I checked my battery usage the other day and came across something interesting. Apparently, there’s a function on iPhones called Screen Time where you can see how much time you’ve spent on each app for the past week and on a day-by-day basis. This will be funny, I thought. So I pressed a couple of buttons and had a look. I turned to my housemate and said, “Can you believe I spent four and a half hours on Instagram this week, over three hours on Snapchat, two and a half hours on Facebook, 53 minutes emailing, over an hour on Google, 20 minutes taking selfies and 30 minutes looking at those selfies, 30 minutes on Tinder, four hours sending text messages and another four hours just staring at my home screen?”
I did some calculations, and added up all the numbers to realize that in the past week, I had spent over 20 hours on my phone, not even including all of the other things I use my phone for. That seems like an excessively long amount of time, doesn’t it? In that time I could have been exercising, meditating, writing a book, painting a masterpiece or discovering new planets. But nope, instead I had been staring at a small screen communicating with other people in a tiny, imaginary technological world.
Unfortunately, using our phones has become a part of our daily habit. It has become an addiction to many, and we know that the more you use your phone, the more addictive it becomes. According to a study done by Baylor University, college students tend to spend an average of eight to 10 hours on their smartphones per day. Men averaged around eight, while women averaged closer to 10. What’s more concerning is that nearly 60 percent of college students may in fact be addicted to their smartphones without even realizing it. A term has even been created to describe this phenomenon: “nomophobia,” which refers to the fear of being detached from one’s phone.
Sometimes, we cellphone addicts seemingly exhibit the same symptoms as drug addicts may. We use our phones to lift our moods, and when our batteries die or we lose our phones, we feel panic and anxiety. Because we use our phones for work, keeping notes, managing our appointments, taking pictures of friends and family, listening to music, getting emails, using Google, looking up directions, playing games, measuring the quality of our naps and all other aspects of our lives, we naturally begin to have a sense of withdrawal when we are parted from these devices.
Moreover, the time we spend on our phones has begun to replace our time socializing. We think our phones are keeping us “connected” and up-to-date with the world, when we really have never been so disconnected from one another. We are never truly present in our conversations when we have our phones next to us. Our attention spans have decreased, and it’s becoming harder and harder for us to hold a conversation without constantly thinking about checking our phones.
In addition, a study from the University of Pittsburgh showed that increased use of some social media platforms correlates with higher rates of depression. This is no surprise, given that Instagram and Snapchat are designed so that we see idealized representations of other people. This negatively impacts our egos, as we tend to believe that others are leading happier, more successful lives than us because we only see their happy and successful moments. We begin to compare ourselves to others when really, the only person we should compare ourselves to is ourselves.
So this week, give yourself a break from your phone; put it on silent, don’t use it at dinner, turn it on airplane mode sometimes and other times, just leave it at home. We all need to learn that we don’t need to carry a phone with us in order to live our lives. Start embracing what’s around you. Stop tweeting and start actually living.
Tiffany Dun is a senior majoring in psychology.