Story and Photos by Lauren Leising
As I walk around campus, I can’t help but notice that the majority of people I see have their heads down, noses in
their phones and fingers tapping away. I’m guilty of it too. It’s so easy to whip out your phone just about anywhere,
anytime and have the world at your fingertips. We are wrapped around the finger of the digital age. While this ability to access information, stay in constant contact with people and keep up with what’s happening is incredibly valuable and helpful, our tendency to be glued to our phones is taking its toll on our community. With our eyes stuck on a screen, we overlook what is going on around us in the moment and often miss opportunities to make a new friend, help someone out or just take in the beauty of the day.
No one can deny that smartphones have begun popping up just about everywhere, especially on college campuses.
More and more teachers and students rely on their phones for tasks such as planning out their daily schedules. Freshman Alexandra Case says, “I use it every single day to plan out my classes, when I am meeting people and when I do my homework.” By combining a notebook, calendar, alarm clock and just about any other form of reminder system out there, smartphones are easily one of the handiest gadgets we have. Their capabilities to access
e-mail and the Internet are also very beneficial, especially in a classroom setting. Dr. Duncan, a professor at UGA, notes that in the great power outage of spring 2014, he had his students use their smart phones to access class material rather than cancelling class. In situations like this, having more than one way to view documents and emails allows students and teachers to remain connected and on-schedule. It is these benefits that draw us to our screens and often lead to crossing the blurred line between using our resources effectively and becoming addicted to the little gizmos in our hands.
In a recent paper called “Hooked on Smart Phones: An Exploratory Study on Smart Phone Overuse Among College Students,” the researchers studied how the rise in technology has impacted college students, especially in regards to their dependence on their phones. The study showed how regular use of smartphones often led to lack of self-control and addiction to the phones and the virtual world they created, disconnecting the students from the real world. When given the ability to connect with people at any time and anywhere simply with the tap of a screen, it is easy to become absorbed by virtual friendships and interactions with people who are far away. Though incredibly convenient, this can be perilous, as Dr. Duncan explains that he fears that “many college students are using social media to create digital friendships at the expense of meeting new people in person.” While networking and keeping in contact with old friends is
incredibly important and valuable, we can’t forget that there is a world of people right in front of us just waiting to
be explored. This time in our lives is crucial to meeting new people and having new experiences. Colin Fite, a junior at UGA, explains that “for the most part, the people I’m with at college are most important and relevant in my life.” There should be less of a need to seek companionship from those who are not here, especially when those friendships become mainly virtual. There are exceptions, of course, in regards to family or those who are and have been key in your life, but it is important to evaluate which relationships require constant contact and which ones do not. You don’t want to look back on college and realize that you missed out on some great opportunities and people because you had your nose pressed to a screen.
So, as this holiday season rolls around and you start preparing to go home to celebrate or stick around and enjoy the season with friends, I challenge you to stop looking at the screen and focus on who is around you. Put down the phone, bundle up, grab a friend or two and go out and enjoy the real world. Come on, I dare you.