At the start of the semester, my creative writing professor challenged our class to put aside all technology three times a week for 10 to 15 minutes until midterms. He wanted us to just exist in the space we were in without the distraction of technology, social media and music. At first, I made many excuses to not do it; it wasn’t ‘quiet’ enough, I had homework, I wanted a nap. But as I slowly worked it into my schedule, I realized that perhaps it was healthy to set aside technology to simply exist in the world. As technology gets increasingly advanced and integrated within society, many have questioned whether its existence has created isolation or connects us on a greater, global scale?
The answer, of course, is not nearly as straightforward as the question. While a fair amount of teenagers spend a lot of time on their phones, some parents attempt to stop that by setting screen-time limitations. Several parents feel like the phone aids in preventing deep conversations and gives kids a way out of any conversation. However, when I moved 2,000 miles away for college, I found myself relying on my phone to keep in contact with my friends from back home. By following them on social media and texting them occasionally, I was able to keep these connections strong until I could visit home. Without technology, these friendships wouldn’t be nearly as strong anymore.
However, as the school year went on, I noticed myself staring at my phone for hours. I would scroll through Facebook for hours while laying in bed, completely ignoring the mountain of homework sitting right next to me. When people would get lunch with me, I would check my phone every three minutes just to make sure my friends back home weren’t left on read. By doing this, I created a world where my phone had first priority and my new friends at SLU had second. My phone distracted me from completing homework, getting out of my room and doing other things that probably would’ve been beneficial. While social media distracted me from the short-term stresses, it also made them so much worse and created more problems than it solved in the long term.
As my freshman year came to a close, I would put off studying to check up on my friends, scroll through Instagram for hours and watch Netflix. Technology inhibited my ability to focus. Now, I’ve heard those helicopter parents raving about how technology is ruining our generation and that we should just get rid of all of it. I want to be clear, that is not what I’m saying. Like most things, social media is good in moderation. I love lying in bed for an hour and mindlessly scrolling through Instagram. However, it becomes a problem when this enjoyment outweighs your desire to exist in the real world. When we are unable to put our phones down to study or even get out of bed, we are allowing ourselves to exist primarily in a digital world, not the physical one. I also love getting texts from my high-school friends. But when I cannot stop glancing at my phone during conversations, I am sending a subtle message to the person I am with that they are not as important as whatever is on that screen. Technology is an amazing gift, and used wisely, it can help connect the world together.
With midterms happening, it is important to remember to put down the phone or computer for a few minutes. When my teacher first assigned this challenge, I was skeptical, and the first few times I did it, I felt incredibly awkward and out of place. However, as I continued it, I found it peaceful and destressing to simply experience the world with no interruptions. When midterms or finals hit hard, I encourage everyone to turn their phones off or even leave them at home. Go for a walk, alone or with a friend. Sit in a hammock and enjoy the fall weather. Take a break, take a breath and simply enjoy existing in the space you occupy.