On the busiest of days, filled with classes, meetings and hangouts, my phone screen time is still around three or four hours. How is it possible that I spend about a fourth of my waking hours on my phone? How would my overall screen time add up if I also accounted for the time spent on my laptop?
We can’t get away from technology in this day and age. While that’s fair, I could have done so much more in the physical realm in those four hours I wasted in a digital space.
Though phone and technology addiction isn’t an officially recognized disorder, it’s a prevalent danger to our society.
Spring break just passed, and on the days I didn’t have plans I watched TikToks, scrolled through Twitter, turned on a new Netflix show and asked Alexa to set a timer for the food in the oven.
Almost all of those activities were done mindlessly and served as a distraction to my actual responsibilities. When I tried to get off my phone, it seemed like it was just calling my name with a notification here and a missed call there. I might have turned Netflix off, but then I’d go to Apple Music and stream some songs for background music.
Where did this obsessive behavior with technology start? I truly believe my technology usage shifted at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and it has yet to revert to its old ways.
Unfortunately, it seems many won’t revert to their old technology usage, either. Around 71% of U.S. adults say messaging family and friends has helped them stay connected during the pandemic. While this is acceptable for current circumstances, it has grand implications for our future — I know it does for me.
At the start of the pandemic, I relied heavily on FaceTime. Depending on how lonely I was feeling, the time spent on my phone would exceed 10 hours because of my need for connection. As time went on and stay-at-home orders lifted, I still relied on video chat. The pandemic made me nervous. It still does. So using technology and social media just felt easier. It felt right.
Trust me, I know it can feel so awkward to socialize in a semi-post-pandemic world. But in a society that’s slowly moving away from COVID-19 restrictions — however premature they might be — it is important we look up from our screens.
Though it’s not yet proven, there is reason to believe the intrusive and constant nature of technology can make quitting an addiction to it more difficult than quitting cigarettes. This seems bizarre, but that’s how dangerous the over-usage of technology can become.
I challenge you to set time limits on your social media apps, to put down the laptop once the work is done and to end a video chat to go visit that person face to face.
The pandemic forced us to attach to our screens and detach from society, causing widespread anxiety. But in a world that thrives on interaction, we can’t let all our social lives become two-dimensional.
Elizabeth Valadez (she/her) is a freshman studying English and political science. She is a member of Chi Alpha.