Sinclair: Let’s take a (quick) break from technology


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The Iowa State Daily Editorial Board argues that calling young people “cringey” for using new social media platforms the same way we once did is hypocritical.

Isaac Sinclair

I love my phone; it does so much for me. I can text and call my friends and family that live states away, I can watch the highlights of a basketball game that I missed the night before and I can greedily stream all the music my heart desires.

There’s absolutely no way I, or humanity for that matter, could go back to a life without phones. We simply couldn’t. 64 percent of American adults own a smartphone, and getting people to give that up would be impossible and unnecessary. Technology is a tool that does so many great things for us, and we should never take that for granted. But for all of its benefits, I have noticed that technology is using us, just as much as we’re using it.

Everyone’s seen it: people on a crowded bus with their heads slanted to the ground, all ignoring one another. Or a small group of friends all scrolling through Twitter, tweeting about how bored they are. Or, and this is perhaps the most heartbreaking, when you see a parent or grandparent trying to spend time with their child who refuses to get off of their phone.

Let me state something incredibly obvious: cell phones are distracting.

The average person spends 90 minutes on their phone a day, which adds up to 23 days a year and 3.9 years out of the average person’s lifespan. That’s a big chunk of someone’s life just to be spent watching YouTube videos or watching some random person’s Snapchat story.

I will concede that there isn’t anything too exciting to do on a crowded bus or in a waiting room, so getting on your phone isn’t a waste of time in these situations. 93 percent of young people use their phones to avoid boredom, and I don’t blame them. The problem with this high amount of usage is that it makes the phone feel like more than it actually is.

Young adult smartphone users described their phones as making them feel “happy” and “productive” 77 percent and 79 percent of the time, respectively. Productive is a fantastic way to feel about your phone. That’s the purpose of technology, and it should provide you with assistance throughout your day-to-day life. It’s the happiness that is concerning. A metal block shouldn’t dictate your levels of happiness, and by allowing it to, we give it more power than it should have.

Relationships, not just our own individual happiness, have also changed to accommodate uninvited technology. Phones have been shown to inhibit “the development of interpersonal development and trust” and reduce “the extent for which individuals felt empathy and understanding from their partners.” We have allowed phones to get in the way of the people we care about most. Technology has the ability to consume our attention and weaken the connections we have with others.

I want to make it clear that I’m not advocating that everyone should throw away their phones because they are making them emotionless zombies. Phones are, and will continue to be, positive in our lives. They grant us incredible power and allow us to access almost all known knowledge.

What I do want to recommend is that everyone sets down their $600 cure for boredom from time to time. Before I get ahead of myself, I also want to say that I am not perfect when it comes to staying off of my phone. There are plenty of times when I get on it when I know I shouldn’t, or when I could be doing something much more productive. But in my defense, I do try my best to stay off my phone, and that’s all I can ask of you.

If you’re in class, pay attention to the teacher or professor who is giving the lecture. Try to do other things than be on your phone all day, like reading a book or being active. When you’re talking to a loved one or a close friend, be in the moment and talk to them. Ignore all the buzzes and dings and just be present with that person. This is how we can cultivate closer relationships and find happiness outside our phones.