I Put Down my Phone for Two Weeks and Here's What I Saw

Like many Americans, I profess a deep abiding love for my cell phone. It’s more than just a toy it’s a safety blanket. Awkward silence? Pull out your phone. Extra five minutes before class? Pull out your phone. Weird guy intently staring at you from across Dallas Hall Lawn? Pull out your phone. Also, maybe walk away? For me, my phone is a useful way to look occupied as I walk to and from class. Unfortunately, my friends aren’t on my class schedule, and I make most of my daily walks alone. To be honest, I spend that time scrolling through my Instagram feed partially just to avoid looking lonely. I do it so much it feels like a natural part of my day. I don’t really know how to walk around alone without looking down at something.


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Correction: I didn’t know how to walk around alone until two weeks ago, when I devised a little challenge for myself. I decided to put my phone away for my daily walks and see what I would notice when my attention wasn’t divided. And let me tell you, I was not disappointed.

Awkward Eye Contact. Without my phone, I was forced to look at whatever was straight in front of me, or often whoever was straight in front of me. This led to some interesting encounters. Because I’m super awkward, I ended up making eye contact with strangers. Like a lot of strangers. Unfortunately, my resting face looks like I’m silently willing your torturous demise. I don’t know why— maybe it’s something about how my eyes are set? This led strangers to assume that I was both staring at them and planning their murders. I quickly learned that I needed to wear sunglasses daily if I wanted to continue this experiment.

Flirtation. This is sort of in the same vein as the whole eye contact issue. If strangers could see past of my resting murder face, or if I happened to smile their way, they assumed I was flirting with them. Multiple guys walked up and talked to me, while others waved and smiled for no comprehensible reason. It seems that people actually look up at one another so rarely that it’s seen as a sign of interest instead of a sign of just…being human. It was special that I was looking up and at these guys instead of down at the ground, so naturally they assumed I was interested.

Hurting People. This one is sad. Without distractions, I noticed just how many people at SMU are hurting. I couldn't go ten minutes without seeing someone crying. On benches, on Dallas Hall Lawn, in their cars- people are crying everywhere. College can be an awesome time, but it can also be difficult and so many students go through difficult things while they're here at SMU. Now, it might not be cool to walk up to a crying stranger and invade their privacy, but look out for ways you can help people. Offer to study with a classmate who has mentioned struggling academically. Reach out to students who mention that they're new to SMU. Take people seriously when they mention how stressed they are. I got a glimpse of how much pain there is at SMU, and it's bad. Take a moment and offer your time to someone who could really need it. 

Wild Sights. SMU is crazy if you just look and are open to your surroundings. I saw multiple people on electric and non-electric razor scooters. I talked to a high school tour group. I saw two squirrels fighting over an acorn. Not playing either— like seriously fighting and going for each other’s necks. I spotted multiple opportunities to help people carry heavy boxes and made some new friends in the process. I caught a guy practicing karate by himself with his backpack still on. There are amazing, funny, interesting things all around us. Put down your phone and look.