The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
A few months ago, I decided to abandon the idea that everything on my social media had to be perfectly curated and beautiful, that my posts needed to get lots of likes and comments, and that my online persona had to look “nice.” I started posting whatever I wanted on Instagram – some posts I would leave up, and some I would archive and put back up later. It felt so freeing to be fully myself online for the first time in what seemed like forever. Doing this social media reset made me realize something that kind of scared me: I hate my phone.
Pretty much everyone who’s in their late teens or early twenties grew up having a phone. Most of us got our first one sometime between late elementary and middle school – we grew up with a tiny computer in our hands. During the most formative years of brain growth, we all sat and looked at screens that gave us headaches, decreased our social skills, and made us more self-conscious than ever. I think we all realized years later how damaging this was to our younger selves, but we fail to acknowledge that it’s still hurting us. As college students, we’re glued to our screens more than ever. They’re how we stay connected to professors, classmates, friends, family, and the world outside our campus bubble. Our phones are all we see as the world whizzes by in our peripherals.
Concern about my relationship with my phone began three years ago. I was on vacation in a mountain town near Yosemite Valley and I was sitting on my bed in our rented condo on my phone. And as I lay there, scrolling through 15-second videos that I got bored of in 5, I thought to myself: What the hell am I doing? I’m in the mountains! I’m in one of the most beautiful natural places in the country! And I’m sitting here, on a bed, inside, scrolling on my phone. What is wrong with me? And when I sat up and looked out the window, it all clicked: for years, I had been missing out on the beauty and life of the world around me because I was so consumed with this tiny, inanimate object. It took up six hours of my day. Six hours of pure, uninterrupted time staring at this little device that I had become so dependent on. That terrified me.
From that moment on, I made it a point every day to spend as little time staring at my screen as possible. Instead of scrolling through Instagram at the airport, I just people watch and listen to music. On my walks to class, I don’t look down, I look around me at our beautiful campus and all the people walking around. When I’m spending time with friends and family, my phone is screen-down on the nearest flat surface. My phone is almost constantly on do not disturb, and I’m the most at peace I’ve ever been. I see so much more of how amazing the world around me is. I’m so much more appreciative of the little things – the way a tree looks in the sunlight or the smiles on people’s faces as they sit in a coffee shop or the thoughtful way someone looks at produce in the grocery store. It may seem strange, but I think looking at the real world in real time is the right way to live.
The internet is not going anywhere. Those videos on your For You Page or some influencer’s post at Paris Fashion Week are not going to pass you by. You’ll see them eventually. But life is passing you by right now; you’re in it, so why not be in it? I encourage you to challenge your dependency on your phone little by little. Start with do not disturb for a couple hours a day or try to set time limits on your most consuming apps. When you’re with friends, be with them – you’ll realize quickly how few people are able to spend time with each other without the crutch that is their iPhone 13. Really look at the world. You’ll realize how much you’ve been missing and that you never want to miss it again.