one day!)
St. Josemaria wrote in Friends of God that,
“If you want to be your own masters at all times, I advise you to make a very real effort to be detached from everything, and to do so without fear or hesitation. Then, when you go about your various duties, whether personal, family or otherwise, make honest use of upright human means with a view to serving God, his Church, your family, your profession, your country, and the whole of mankind.” (118)
The other night, my husband surprised me with chocolate when he came in for the evening. We were supposed to have an informal date night and watch a movie together, but I ended up blogging and checking emails on my laptop for the entire evening. I can’t even remember what movie we watched.
The worst part? I found the chocolate in the fridge the next day–I had put it in there to chill for a few minutes and had promptly forgotten about it.
That’s why I’m getting disciplined with when and how much time I spend on social media. That’s why I took Facebook completely off my phone. That’s why–one of the hardest things!–I silenced “new message” alerts on my phone from my email account and text messages.
Life is too short to let anything rob my family-or God-of my active presence; life is too sweet, as well, to miss out on the chocolate.