COLUMN: Heads up, phones down


An iPhone, Lenovo laptop and a Canon camera sit on a table. IDS file photo

Technology has been advancing at rapid pace for quite some time now. TVs, cars, homes and even refrigerators have become smarter.

Many of these technological improvements have sprouted from the creation of the smartphone, a device that has become a necessity in life. While following technology at such a hastened pace, I feel that many of us neglect to look into how these technological advancements affect our individual lives.

In particular, many of us have seamlessly accepted smartphones as our most important companions for life. They tell us where to go, what the weather is like and keep track of our schedules.

These are all great benefits, but these phones seem to fail at their original goal: to connect people. Ever since the creation of the telephone, few distances have been too wide to bridge communications between friends and family.

However, as time went on, smartphones began to take over. These phones are designed to keep people connected, but in many cases, have driven them further apart.

While in public, people will frequently look to their phones for entertainment before even considering having a discussion with another human being.

I certainly fall prey to this. I frequently use my smartphone as a crutch for my boredom. I’ll pull out my phone and scroll through Instagram anytime I don’t feel entertained.

Being on these social media outlets gives us the illusion that we’re being social. When we see other profiles and their likes and comments, we feel as though we’re gaining social fulfillment.

It’s hard to imagine a time where our parents or grandparents would actually rely on meeting strangers and carrying on conversations to entertain themselves during a day out. I still see this way of life in my Dad, who would much rather hold a wholesome conversation with a complete stranger than tap away at his phone screen.

I decided to try this way of life for a few hours one time when visiting Chicago. When on my own, I found myself instinctively reaching for my smartphone, but I refrained.

Next thing I knew, I found myself chatting with a Chicago local and was quickly enlightened about all the best places around “Wrigleyville” to grab something to eat.

The man told me more than what a thousand Yelp reviews ever could. We went to one of these restaurants, and I realized that we would’ve never even thought of going if I hadn’t put down my phone and lived in the moment.

Weaning yourself from your phone doesn’t just improve your social life, but it can improve your personal life as well. We just have to take our headphones out every once in a while.

During my pledgeship, my fraternity leaders encouraged us to refrain from using headphones when walking in between locations on campus. They recommended we do this because it would allow us to reflect on ourselves and our lives.

They certainly weren’t wrong. During just one week without using my headphones, I did more deep thinking than I would’ve done in about a month. All I had to do was refrain and appreciate the world around me.

I implore you to try this out. Tell yourself that you’re not going to use your phone for a certain number of hours one day. Walk to a few classes without your headphones in. Live in the moment, and watch how much better life can get.

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