How Having a Smartphone Has Affected My Life

I bought my first smart phone just about two months ago. I had held off for a long time due to a combination of sticker-shock, inertia, and stubbornness. I also know that I have slightly addictive tendencies and would easily become obsessed with an all-powerful computer that lived in my pocket. I made it through college without just a flip phone (and frequently no laptop) but after I finished school a sale on iPhone 5S on Virgin Mobile was too tempting to pass up. I let the phone sit in its box until my month on my plan was up before I upgraded and then I was smartphone in hand and ready to go!

I have now had my smartphone for 2 months and I’ve been thinking about and trying to quantify what impact it’s had on my life. I definitely haven’t maximized the potential of the phone yet (I have no music on it, email is not connected) but the apps I do have have already made a difference.

Maps

During college I was a frequent driver, often to places I was unfamiliar with. My M.O. if I was driving alone was to print out directions from Google Maps and tape them to my steering wheel so that I could somewhat dangerously consult them as I drove. I became very good at memorizing the names of highways that I needed to take and imagining the route in my head before I got in the car. It is a point of pride for me that I learned how to drive in my notoriously hard to navigate city without a GPS.

That being said, I absolutely use Maps all the time. It’s made me feel safer, especially when at night or when I didn’t have time to plan. I still try to visualize the route before I start driving instead of just getting in the car and pressing Start, but I have been relying on it more. I’m nervous that I will come to rely on it too much instead of learning how to get places, but it’s too early to tell.

Messaging

I was a prolific texter on my flip phone, T9 keyboard not withstanding. It was often hard to follow conversations because previous texts were immediately visible, but I didn’t really let that stop me. I didn’t think that having a smartphone would change my texting habits very much at all.

Boy was I wrong about that. I text way more now than I did before, especially because iMessage makes it so easy. I feel like I’m having more cohesive conversations with friends and I like being able to send pictures very easily. My grandmother also got an iPhone around the same time I did (we once bought her a flip-phone and she threw it out the window of a car as she was leaving our house, so this is quite a change) and being able to send a picture of flowers or my dog in the backyard makes me feel more connected. However, I feel like I never learned some texting etiquette, especially re: double and triple texting, so now that I can see my past conversations clearly I’m a little more nervous that I’m annoying people.

Twitter 

I was really excited to have Twitter on my phone! Before I could only tweet from a desktop which was not very exciting. Now it’s much easier for me to live-tweet  shows I’m watching on TV, and just generally tweet when I’m actually doing something interesting. I’ve been really happy about this.

One thing I still need to learn how to deal with is the ability to read Twitter in bed. This has become a probably unhealthy part of my morning routine (and sometimes right before bed as well). I’d rather spend that time reading a book or journaling instead of holding a glowing screen six inches from my face. I love reading the articles people post in the morning, but it’s probably not the best way to start my day. I’m still trying to find some balance in this.

Email

Ah, to have email on my phone! What a luxury! I can’t tell you how many times I walked across campus to a class that had been cancelled because I didn’t check a computer in the morning. Now, however, email is generally less urgent for me and I haven’t actually connected it to my phone. This will probably change soon but for now I’ll just be glad that I’m not getting notifications from websites I signed up for three years ago.

Snapchat

My friends at college are prolific Snapchatters and several Youtubers I follow have stopped vlogging and turned to this app instead. This was the first app I downloaded and I was very excited to be using it. I am also very motivated by arbitrary statistics so I love seeing my snapscore increase.

I like having a quick, easy, low-pressure way to send thoughts and “thought this was funny, thinking of you” type messages to friends. Stories let me know what’s happening in people’s lives without any effort at all (and I can know what happened at a part without having to attend!). However, like my Twitter problem, I have become accustomed to watching/reading the Snapchat Discover videos that are posted by companies like Cosmo, Refinery29, Buzzfeed, and Vice, usually first thing in the morning. Often times I don’t even like the content; I don’t need 15 Beauty Tips when I don’t even wear makeup! Yesterday I even watched the Daily Mail Snapchat. This is another habit I’m trying to break.

One of the reasons I was most excited about getting my smartphone was to be able to take pictures and document my life – I sometimes regret not having any pictures of my own from high school and college. (Please do not delete those pictures of me that you posted on FB. Okay you can delete some of them). But my Snapchat use means that the pictures I’m taking are disappearing without a trace and I haven’t been really saving them. I like the easy, fun aspects of Snapchat but I do want some documentation of my life. Another area  for more balance.

Tinder

I was really excited about Tinder, too. Sadly, for women-seeking-women Tinder means a lot of straight couples looking for a third and dudes with mixtapes. I don’t know what I was expecting, but this wasn’t really it. I like seeing that there are LGBT women near me but right now I mostly use the app when I’m bored at night. The messaging element seems like too much work right now. I should probably delete it in a little while.

Meditation Apps

Yup, in my constant quest for self-improvement I downloaded FOUR guided meditation apps. I have used one of them once. I’ve flipped through them all and some of them want me to pay a lot more to access actual quality content while others are just annoying to navigate. And of course, for any real benefit you have to actually use them and practice meditation regularly. Having downloaded them alone does nothing.

 

Overall, I’ve been really glad to have a smartphone (and my monthly bill only went up five dollars, thanks Virgin Mobile!). Like every piece of technology, there’s a tough balance between usefulness and distraction, productive capacity and waste-of-time. I’m still trying to find out where that balance is for me with my phone, and it’s going to take some effort to not easily fall into the Snapchat/Twitter death spiral (I already had to delete Facebook and the game Flow because I could feel how not-good my usage was quickly becoming). I feel more like an adult, more in touch with people I care about, and more confident as I explore new places. At the two month mark, my smartphone and I are good.

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