Seven Smart Uses of a Smartphone
I have not been shy in sharing my concerns for the direction of our society under the rising influence of digital technology in everyday life. The increasing social isolation, individualism, and the paradoxical growth of “groupthink” via social media are things I have spoken and written much about with great concern.
But it’s not all bad. Since Great Lent is a time of increased efforts in our spiritual lives, I thought I would spend some time reflecting on what I see as the positive potential of technology in our lives. So here are “Seven Smart Uses of a Smartphone.”
- Scheduling: We all know how hard it is to live by a schedule, but if we’re honest we also all know how important it is, especially if we live busy lives. Since scheduling keeps time open for important things like meetings, events, and other responsibilities, we can use our schedules for other important things that we might otherwise not bother to write down. Scheduling 10 to 20 minutes for morning and/or evening prayers and is easily done via a repeating event on an electronic calendar. Having an alarm as part of the settings of that event can also be helpful. When compared to our entire day’s schedule, we need relatively little time for prayer, meditation, and reading of Scripture or other holy reading, but those are critical moments to our spiritual health. Having them in our schedules can push us over the hump of resistance to building these habits.
- Education/Formation: As recent as two generations ago, almost nothing was written about the Orthodox Faith in the English language. Not only have printed publications on Orthodoxy exploded in number, the amount of information and instruction online is nearly limitless. Articles on the faith, podcasts, and sermons are easily found on virtually every topic. com is but one of many sources for some of these. A Google search for “Orthodox Christian podcasts” or “Orthodox Christian spirituality” will each produce thousands of good sources.
- Prayer/Worship: While most of us have our trusty prayer book, few of us always have it with us. Apps designed as digital prayer books allow us to have beautiful prayers with us at all times. You might even pull one up this afternoon preparing for Holy Communion at tonight’s Presanctified Liturgy! Also, sometimes our schedules prevent us from going to church services. Although not a true substitute, we can grow spiritually by viewing live streaming services or even recorded ones offered by many churches and even monasteries. This is especially important for those who find themselves either partially or completely homebound.
- Practicing Healthy Communication: Few of us were spared the ugliness of online discourse during this past presidential election. While social media can be the worst place to find good communication, writing our thoughts and considering them well before we hit “send” can be good practice for us for our verbal communication. We could all practice thinking before speaking instead of the other way around.
- Opportunities to Serve: The Church teaches us the importance of giving of ourselves in the spiritual life, as we heard expressed so clearly on the Sunday of the Last Judgment, when those welcomed into the Kingdom of God consisted of those who cared for the “least of our Lord’s brethren”. But sometimes we just don’t know where we are needed. Googling “Volunteer opportunities near me” or exploring the websites of local charities looking for ways to serve can offer us a lifetime of opportunities to serve.
- Tools for “Life Hygiene”: Since our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, staying in good physical and emotional health is also good for our spiritual lives. The many websites, apps and devices which encourage healthy living (fitness trackers, meditation timers, calorie counters, exercise guides and sleep trackers) can all be important tools in maintaining good health, body, and soul.
- Making Time: When we make up our minds to make changes—going to more services, praying more, or spending more time loving people–we can find ourselves with the best of intentions but too often with the worst of results. Much of this can be overcome by being more efficient with our time. While none of us can add hours to the day, there are a variety of ways that technology can help us “make time.” Online shopping, email organizers and the many apps that keep us organized are just a few of the ways technology can increase our efficiency in order to make time for the important things we intend to do to lead lives that are spiritually healthy and strong.
Of course no one of the above solutions will make or break our spiritual lives and all of them require a measure of dedication, but each of them offers us opportunities to reach the spiritual goals that we hopefully have much more clearly in mind during this Lenten season. May God grant us the discernment to distinguish that which He sends us for our growth from those things that would drive us further from Him and His path of salvation. May we include in our Lenten struggles an effort to repent from improper use of technology, replacing it with good and helpful uses!