Widgets Magazine

OPINIONS

Divorcing devices

It lights up. Dings. Greets you with the time, with notifications. It’s fast. Each model gets faster, thinner.

We check it even when it doesn’t ring.

And if we happen to forget it in our rooms, we feel uncomfortable — maybe even a little lost. What are we going to do while walking from class to class? What if someone texts us?

It’s not a surprise that many of us have come to be addicted to our phones. We need things — Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat — and we need them fast. We need them now. In a way, they are designed with that in mind. With each model boasting faster processing speeds, instant gratification becomes that much more instant. When something takes slightly longer than usual to load, we feel it. YouTube videos should not buffer. Websites shouldn’t load, they should appear.

Our interactions with our phones are getting increasingly human. We hold them, caress them with one hand. Our touch, our fingerprints, unlock them. We can talk to Siri if we want, and she’ll respond. Sometimes with wit. In the pictures they take, they keep our memories alive. Our phones know us well. More intimately, perhaps, than some of our acquaintances.

We are well aware of the “dangers” of spending too much time with our devices. We know we shouldn’t spend as many hours as we do on them. But we do anyway.

But why?

If a friend has their phone out, even if it’s just face up on the table while we’re talking, they aren’t really with me. Their eyes flicker down to the screen from time to time. They’re waiting. Is it that hard, I wonder, to be apart from our devices?

“Because it’s made to be addicting,” is not a real answer to “Why are we constantly on our phones?” It doesn’t get to the root of the problem. We have to own up to some of it, too.

When do you find yourself checking it?

I know I am personally more prone to checking it when I need a distraction from the task I am working on at the time. When I’m stuck, whether it’s while working an essay or a problem set, I’ll check Facebook or skim through old messages. In these moments, being on my phone is like sleeping, like dreaming — it’s an escape. It’s a new, virtual reality that I can step into for a few moments while leaving the problems of the real world behind. However, more often than not, I have trouble focusing on the assignment after giving into the temptation to check my phone. Maybe it’s because checking my phone isn’t really a break — it still involves reading. It’s still work. It’s not rejuvenating. To some extent, it’s exhausting.

What if we go without our phones for a few hours? Is there anything to be lost?

Try it. Just for a while. Forsake FaceTime, and you just might get actual face time with friends.

 

Contact Amanda Rizkalla at amariz ‘at’ stanford.edu.