There was a moment during the recent Napa Institute conference where I found myself looking…
Is my phone helping me get to heaven? Great question
The other day, I was checking Instagram — as I do for both work and personal use — when I came across a beautiful, and convicting, reflection by a Catholic content creator.
Amanda Teixeira is a wife and mom of three. While she would probably be content with that introduction, I started following her because of the program that she and her husband, Jonathan, built called Wallet Win. Essentially, the Teixeiras have become the Catholic Dave Ramsey, guiding countless people through their workshop to get rid of debt, build savings and learn how to approach money through the lens of generosity. (They even recently published a book with OSV, which offers the essentials of their Wallet Win program).
In recent months, I’ve begun following their podcast and Instagram accounts more closely as I’ve been inspired by how they approach money as Catholics. Instead of focusing on money from the perspective of the world — eliminating debt and gaining wealth for the sake of stability or wealth itself — they ask the bigger questions, such as: How does my income assist me in my vocation and my path toward sainthood? These are questions that I have since thought a lot about, and they are already changing the way I view money.
So, the other day, I was interested to hear what Amanda had to say when she hopped onto her Instagram stories. Instead of money, this time she was talking about social media and the addiction many of us have fallen into. To give some context, she and Jonathan had shared a video on TikTok months ago. There wasn’t anything deep about the video; it was simply a cute, short recording of them flipping their daughter in the living room — a video meant to give people a laugh and a smile. To their surprise, it began trending, and since they posted it, more than 11 million people have seen it. And then, Amanda shared the math: If they added up the cumulative time people had taken to watch the video, it would have taken about 4.75 years!
This got me thinking about how much time I waste on my phone. Granted, not all of the time spent on social apps is unproductive; as I mentioned, part of my job includes maintaining social media accounts. But I will be the first to admit that I waste valuable time on a screen; every time I enter the confessional, that sin raises its hand. So where’s the balance?
The issue isn’t social media itself — though there is an addictive quality that is not helpful. The bigger problem is us not realizing that we are missing elements of our daily lives through distracting ourselves on our screens. But it’s not just our screens; it’s anything we do to distract ourselves from the valuable time God has given us. It could be something as wholesome as reading or another hobby if other more pressing responsibilities need attention but we ignore them. Or it could be obsessing over the news and letting it steal your peace, preventing you from showing up in a positive way for your family.
It all boils down to the basic question Amanda proposed: Is how we are spending our time helping or hindering our vocations and paths to sainthood? If our phones — or any other item or hobby — becomes a distraction instead of an opportunity for grace, changes need to be made. This doesn’t mean getting rid of a phone altogether; that’s simply impractical in the world we live in. Instead, it means bringing virtue into how we use our phones. Temperance doesn’t only apply in balancing gluttony of food or drink; it applies to all aspects of our lives. Maybe it means not keeping your phone next to you at all times to avoid seeing unnecessary notifications 24-7. Or maybe it means simply putting a timer on while you check into social media to curb the addiction.
There is a lot of good that comes from modern technology, including social media. Luckily, as Catholics, we tend to approach things with the answer: both/and. You can both use social media and have restrictions. You can both prioritize prayer and family life while also putting aside time to catch up on the internet. It’s always about balance and prioritizing what’s more important, which most of us are not particularly good at. So, keep these questions in mind with however you spend your time: Is it getting you closer to heaven, or is it mostly acting as a distraction? A hard question, but one worth asking.
Ava Lalor is associate editor for Our Sunday Visitor and editor for Radiant magazine.