As Nina Badzin has been trying to cure her addiction to her smartphone — a struggle she is poignantly and hilariously documenting for the Sisterhood — I have been falling more and more in love with mine.
Over half a year ago I gave birth to a baby boy. Taking care of him has been both exhausting and enthralling, and has allowed me to reacquaint myself with the magic and mystery of human existence. But it has also been quite isolating.
Life on baby island, as I came to refer my condition to friends and family, sure gets lonely. Our little ones’ coos, giggles and cries are certainly engaging and inspire that deep attachment known as a mother’s love. Still, this doesn’t mean they are a replacement for adult conversation.
During those early months, which are mostly endless cycles of feedings, naps, diaper changers and repeat, my smartphone was a portal to the outside world that I sorely missed. With my family across the country and my husband back-to-work a week after delivery, I was desperate for some grownup interaction. It turns out that the electronic sort suited me just fine.
Scrolling through the once unnerving buzz of Facebook and cyclone of Twitter became a much-appreciated, even soothing, way to see what was happening in civilian life that day. And if it wasn’t for the fact that smartphones require the availability of only a thumb and an index finger to read the newspaper, I could maintain a marginal grasp on what was going on in the world that day. At night, I could swipe my way through Madame Bovary as I waited for him to fall asleep.
Also, whenever my baby had a weird splotch on tush or would suddenly go from not really napping at all for a few days to seemingly non-stop sleeping, I could look it up without ever having to leave his side. I can’t tell you how many times I did Google searches on my phone that started with “is it normal for a baby to …?”
I am on the phone way less now that he is more aware of his surroundings and, well, more fun. But I would be remiss not to mention the great relief I still find in my little smart phone breaks. Yes, after 20 minutes of floor playtime, while he is wrestling with a stuffed animals or shaking a rattle, I might take 30 seconds or so to check my email, or Twitter or the Times. No parenting manual would ever condone this move. We are supposed to be constantly speaking, playing, nurturing, singing and whatever else to our babies, lest they not grow up to be athletic geniuses. But sometimes mama needs a little break, and a half a minute of smart-phoning is all I need to refresh and reboot.
I am writing all this not because I don’t think people are addicted to their smartphones. Boy oh boy, are they ever. I don’t think Nina is crazy at all for believing her smartphone habit is getting the best of her. Still, I want to make sure that we remember that they are not necessarily evil, just something that some people abuse. Because my baby blues, or very normal human response to feeling lonely as I think of it, were greatly relieved by that shiny little information box and I’d like to officially cross it off my list of things that I maybe should feel guilty about.
Elissa Strauss has written for the Forward over a number of years. She is a regular contributor to CNN, whose work has been published in a number of publications including The New York Times, Glamour, ELLE, and Longreads.