Your phone is trying to kill you. Here’s what you can do

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In an age where technology addiction has oozed into becoming the norm, remarks made to try and call attention to its negative influence on people’s lives tend to get brushed under the rug. Massive screen time numbers are met with humor to deflect the hold that they have on so many people. In reality, it is time to take this issue seriously; in a recent poll taken by People Magazine, it was estimated that the average adult in the U.S. may spend 44 years looking at a screen. In a country where the life expectancy is 79, this number should not be taken lightly. Technology’s grip is as strong as its lure, which is why it is so important to be aware of its dangers. The connection we supposedly find on social media is real and convincing; however, there is no place where one could be more alone than when staring at a screen, just them against the entire world. The connection that social media brings is an illusion because it is fueled by comparison and putting on shows for each other. The role of social media is to impress rather than express. It is everything that happiness is not and promotes everything that growth is not derived from. 

It is no coincidence that our country is in the midst of a mental health crisis, particularly among teenagers. Computer scientist and writer Jaron Lanier, best known for his books such as “Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now,” argues that social media is an irrevocable danger for everybody that continues to use it.  

“You’re being manipulated by algorithms that are watching everything you do constantly and then sending you changes in your media feed, your diet, that are calculated to adjust to you slightly, to the liking of some unseen advertiser — and so if you get off that, you can have a chance to experience a clearer view of yourself and your life. But then for the reason for society, which might be even more important; society has been gradually darkened by this scheme in which everyone is under surveillance all the time, and everyone is under this mild version of behavior modification all the time. It’s made people jittery and cranky; it’s made teens, especially, depressed.” 

The reasons that Lanier cites for deleting social media are two-fold; some for yourself, and some for society. He draws attention to the programmed behavior that social media addiction can cause — especially among young teens — as well as the infamous and nearly cliché links to increased depression.  

Social media works to dumb society down into 60-second shareable snippets and has made people more likely to gravitate towards instant gratification in other areas of their life. It is a barrier to introspection as well as to better answers to our questions and frustrations. All of its convenience is an illusion, because the easy answers are never the helpful or meaningful ones. This is especially problematic for artists, as well as vulnerable and young kids who are making sense of the world for the very first time. For artists, social media is killing productivity and creativity within themselves; people are not making the most of their brains because smartphones have taken that ability away from them. As young people, we are especially blind to its effects because a world with social media is the only world we’ve ever really known. It is problematic for everyone, though, for it is taking away people’s lives and stopping them from really confronting and living the ones that are right in front of them.  

Many are turning to digital minimalism — a term popularized by writer Cal Newport, which refers to a philosophy that advocates for simplifying our usage of digital tools — but this lifestyle choice is one that comes with its own set of problems and feelings of isolation. Among the downsides for those who choose it are feeling less informed and being less up to date with their friends and families. However, many people feel as though it is worth the sacrifice. Take the Luddite Club, for example: a group of teens from Brooklyn who meet in New York City’s Central Park weekly in an attempt to find community outside of their screens. Additionally, there is a boarding school in Western Massachusetts — Buxton School — that got every one of its students to switch to the Light Phone, a dumb phone (as opposed to a smartphone) akin to a flip phone. Even celebrities such as Tracy Chapman and numerous others are speaking publicly about their lifestyle choice of rejecting smartphones.  

Overall, while I by no means think that everyone needs to switch to a flip phone, I think it is important for us to be aware of the effects that smartphones are having on our lives, so we can live more presently and trust ourselves over a device in our pockets.