By Ritchey Howe
BY RITCHEY HOWE
Cell phone addiction is real.
I am surprised that the dictionary doesn’t include a word that defines addiction to phones. Maybe in a few more years. So many of us are addicts, yet so few acknowledge it. I recall a time without a cell phone: without the need to constantly capture my daily actions and whereabouts. Without the need to constantly communicate with multiple people simultaneously, not matter how inane the conversation. Without feeling frustrated when I take a great Instagram, yet there is no geotag available. This newfound cellular addiction causes us to avoid conversation with people we don’t know, to detract from reality when bored, distract ourselves in class, and potentially bump into people while walking on the street. As an experiment, when I walk down the street I like to see how close I can get to someone staring at their screen until they look up at me (sometimes this experiment leads to awkward bump-ins but at least the person becomes aware of their unawareness).
While our cellular addiction is not as detrimental to our health as drug addiction or alcoholism, it does affect our lives in more ways than we recognize. A study from Kent State University shows that participants with a higher frequency cell phone usage tend to have a lower GPA, lower satisfaction with life, and higher anxiety than participants who used their phones less often. Why is this? When we are on our phones, we can connect with others; through text, phone conversations, email, Facebook, Twitter, etc. When we bridge this connection, we immediately compare ourselves to others. Yet on social media, everyone makes a conscious effort to showcase their best self. For example, people will post a picture when they believe they look good, never the opposite. People accumulate wall-posts to show their popularity. SnapChats enable us to see people’s fun/funny daily activities. Of course it makes sense then, that when we only have access to other people’s happiness, we will feel glum about ourselves.
For example, a study in Michigan involved asking participants five times a day for two weeks about how Facebook influences their subjective well-being. Participants were texted about their current feelings. The results showed that the more people used Facebook, the worst they felt the next time they were texted. Although Facebook does certainly connect us with others, it deteriorates our personal well-being.
So how can we improve our well-being and sense of self? Although the idea of simply deleting social media accounts and telling yourself to focus in class seems the most logical, we can all agree that it is easier said than done. Instead, there are apps that help us monitor our phone usage. “Moment” counts how many minutes we are on it and pings you a reminder so you are aware. Although the application was originally free, it now costs $4.99. “Checky” is another free app that tells you how many times your phone is opened daily. However, neither of these apps calculates the various ways we use our smartphones. I can’t help but find it ironic that in order to see how often we use our smartphones, we need to download another app for our smartphone.
As I walk around and see younger and younger children using smart phones, I recognize that this cellular addiction will not go away, but only intensify. Cellphones are becoming a greater part of our life. We constantly need service or Wifi, and carry around chargers in fear of losing connection to others for even a few hours. While studies have only just started about the psychological affects of our addiction, we can already observe the negative side effects. I too feel the distraction and pull of my iPhone. However, by becoming more aware of how my cell can affect my social outlook, I make a conscious effort to refrain.
Ritchey Howe ’17 (ritcheyhowe@college) did not write this article on her phone.