The Westfield Voice

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The Westfield Voice

The Westfield Voice

The Power Of Off


How I Gained MY Power Back from MY Phone
by Kaitlyne Costa

Everywhere I go my phone is with me. Like most students, I use my phone constantly. We are always connected, unable to turn it off. Are we addicted to social media; are we addicted to its glamour, are we unwilling to take a break from the virtual world in order to experience the real world? Our brains tell us to pull out our phones to help avoid the uncomfortable feelings we don’t like to experience, such as boredom or awkwardness. Essentially, our brains are overstimulated from our phones, so we feel bored easily and seek an escape; our phones seeming to always be the answer. Since we are overstimulated, we are attracted to the virtual world; craving to be in it continuously. Most of us are stuck, hypnotized by the virtual world rather than being present in the physical world. This seems to be a major problem in society and I believe that setting your phone down once in a while could help our mental, physical and social health.

This semester I am taking English Composition 101, taught by Mary Keator, which focuses on questioning whether technology is a utopia or dystopia. We have read multiple texts including: “Technoholics: a generation of addicts” and“Reclaiming the Deep Reading Brain in the Digital Age”.After reading these articles, I realized how much technology is taking over our lives-it seems we can’t separate from our phones. I found these articles very inspiring and it made me wonder what it would be like to go without my phone for a certain period of time. In order to test this, I completed multiple fasts from my iPhone throughout the semester. These fasts allowed me to experience how my life would be affected if I were to put my phone away during meals, in class, and while doing homework. I also fasted from apps such as Instagram and Facebook, opening my eyes to how dependent and addicted I was. Performing these fasts shifted my relationship with my cell phone and I believe it can change yours as well.

No Phone during Meals

Do you pull out your phone while eating, maybe to watch a video or scroll through Twitter? Don’t worry, you’re not the only one. I used to do this too, until I discovered that it was hurting my friendships and diminishing my social interactions with others.

My discovery began when I started a tech fast in which I put my iPhone away during meals for five consecutive days. At first, I saw this task as a nuisance but as I continued with it I began to feel free and eager to continue. I started to notice that my conversations with friends improved drastically. I began listening better and became more engaged with what they had to say. They told me funny stories, updates on their life and what they did over the weekend. These were genuine conversations that I enjoyed. I also began having quality conversations with people that I never thought possible. These conversations were surprising and exciting because they were unexpected. In Adam Atler’s book, “Never Get High On Your Own Supply”, Atler examines a study where two psychologists put two groups of strangers together in a small room to share a conversation. One pair had a cell phone nearby while the other pair had a book. Each pair shared a conversation but, “those who grew acquainted in the presence of the smartphone struggled to connect. They described the relationship that formed as lower in quality, and their partners less empathetic and trustworthy.” (Atler). Even the mere presence of a cell phone nearby can hurt relationships you create with people.

Throughout my fast, I noticed that the moments I wanted to pull out my phone the most were when I ate alone or sat at a table with people who were using THEIR phones. I noticed that my phone helped me to occupy myself when I was bored or when my friends were busy on their phones. Surprisingly, I noticed tension between myself and my friends during these moments. I felt that they were judging me for not using my phone.

Sometimes putting your phone down can really change the relationships you have with your friends or family. I was happy and energized while engaging in this because I enjoyed having these meaningful conversations. I recommend trying this if you pull out your phone when you find discomfort in conversations. Although it may be difficult at first, you may find it very beneficial to your social health.

No Phone during Homework

While doing homework, I realized that I always have my phone out to watch for pop-up notifications. Almost everyone struggles to complete homework efficiently, and part of that may be due to our phones! Having your phone out can be extremely distracting, especially when trying to focus on other things such as studying or reading. In his article, “Our minds can be hijacked: the tech insiders who fear a smartphone dystopia”, Paul Lewis explains that, “the mere presence of smartphones damages cognitive capacity – even when the device is turned off”. This suggests that our phones affect us mentally and can cause serious damage to our academic learning just by their presence. For example, you are working on your essay and DING! You get a notification that you need to answer, your mind immediately disconnects from your essay, and moves to your phone. This is an extremely common issue with teens and results in less productivity and focus. In “The Myth of Multitasking”, Sharon Salzberg writes that, “when people are interrupted and have to switch their attention back and forth, they take-on average-50 percent longer to accomplish the task and make up to 50 percent more errors.” This proves that switching from homework to your phone will reduce your ability to complete school work significantly.

See the problem?

Knowing this information, I decided to fast from having my phone out while doing my homework. I was curious to engage in this task because I predicted that the quality of work would improve, and I wanted to experiment. I noticed I was able to focus and understand my work better when writing an essay for one of my classes. I didn’t struggle about thinking of what to say-the words were spilling onto the page. I found myself having to take deep breaths when I felt the urge to use my phone in order to concentrate on my work when I was distracted. I was very pleased with the outcome of this fast because I found that my cell phone is a factor towards my struggle of concentration and quality of work.

No Phone during Class

Having a problem concentrating in class? This may be caused by having your phone in close contact. Students keep their phones on their desk or in their pockets, waiting for a notification that is built to pop-up and catch your attention. Not to say I’m not a victim of this, but keeping your phone away and/or off during class can really help your overall concentration, learning, and focus. In Matt Richtel’s article “Growing Up Digital. Wired for Distraction” he conveys that technology poses “a profound new challenge to focusing and learning…” This suggests that technology is negatively affecting the concentration and performance of students in class.

For five consecutive days I fasted from having my phone on during class. Since my phone wasn’t in reach, I wasn’t distracted or worried about what notifications I was receiving. I noticed an improvement in my focus and quality of work in class. I felt highly focused and actively participated, it even created space to be creative because I found myself drawing on my paper a lot (which is a secret passion of mine). I was able to see and experience that phones can really affect your academic performance, it’s scary. Did you ever think your phone may be the reason for failing that test?

Do You Want to be a Better Student?

My advice? If you want to be a better student and person, turn it off. Putting your phone away for even just a meal could really change your quality of life. Through doing these fasts I have learned that technology is like a drug used as Nancy Colier states, “To get away from what we don’t want to feel or what we fear we might experience.” Technology is truly hurting people mentally, physically and socially. In Mary Keator’s Pedagogy “Reclaiming the Deep Reading Brain in the Digital Age” she quotes Martin Heidegger: “Everywhere we remain unfree and chained to technology whether we passionately affirm or deny it.” Even though I personally love my cell phone and other forms of technology, it is causing a huge problem with our society. It not only disempowers me, it disempowers all users which many people don’t acknowledge. By engaging in these fasts, I believe I gained power back from my phone, allowing me to live my life without the constant distraction of social media. Do you think you would be able to do this?

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