Phones: A Call to Action

Back to Article
Back to Article

Phones: A Call to Action

Mary King

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.

Email This Story

The other day in Humanities, a philosophy class taught by Dr. Matthew Dewar, we were discussing religion and began to talk about phones and technology. We talked about the role that phones play in our life, and how it impacts us. I left the classroom determined to lessen my phone usage.

So, what exactly did we talk about in that classroom that made me feel so strongly? First, Dr. Dewar told us that ten years ago, when he would walk into a classroom to start teaching, the students would all be talking to each other, laughing, and in general having class-wide interactions. He said five years ago, most people would still be talking, maybe a little less than before, but they would be having conversations when he walked in. He says that now, when he walks in, we’re all on our phones, silent. We ignore each other, not even bothering to say hello or try to make conversation. Although it should’ve been obvious, the anecdote caught my attention.

We continued to talk about the issue, someone bringing up the fact that phones make it so easy not to have conversations. Whether you’re in the hallways, in the classroom, at lunch, or hanging out with friends, it’s ridiculously easy to reach for your phone and look at it instead of having actual conversations. We also discussed the idea of divided attention. Social media, games, and other apps have the power to divide our attention across countless pictures, comments, stories, updates, and things we wish we could have. At any given moment, whether we’re on our phones or not, we are likely thinking about many different things at once. When you don’t want to put your attention into one app, you can switch to a new one, and then another new one, and so on. Some psychologists argue that the number one mental illness among our generation is divided attention. We can’t focus for long because technology gives us so many options to turn to when we have even the faintest hint of boredom.

Something very interesting that Dr. Dewar pointed out to us is how we react to not being interested in things. He noted that when teenagers aren’t immediately interested in something, instead of trying to lean into the subject and become interested, we “lean out” to our devices. Usually that means pulling out our phones because they have become our immediate outlet to use when we aren’t interested in the material at hand. If we don’t have our phones, we use extensions of them. We go on our computers or doodle on our classwork.

Additionally, we noted our changes in attitude when in the presence of phones. When you’re on your phone, you’re much less likely to pay attention to someone. You might distractedly answer them with short sentences, or even say things you’re hardly aware of saying. Whether you like to admit it or not, your attitude changes when you’re on your phone. We are less respectful to each other when we’re on our phones. The lack of attention you give someone when you’re using your phone can make them feel like you don’t care what they have to say.

The worst part of it all is that we’re the ones at the heart of the issue. We’re the ones who are infamous for being on our phones all the time. We’re the ones who sit in class or walk through the halls not talking to each other. We’re the ones who turn to our phones as soon as boredom creeps in. We’re the ones who constantly check our social media profiles. It’s sad to see how profoundly technology has changed us. Whether we consciously realize it or not, we are the ones most deeply enveloped in the problem.

Luckily, we’re also the ones who can change it. Don’t get me wrong — I believe that phones have created countless new pathways and opportunities for society. However, I also think we could all benefit from a little time away from our devices. You can still carry it with you, but maybe delete a couple apps to start with. Check your phone a little less often than you normally do. Try to have conversations instead of absentmindedly going on your phone. If you catch yourself getting lost in your phone, turn it off for a couple minutes and do something else. If you spend less time on your phone, it could create changes in your life.

You might notice you remember things more easily, or have more meaningful conversations, or feel more present, or just enjoy things more. You could be more productive or spend more time with the people you love or feel an increased sense of purpose. Regardless of the results, I can assure you you won’t regret your decision.

You don’t have to throw your phone away or completely boycott technology in order to reduce its impact in your life. You can start by simply making an effort to spend a little more time away from it. You might find that doing something so simple truly does make a difference.