Arguably, the most commonly said statement about young adults today is that we need everything — now. We crave immediacy. We text in shorthand to get the message out as fast as possible, we default to the calculator on our iPhone instead of doing the simple arithmetic just because it’s quicker and we don’t know what it’s like to send a letter and wait for the response.
According to College Factual, 68.6 percent of Binghamton University students are between the ages of 18 and 21. If we include students under 18, almost seven in every 10 students at BU are Generation Z, or born between 1997 and 2012, as defined by Pew Research Center.
On Friday afternoons during this time of year, from about 5:30 p.m. until about 6:30 p.m. the following day, a portion of the large Jewish population at BU — roughly 26 percent of undergraduate students, according to Hillel International — shut off their phones for the Sabbath. Many of us refer to the Sabbath as Shabbat, from the Hebrew verb meaning “to stop” or “to rest.” This unique 25-hour period forces me to tell friends on a Friday night “I’ll show you that picture after Shabbat,” or “Look that up tomorrow night and get back to me,” and it changes things. It stops me from engaging in the mentality that previous generations assume I and other members of my cohort subscribe to. I no longer think that anything can come to me immediately, because one day per week, I take a break from the immediacy that my iPhone offers me.
I want to be clear: It’s more than just turning off my phone. It’s refraining from watching TV or using my laptop. It’s not writing. For some, it’s waking up early with a special alarm that turns itself off, so as not to force the owner to turn it off manually — since that is not permitted — so they can attend prayer services. For many, it’s not touching the lights, not tying knots, not cutting anything besides one’s food or not using a microwave. It’s a period of abstinence from much of what makes life so fast-paced for so many of us during the hectic Monday-to-Friday, and it’s abstinence from things that distract us as well.
Although I am discussing an unintended favorable outcome, it is important to note the original purpose of the day. Originally, Shabbat was designated as a day to refrain from work. We don’t want to be distracted from that day of rest, so we don’t want to work too hard either. Sounds nice, right? I do not believe that the rabbis, the Jewish teachers and authority figures who have been certified to teach and exercise authority knew what effect their decisions would have on an 18-year-old in 2020. Many of these laws existed far before the problem of teens having their noses glued to their cell phones existed, yet the laws temporarily solve that problem, for those who choose to follow them.
Yes, this does in fact mean that I won’t go to the Rat on Friday nights, and maybe you think I’m missing out. I find that there is greater satisfaction in getting that break, isolating myself from electronic interactions.
It may seem sort of weird, maybe even archaic, that on a weekly basis we choose to do this. But imagine everyone coming to your room for board games after a nice homestyle meal and not having one person be distracted by their phone. No one was distracted by their phones at dinner either. Not one person has to go write their paper, because everyone saves that for after Shabbat. Not one person has anywhere to be but where they are. It’s exactly what the “boomers” think we don’t have the capacity to do. It’s exactly what we need, because day after day throughout the week, we have no shortage of noses in phones around campus, we have a million papers to write and above all, a plethora of places to be at once.
I’m tired of hearing the stereotypical boomer argument about not being able to spend a minute away from my phone. I do it 25 hours a week.
Ariel Wajnrajch is a freshman majoring in psychology.