I bought a smart phone this past weekend. An iPhone 5. And I have mixed feelings about having done so.

For years I resisted the purchase of a cell phone. I gave in and bought one when Elena was born and I started teaching at St. John’s in NY, which had evening classes. Both driving around with an infant in the car and driving home late at night from class made me feel like it would be good to be able to contact someone in an emergency. For years after I bought the phone, I only turned it on when I needed to make a call. (It drove my sister Diane crazy; “Your cell phone is never on.”)

The cell phone I’ve been using is practically a museum piece, but it served my purposes well – it made and received phone calls and that was good enough for me. But I started to think that it might be good to get a smart phone before I leave for my Camino walk in the fall. Weight being a big consideration, I thought having one item that could serve as phone, camera, video/audio recorder and internet access was a good idea. And it happened that I was eligible for a Verizon promotion that gave me the iPhone at a quite reasonable price.

Still, I have misgivings. It is not just the increased monthly cost (although that is a factor). My bigger concern is whether it is really a good thing that I have access to my e-mail wherever I am. It is one thing to carry a cell phone all the time so family can always reach me in an emergency. It is another to 24-hour e-mail accessibility.

Of course it is in my control not to check the e-mails. But whenever I turn on the phone, I see the little indication of how many e-mail messages I have. I know that it will take an affirmative act of discipline to be sure I am using the iPhone in a beneficial manner, and not let myself get sucked into excessive use of it.