Husband & Wife Articles


 

Everlasting Lent

I broke my addiction to social media – sort of

By Ashley Cadaret

I am already addicted enough to digital things, checking email while grocery shopping, so I had resisted getting a smartphone for years. But when my cell phone died right after Christmas, I realized the time had come. I used my Christmas money from my in-laws to purchase a smartphone. And it was great! There are so many apps that have made my life easier, especially while traveling.

But, as I feared, it also gave me the opportunity to be incredibly distracted at all times.

With friends, I’d pull out my phone and snap a picture to share on Instagram. Walking with my son, I’d scroll through my email while strolling along the sidewalk. At a restaurant with my family, I’d check my Twitter stream.

I didn’t like the effect it was having on my interactions (or lack of them) with others. It’s embarrassing to admit how distracted I can be by screens, but I noticed it wasn’t just me. In my apartment building, everyone scrolls through their phones while riding the elevator to avoid eye contact with their neighbors. I work at a high school, and it’s not uncommon to see several students “hanging out” while really just staring at their own phone screens. I remember, years ago, when my boss would read emails on his Blackberry instead of listening to me. It made me feel unimportant and frustrated. I hated to think that I was now treating others that way. I shuddered to think that my toddler son would think that “Mama’s phone” was more important than him.

With this in mind, I knew what to do for Lent. I decided to “fast” from screens while in the presence of others. Even at work, I would not use my computer if someone was talking to me.

I knew it would be a challenge, but I was surprised just how difficult it was to drag myself away from that little screen to be present to those around me. With intentionality, it got easier. And the results surprised me even more.

My work relationships were better because I’d take my hands off the keyboard and my eyes from the computer screen when someone started talking to me. Even if I was in the middle of an email, I stopped and paid attention to my coworkers and students. I even enjoyed working more when I gave them this attention.

When I stopped using my phone in the elevator in my apartment building, I made an effort to start a conversation with my neighbors. More often than not, I’d receive a warm and friendly response, increasing the sense of community I felt in my building and leaving me (and hopefully them) happier.

And in the most important relationships I have on earth, with my husband and son, I enjoyed more connection, conversation and laughter. I wanted them to know that there is nothing online that is more important than my relationships with them, and felt a deep sense of peace when my actions aligned with my intentions.

I also felt more connected to God than I had been in months. My strengthened relationships with loved ones showed me God and filled me with a sense of peace and joy. I think the “guilt” I felt from focusing on what is not in front of me, of not being truly present in my vocations as a mother, wife, and campus minister, was a nudge from the Holy Spirit.

Now that Lent is over, is my nose buried in my phone again? I’d like to say no, but it’s a continuous battle against myself, as most efforts in self-control are. But the rewards in both my relationships and spiritual life have been so great that the motivation is easy to find.

Most of all during this time, I realized that missing out is okay. So what if I don’t know everything that is happening all the time to all of the friends in my Twitter and Facebook streams? Being “virtually” everywhere isn’t as helpful or fulfilling as being available and attentive to the people God made present in my life, those whom I care about most in the world.

Ashley Cadaret lives in Ohio with her husband and 2-year-old son. She works at a Jesuit high school, holds an advanced degree in religious studies and designs websites. She shares recipes, tips on frugal and green living, and tales of motherhood on her blog, Our Little Apartment.