Reader submission by Phoenix Kadzis
Imagine being in a time loop. You wake up every single day, and every action you did before is the same as the day before, and the day before that. You wake up, check your phone, check your email on repeat every single day for the rest of your life. Does that seem monotonous to you? This ho-hum life of interacting with the outside world through the lens of your cell phone or computer screen seems increasingly depressing. Humans are inherently social creatures, and the rise of technology has given us an alternative way of connecting with people, superficially, through the guise of easier access.
With the isolation that the covid-19 pandemic has brought about, humans have been increasingly innovative! We have evolved social interactions through technological means even while being socially distanced in-person. This virtual connection had made us even more dependent on our technology. The other day, the Wi-Fi went out at New College, thus, none of the students had access to any of their classes, or online zoom links for a small period of time. The momentarily collective panic was interesting to experience and watch firsthand. My roommate immediately rushed off campus to a nearby café in order to get internet access. I, myself, immediately emailed the residential assistant (RA), to notify her of the outage, and contacted one of my professors to convey the problem. In our shared distress of not having any Wi-Fi, I realized how dependent we’ve become on our technology as a means to communicate.
I want to briefly say, that technology has been a great help as a mode of information, communication and connection. But there are many negative side effects to the internet and modern technology. One being that the internet is addictive. People can often use it like a drug, and it can promote alterations in mood, often times negative mood.
We are so intertwined with our technology that psychiatrists have added “internet addiction” as a diagnosable mental disorder. It is so serious that the United States has opened a facility dedicated to treating this condition. Technology addiction can come in several different forms, for instance, smartphone addiction, social media and video games. As a social collective body, we have lost the art of interpersonal skills. When passing a neighbor on the street, do we stop and say hello? Or is our immediate response to glance down at the phone in our hands and walk by, ignoring each other. It has been my experience, that people are becoming more and more isolated because of the access to smartphones. Half of the time, I can’t connect with someone because they have headphones in and are effectively blocking out everyone else.
Let’s look at what the stats have to say on this topic. The average person touches their phone 2,617 times a day, not including the times when the device is locked. And just think about all the times you’ve brought your phone to the bathroom. Approximately, 75% of users use their phone while on the toilet. An average user will spend about 2 hours and 51 minutes on their phones daily, and this number may be higher for the individual user. And a surprising statistic, 1 in 10 adults admit to using their phone while having sex. Talk about being distracted!
Many of these statistics point to the glaring fact that as a collective body, everyone suffers to some degree with internet overuse and addiction. This may limit our ability to notice our surroundings and interact with the real world, outside of our online bubble. The conversation around internet addiction is important because internet and smartphone addiction is not an isolated case. In 2016, a study found that 50% of teens believe they are addicted to their smartphones. And 33% of teens spend more time chatting with friends online than in person.
Technology has done great things for accessibility and convivence, but it is hindering person to person connections that are vital to what makes us human. I propose that we take a day out of each week to turn away from our devices and make it a goal to connect with another person face to face. Much research has been devoted to looking at depression and other mental disorders, and one protective measure against these conditions is social interaction. Having friends and family to talk to and check in is crucial to our health and well-being. So, I am challenging myself, and you to take a break from the internet, from your cell phone, and see how long you can go without checking up on your devices.