Not All Screen Time is Lost

Sarah Rose Cavanagh
Jan 3, 2019 · 3 min read
Flikr Creative Commons

The New York Times recently posted an op-ed about all of the things you could do with your life if you set aside your smartphone for a year.

I’m not setting aside my smartphone, and I don’t think you should.

Below are all the things you can do in a smartphone in a single day, never mind a year, sourced from the most recent day in my own life.

What You Can Do With Your Smartphone in a Day, Never Mind a Year

Listen to a texted audio of your three-year-old niece telling you she loves you, record and send one back.

While in line at Target, use an app to practice your lapsed German skills for an upcoming trip.

Check in for your upcoming flight, get a good boarding group. Still in line at Target.

Read a frustrating and unrealistic article about all the things you could do in a year without a smartphone which somehow includes having sex 44 times a day but just for five minutes at a time (wait, what?), read a bunch of hilarious replies to it on Twitter. Still in line at Target.

Receive a text from your cousin that includes a recipe for perfect ramen noodles in it, and a wish to make it for you at your next Dungeons & Dragons game. Bask in the thought.

Fill out a doodle poll about which summer weekend to get away for a retreat with your women friends.

Go for a run, tracking your minutes and pace while streaming your best friend’s running playlist for inspiration.

Order wine glasses for your mother-in-law’s birthday to arrive on her birthday, because she said her supply had been decimated by many holiday gatherings.

Sign up as a crowdfunder of a promising new writer, in exchange getting early access to her stories and essays and other works.

Find your husband’s missing keys using the Tile app.

Have a warm moment seeing on Facebook Memories a video of your now-teenager, then-toddler daughter meeting the ocean with her grandfather, share it on your family Slack so your mother has a similar warm moment.

Text with your vet about your dog’s respiratory virus symptoms, cancel her boarding reservation using an app, use texting to coordinate a team of close friends to drop by multiple times a day.

Send brother money for sandwiches on Venmo for when he has his lunch breaks with your dog.

Assuage your daughter’s panic that she finished the latest book in the Best Series Ever and can’t possibly spend the next four days not knowing what happens next by downloading the audiobook on Audible, delivered to her smartphone.

At the airport, get a TripIt alert that your boarding gate has changed.

Check in with the dog sitters that everything is going ok so far.

Get to your destination, Lyft to the hotel using the app, register online for the conference you are speaking at almost solely because of connections you made on Twitter.

Check in with the dog sitters again.

(Yes, you’re that kind of dog mom).


Sure, play Candy Crush less, check in on Facebook less. Garden, read, have frequent sex (but less frequently than 44 times a day maybe, and for longer than 5 minutes at a time, c’mon people), pick up trash in the ocean — all of that sounds good, and healthy, and prosocial. I’m on board.

But all smartphone time is not created alike, and let’s not forget the value they’ve added to our lives.

Thoughts And Ideas

An attempt to bring heart-touching and thought-provoking writing under one roof to make an impact.

Sarah Rose Cavanagh

Written by

Psychologist, professor, author of The Spark of Learning and Hivemind. Occasionally geeks out. Usually on Twitter @SaRoseCav.

Thoughts And Ideas

An attempt to bring heart-touching and thought-provoking writing under one roof to make an impact.