What happens when a high school junior gives up her smartphone?
I had been seeing this everywhere: Snapchat, Facebook, YouTube—people giving up their phones and challenging themselves to be productive for once, or at least since smartphones were invented. I find this ironic, considering I learned about the idea by repetitively clicking on the same apps that I had opened less than one minute before. But why not? After feeling like less than my usual self for the past several weeks, I figured that a detoxifying technology cleanse may be just what I needed, like a cold splash of water in the face.
- I allowed myself email through any desktop computer or laptop for both academic and vital communications.
- Any use of social media was strictly prohibited.
It began Sunday night, Feb. 28. I put my phone in my parents’ room and went to bed. I have tried having my phone with me and simply not going on it, but I seem to lack all self-control. For this experiment, I needed to pull out the heavy artillery: I called upon my mother to keep my phone. Out of sight, out of mind, right?
Not the case.
Monday and Tuesday were the worst of the 10 days. Each minute of the seven-period day crept by slowly. It felt as though the clock was playing tricks on me, the minute hand moving slower after every glance. Teachers said, “Pull out your phones and look up…” I sat in my desk and stared at them while the rest of the class googled the question. Figuratively, but literally in my mind, one of my appendages had been cut off and the absence of it left me comatose. What a strange occurrence it was to go from having the world at my fingertips to picking up a physical dictionary.
Wednesday rolled around and I worked from 4 p.m. until 10:30 p.m. After getting home, I got to work on my homework and finished it just before midnight. Despite the late hour and my drowsy mind, I realized how keenly aware of my surroundings I really was. I also noticed that I had not fidgeted while doing my work, but instead felt extremely calm. For the first time in those three days, it did not seem like there was a part of me missing. Urgently finding something to occupy my mind became less of a priority. My mind was clear. When leaving the house in the days that followed, I stopped patting down my jacket. I no longer had a need to make sure my phone was in my pocket. The rest of the days felt quite similar, becoming easier and easier to get through.
Actually, I would argue that “getting through” is an inappropriate phrase for the remainder of the trial. The expression implies that the task at hand is just that—a task. However, the days were not something I felt like I needed to grin and bear, suffer through, or strain myself to accomplish. Though they were longer and I had less to distract myself with, the days felt smoother and the nights felt calmer. I started to go on walks, have some much needed talks with my family, and appreciate friends more. I actually listened to people. It’s not as if I pulled out my phone during conversations before, but because it was not an option, not being attentive while with people was truly impossible.
With all of my new free time, I began to encounter some thoughts that I usually tuck away. But with nowhere to run, and nothing to distract myself with, I was forced to actually use my brain and analyze these issues.
It was similar to running into a person at a party who clearly knows you, but of whom you have no memories of yourself. Sometimes one just needs to suffer through some awkward questions. Although instead of, “So are all of the boys after you at your school?,” the questions on hand included, “Where has the creativity gone?,” “Where is our society headed?,” and “Whatever happened to playing in the dirt?” The strange part about these questions was that they were all being asked by myself, and I wanted answers.
Through the experiment, I have become more aware that technology has been integrated in the learning style of many classes. Trivia games, Google applications, study techniques, and so much more are common uses during school hours. We have become so accustomed to having technology at our fingertips that we have indirectly created a world in which it is impossible to survive and function without it. From this point, technology can only advance. There is no telling where the world will be 10 years from now.
With the inevitability of progress, it is useless to even attempt to eradicate the use of cell phones in certain settings. While handheld devices are no substitute for physical experiences, I believe that finding a balance in the future will be the only way to cope with these ever changing, fast-paced times. Kids, teens, and even adults must acquire a certain degree of worldliness in order to not suffocate in electricity-powered caves, but gain an appreciation for how the world worked before the invention of such capabilities.
My advice to the reader, who I assume has a cell phone or a device with similar powers: If you cannot fathom not having this possession on your being at all times, it is time to set it down. I cannot make you give it up, or even listen to me, but if you do one thing, I suggest you go for a walk. Clear your mind. Listen to the questions that you ask yourself and answer them. My guess is that you’ve been waiting for a long time.
(Confessions of a Teenage Mind is a regular column written by Isabel Krueger, Current Staff. Photographs courtesy of Paige Neuy, West senior.)