Renee Winick mug

Renee Winick

The other day, I spent several frantic moments searching the entire house for my phone. I eventually found it on the arm of a chair I’d been sitting in just minutes earlier. Whew, what a relief!

Why does even briefly misplacing our phones cause such a feeling of panic? The answer can be found in how much time we spend on our phones. This device has gone from a simple communication tool to a lifeline and a do-it-all piece of equipment.

I can’t tell you exactly how much time I spend on my phone; but I’m pretty sure it’d fall under the “a whole heck-of-a-lot” category. I believe I’m like a lot of people in that very little of my time on the phone is actually spent making phone calls or even texting.

The apps on my phone provide me so much more than just the ability to communicate with others. They offer me countless conveniences and short-cuts, all designed to make my life easier. But, do they make my life better? That is up for debate.

I wear a fitness tracker, so the app that is tied to that tracker is one of my favorite and most used apps. With my FitBit app, I not only track how much I move within a day, I can also monitor my resting heart rate, track my food and water intake, and even see how well I sleep at night.

This app is great and I truly believe that it has helped me stay on top of my health goals. The only downfall is that I sometimes become concerned if one of the daily tracking scores dips below a targeted number. My husband was quick to point out the irony of me losing sleep over my sleep score.

Another one of my favorite apps is the Weather app. Some may wonder why I need an app to know the weather when I can simply look out the window to see whether or not it’s snowing. The thing is, I’m not only concerned about what is happening now. I also would like to know what it will be like later today, tomorrow, even a week from now. As a reminder, I am a huge planner and knowing what to expect in regards to the weather is often a big part of my planning process. It also comes in handy when I’m trying to convince my kids that they’ll need to wear a coat for their long walk to and from the sophomore parking lot at school.

One group of apps that I had very little use for before the pandemic was the shopping apps. I preferred to do my shopping in person and only ordered items via a store’s app when it was the only option. Since the pandemic, however, I have become quite adept at ordering items online. In fact, it could be argued that I have become too good at it.

I’ve come to realize that a person sometimes needs to go through the steps of finding a shirt, trying it on, walking around a store with it in hand, and then seeing the checkout line to truly know whether or not they actually need that shirt. Sometimes convenience is just too costly.

One app that I couldn’t do without is the Google Maps app. I actually prefer it over my car’s navigation system. I am old enough remember the hassle of printing out directions via MapQuest and trying to read those directions while also driving through the city. That’s why I understand what a treat it is to have a calm, pleasant voice leading me turn by turn and then informing me that it will take me an extra 20 minutes to get to my destination due to excessive traffic. Pure bliss.

I’ll finish off with what I consider my “me time” apps: a variety of music, games and social media apps. This trifecta of apps helps me recharge, relax and waste a surprisingly large amount of time. When life starts to get a bit overwhelming, nothing calms me like listening to my favorite 1980s rock ballads while I scroll through pictures of my friends’ spring breaks and play a few rounds of single player Farkle. That, my friends, is multitasking at its finest.

It is commonly understood that spending too much time looking at our phones is not a good thing. However, the apps we’ve put on our phones have turned them into tools so personalized and so essential that even the thought of losing our phones can cause feelings of panic and unease.

So, what’s the solution? I’d suggest to maybe let your phone stay misplaced every once in a while. Read a book, take a walk, take a nap, take a break from being constantly connected. You know you’ll be able to find your phone eventually. There’s an app for that.

Renee Winick has lived in Prior Lake for nearly two decades, where she resides with her husband and twin son and daughter.