I Didn’t Use My Phone and Laptop for a Day, & I Lived to Tell the Tale

Cell phones and laptops. They’re essential in today’s day and age. We college students can’t go five minutes without checking our social media notifications and emails. It’s important for us to stay on top of things. But, it is really easy to get carried away and spend so much time on social media or just the internet in general. Here’s my experience when I realized that I overuse my electronic devices and decided that I should take a step back and re-evaluate.

During spring break, when I was visiting San Francisco with my mom, she commented on how often I checked my phone and how I paid attention to nothing else. While I wouldn’t admit she was right at the time, I now realize that what she said was true. I wanted to keep checking how many reactions my posts got on Facebook or how many likes my picture on Instagram got.

In the midst of this, I remember thinking of times when I had gone camping and there was no phone signal. Specifically, I thought about my time at the National Youth Science Camp, where I spent the summer between graduating high school and starting college. The camp was remotely located in the mountains of West Virginia, and we didn’t have phone signal for a month. This allowed us to have purely human interactions and immerse ourselves with nature. I felt nostalgic and thought to myself, “How can I emulate that experience?”

Then, it hit me: I would avoid my phone or laptop for a day, so I wouldn’t go on social media. But then, I realized that Canvas is the primary source for coursework at UF, and it would be impossible to keep up with my studies if I didn’t access the internet. So, I decided to plan ahead and finish the coursework that required the internet ahead of time.

The night before Tuesday, I powered off my cell phone and laptop and kept them outside of my school bag, closed or facedown on my desk. Usually, the first thing I do after waking up is check my phone for about 30 minutes and go through all my notifications.

This particular Tuesday, instead of staying in bed, I got up right away and got ready for my day. On Tuesdays, I only have one class, which is my Physics discussion from 1:55-2:45 p.m. So, I have the entire morning to myself. I was able to complete a good portion of my homework assignments that were due later in the week, including some Computational Linear Algebra and Physics problems.

Later, I waited in front of my dorm to board the bus to my physics class. I kept my powered-off phone in my bag, in case there was an emergency. The only thing is that I wasn’t able to check the bus time on the RTS app – but I knew a bus would eventually come since it was only the middle of the day. Since I didn’t have a watch with me nor did I have a clock in my dorm besides those from my phone and laptop, I didn’t know the time until I saw it on the front of the bus in LED lights.

I still had an hour to spare before class, so I decided to get something to eat on campus and have a little break to reward myself for my productive morning. As I was sitting and eating my lunch on campus, I decided to do some people-watching, since I wasn’t going to check my phone like I usually do when I’m eating. Everywhere I looked, many people’s heads were buried in their phones. Now, I guess I could see where my mom was coming from. It made me think to myself that we all really need to take a break from our phones (which is what I was attempting to accomplish from not checking my electronic devices all day).

But it’s hard. College students are busy keeping up with so many things, such as organizations we’re involved with, classes and more. It’s honestly not practical to be without your phone and laptop, but, we should all definitely work on how much time we spend on our phone. It is not necessary to check social media every 5 to 10 minutes, although it’s very tempting, and I have a bad habit of doing it as well.  

The rest of my day went well. That night, I looked through my spiral-bound notebooks at past lecture notes and reviewed for upcoming exams. I was able to fall asleep quicker than usual, since my eyes weren’t strained from staring at screens all day. Not checking my electronic devices led me to have a more productive day. I was also able to slow down my pace of life and really take in my surroundings.

Completely shutting off my devices was going a bit extreme. It’s reasonable to use your electronics to occasionally check email or messages and of course, use Canvas for schoolwork as needed. Ignoring my devices aside from that, I had much more time to reflect and think to myself, which is also important, especially with a busy schedule. From now on, I will try to only check my phone when necessary (although it’s easy to get carried away on social media where you can scroll and scroll forever) and dedicate my time on my laptop to primarily completing schoolwork and staying up to date. What I learned is that we all need to take a step back and interact with people more in person and look around occasionally.

Remember that your time at UF is limited, while electronics are the now and future (and not going away any time soon).