A little social experiment for the next time you walk down Sheridan: watch the people that walk by you closely. Are they looking straight ahead? Paying attention to where they are going? Conversing with a friend, maybe?
Most likely, you won’t even see anyone’s faces – they’re too busy looking down at their phones, spending the little moments between classes immersed in their virtual worlds.
According to a study by Nottingham Trent University, the average person checks their smartphone 85 times a day, double the amount that the participants estimated they did. Assuming that the average person gets seven to eight hours of sleep, that’s an average of five times per hour. In a Gallup survey from 2015, 81% of smartphone owners said they kept their smartphones near them during all their waking hours.
So what’s the actual harm? A study from De Montfort University says that the more a person uses their phone, the more likely they are to have “cognitive failures” – like dazing off in the middle of a conversation or forgetting important facts or dates. Another study shows that people who go without Facebook report being happier, and that Facebook use is, in fact, linked to depression. The cause? Social comparison theory: where we constantly compare ourselves to our “friends” online.
I think more than that though, by using our phones to fill the time between activities, we are missing out on the small moments in life – the ones that count. There’s nothing better than catching up with an old friend who we run into on our way to class, or braving the outdoors and discovering a beautiful blue sky or a sunset. Even getting a random smile from a stranger is enough to brighten my day.
I took a social media break for three weeks over Winter Break and it helped me enjoy my time with my family at home so much more. It was hard at first – I kept reaching for my phone and scrolling to where my Facebook app usually was before realizing I had nothing to check. I engaged much more with my friends because I had to actually reach out to see how they were doing, not just check their Snapchat story. I began to dread the day I would have to log back on to the digital grid.
It may be hard to completely sign off of social media while at school, especially if you’re involved in clubs on campus where constant contact is crucial. Consider going off the grid during spring break, or even just for a weekend, though. You’ll begin to appreciate the tiny, beautiful things around you that you’ve been missing by having your eyes glued to your screen.