Our delicate connection to technological burdens

By Aubrey Klein

As a college student, and similarly as a millennial, people expect you to be connected all the time. Campus clubs organize meetings through Facebook, of-the-moment news and thoughts are released on Twitter and YikYak keeps the rumor mill churning. But what if I don’t want to be connected every minute of every day?

There is a growing movement to get people off of their phones. Scientists say our social skills are deteriorating and we’re losing touch with nature. There are these two competing ideas that a person can’t function in the world today without being connected, yet many people say that as an American society we’re connected too much.

Within these competing claims lies the complicated, if somewhat trivial, question: How am I supposed to stay connected yet avoid being overly connected to the physical object that is my phone?

While oversharing, humblebragging and extreme editing on social media can be generally annoying, I think the source of the problem with our generation’s phone addiction lies not necessarily in what we do on our phones, but the fact that our phones are always quite literally within arm’s reach.

When we’re constantly able to disconnect from the real world in favor of the virtual one, we miss out on a lot of human interaction and real world connections.

Things might not be so bad if we were only able to check our accounts on a computer that resides mostly on a desk. But when we have the ability to check up on it anytime, anywhere, we are suddenly always looking down, glued to our screens and never looking up.

There has been a lot said about all of this and I’m mostly in agreement with what has already been said. We’ve all seen the inspirational videos urging us to put down our phones and stop letting life pass us by that people immediately, and without any irony, post to Facebook and retweet; paradoxically, they never actually make any real changes to their technology habits.

I think less time on our phones would have a lot of benefits, and it doesn’t have to be a dramatic gesture. I’ve tried again and again to abide by the “no technology an hour before bed rule” but it’s honestly just not feasible; sometimes the only time to work on a paper is right before going to sleep.

While I’m nostalgic for a time where I wouldn’t need a phone or a Facebook to get through life, reality and modern society dictates otherwise. While I’m not about to go throw my phone in the Fox River, I envision a happier co-existence with my phone in which face-to-face contact is still a priority and I get outside to nature more.

If this sounds at all relatable, here are some thoughts and ideas for managing your relationship with your phone to remain sufficiently connected to the virtual world while not disconnecting completely from the natural one.

1) Honestly re-evaluate your social media activity. Do you need an account on every major platform? And even if you feel like you really do, do they all need to be on your phone? It can turn into a downright waste of time when a quick check turns into 40 minutes of scrolling.

Starting at the source of the distraction is an easy remedy, but it can be painful for social media devotees. Just treat it like a Band-Aid: Rip it off and never look back. I found that when I deleted Twitter off my phone, I was checking my phone a lot less often and I wasn’t missing out on any earth shattering updates.

2) When spending quality time with friends and family, try not to excessively check your phone. Especially at dinner time. It’s just the considerate thing to do.

3) Try spending a day without your phone, and if you can’t do that, start with a few hours and work your way up. This isn’t just a torture experiment. You’ll find that you’re more observant of your surroundings and much more aware of where your time is going when you don’t have a phone with you.

4) Wear a watch. Often you take your phone out to check the time then get distracted by some notification. I think this is a great tool for severing that invisible tether that runs from your hand to your phone. When you can check your wrist for the time instead of your phone, that’s one less time you’re looking at a screen and avoiding the possible distractions that come with it.

5) Read a book. I think we can almost universally agree that we would all like to read more books, but we never seem to have the time. Try carrying a book with you and take it out every time you have a spare moment. If you substituted all your excess screen time for page time, you’d probably get a lot more reading done.

While these ideas may not be revolutionary, they could be the start to a personal revolution all your own.