Columnist for a Day: In defense of smart devices

    I’ve read opinions in this column bemoaning the rise of smartphones and other internet-enabled devices.

    I’m going to guess they came from older people, perhaps people who don’t understand that they are tools to help us, not the symbol of the downfall of our society.

    Of course, let it be said that like anything, they can be abused. But in the hands of the average person who is just trying to live life in this fast-paced society, they are the handiest thing ever.

    I think the mistake people sometimes make is that when they see someone looking at their phone, they assume the person is doing something vapid and pointless. Social media. Selfies. Sexting. Looking at the security camera they have pointed at the cat’s food dish to see what the cat is doing.

    Any of these things could, of course, be happening. But mainly not.

    I figure I’m an average person using my phone in typical ways. So when you see me out and about, and I’m using my phone, these are actual examples of what I was doing:

    • Shopping for shoes.

    • Fielding the 72nd text over spring break from my daughter who wants to know what she can eat

    • (at the store) Chorizo is on sale, maybe I can find a good recipe.

    • (also at the store) Are we out of eggs? Let me text home and find out.

    • (again at the store) I love this song that’s playing over the loudspeaker, who sang it? What are the lyrics?

    • (still at the store) I was going to make lasagna, what is the recipe again?

    • (will this trip to the store never end?) How much are hams at Albertsons?

    • Putting my Easter dinner party invite together on social media.

    • Looking up what actually happens when someone eats a Tide Pod.

    • Fielding the 58th call over spring break from my daughter who wants to know what she can eat.

    • Reading a book.

    • Messaging with my friends, which never fails to make my day better.

    • Looking at my Facebook “On This Day” tab and seeing my pictures of my daughter when she was young. Or pictures of myself out with friends having a good time 3 years ago. Or what funny thing my daughter said that day 7 years ago, before she stopped letting me post the funny things she says.

    • Reading a magazine article.

    • Taking a picture when I’m out hiking and posting it to the Jacksonville Woodlands Association Facebook page, which I started and maintain to raise awareness of the Woodlands, their events and fundraisers.

    • Listening to Casey Kasem’s American Top 40 from April 1983.

    • Checking my calendar to see what I’m supposed to be doing for the next few days.

    • Pinning ideas on Pinterest that I may or may not ever look at again.

    • Busting my daughter for messaging with her friends at midnight on Instagram and confiscating her phone.

    I know that list makes it look like I’m on my phone 90 percent of my day. But actually it’s only here and there, as I need to get things done, as the mood strikes me, or if I have some down-time and there’s nothing else available to read.

    All this to say that I use my phone with intention, as a tool. But I will always be ready and open to having a conversation, to engage with a stranger, to exchange pleasantries. Phones don’t replace people or human interactions, so don’t hesitate to tap me on the shoulder and say hi.

    Trina Janssen lives in Jacksonville.

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