I WENT A WHOLE WEEK WITHOUT MY CELLPHONE

The+results+of+a+Twitter+poll+before+starting+my+social+experiment.+As+you+can+tell%2C+not+many+believed+I+could+do+it.

The results of a Twitter poll before starting my social experiment. As you can tell, not many believed I could do it.

As I sat in my Spanish class talking about the effects of technology on adolescents, I realized I was one of the few students watching the presentation while everyone else was Tweeting, sharing, and Snapchatting.  I saw the effects of technology happening right in front of me and felt discouraged. What would life be like without this instant connection to technology and constant distraction?

March 6 through March 12, I decided to go phoneless to see how my everyday routine would be affected when I no longer felt glued to that pesky device. According to Time Magazine 2015 study hosted by a mobile survey company found that on average, people in the U.S. across all age groups check their phones 46 times per day. That’s nearly 8 billion looks across the country. So whether it’s at school or work, disconnecting is difficult, but I was certainly going to try.

The day before

It was Round Lake High School’s Kera Sanchez’s Spanish class where I first felt the inspiration to give up my phone. Sanchez, who did a lesson with her students on technology, said, “Even though [kids think it’s] not a problem, students don’t know when it’s appropriate to use their phones or not.” Cell phone use in the classroom can get very distracting and keep students from getting any work done. Sanchez claims the popular app Snapchat is the biggest distractor. “There are some kids that I don’t think realize they’re on their phones, they’re so conditioned to use it all the time, it’s like a habit,” she said.

I knew I spent a lot of time on my phone, but I was still skeptical. And then Sanchez sold it: “After a few days, you’ll feel liberated and your memory will be clear because you’re not looking down and looking up every minute,” she said.

I hoped I’d feel a sense of relief. I shut down my phone, put it away in a box, and decided it would never see the light of day again… until Monday March 13.

Here’s how the week went:

Monday: There was no school. I woke up, but mornings always seem boring. I decided to make an omelette and clean my room since there wasn’t a phone to distract me and keep me in bed. Everything went fine, and my boyfriend caught me by surprise because he couldn’t text me to tell me he was coming over. We went to Walmart and came back home. Overall, not having a phone didn’t affect my day.

Tuesday: It was the first day of school without a phone. The night before I told my dad to wake me up at 6 am since my phone was my alarm clock. He woke me up at 6:30 so I was in a hurry to get ready. I went to the library to login to my personal email, but I couldn’t because I had to verify my email through my phone. That whole week I couldn’t login to my personal email, which was very annoying to me. When I got home, I did something one of my teachers recommended me to do during this week, which was read the news. I feel like reading a newspaper isn’t as up to date compared to refreshing every 30 minutes on  Facebook to see a new article up, but I admired how fast and well journalist write.

Kristin Krivickas is a therapist at the Round Lake Clinic and has a lot of experience with drug treatment programs, and, in turn, addiction (which has a lot more to do with our cell phones than you might think). Krivickas says that my feelings about reading the newspaper make sense. After all, cell phones give us quick information, which affects the expectations of teenagers. “If you have a question about anything, you don’t even have to type anything in, you just ask your phone and you’ll be given an answer quickly, and what that does to us psychologically is having that need of instant gratification,” Krivickas said. To make matters worse, adolescents’ brains are not fully developed, which means when they get used to getting information at a second’s notice, it can actually cause a deep-rooted need to receive things instantly.  In other words, “We want what we want and we want it now,” Krivickas said. Krivickas said she actually had some patients with a true media addiction, and diagnostically there is an actual criteria for it in the Diagnostic Statistical Manual 5, which records and categorizes mental disorders like depression, or anxiety.

Wednesday: I woke myself up at 6 am, I got ready and realized I had a whole 30 minutes left before leaving to school. Maybe waking up at 6:30 wasn’t so bad. I was thinking that I felt rushed because I didn’t know what the time was every 5 minutes. I always check the time on my phone when getting ready. It probably took me less time to get ready because my phone wouldn’t distract me. During my study hall, I was thinking of what was the point of having one in the first place. Students are plugged on their phones, almost everybody. One thing I realized is when adults have conversations with students, students don’t set their cell phones aside, they keep it their hands. Walking to my classes, students have a tendency to walk around with their earbuds in, like people want to avoid conversations. In government class, we were discussing the education system, specifically vouchers. I turned to my classmates and asked, “Should everyone have equal public education?”  We had a great conversation afterwards. We were talking about things that actually mattered and I got to know the political views of my classmates. I feel like paying attention in class and talking outside the classroom really created an interesting conversation. With phones in the way, I think great conversations are being kept from happening.

Thursday: I notice in study hall, everyone doesn’t sit next to each other, except close friends. Students are awkward. Notebooks and textbooks are out but on top of them is a small device that keeps work from being done. I had an emotional conversation with my previous U.S. history teacher. She mentioned my college plans and gave me some very heartwarming words that made me feel very gleeful.  It made me wonder whether or not we would have had that conversation if I had been distracted by my phone. How many heartfelt and meaningful conversations do we miss when we are looking down at our phones?  After finding out how my teacher felt about me, I truly felt happy and it’s terrible that we deprive ourselves of those experiences because we’re too busy tapping through a Snapchat feed.

My observations from Wednesday and Thursday really got me thinking about the damaging effects of cell phones and social media. It seems that more and more, people are isolating themselves, and Krivickas said that it’s a huge negative impact of having social media at our fingertips.  A majority of the time people put out the positive aspects of their lives, like posting pictures of parties and vacations. When we are home alone, scrolling through a newsfeed filled with fabulous examples of others’ lives, we may feel badly because we are getting an inaccurate representation of other people’s lives. Physiologically, that makes a person feel disconnected. Also, when you give a compliment to someone on social media it’s nothing compared to when you do it in person. Krivickas says, “You can’t see people’s facial reactions when saying something positive on social media, but in person, when you say, ‘Hey, I like your shoes,’ you see [the other person’s] reaction, that eye contact and that goes back to making you feel good.”

This is called reciprocal communication and it basically means that you feel good when you make others feel good. That’s not able to happen when posting a positive comment to someone on Twitter. There’s an even more negative side to lack of reciprocal communication too. When you can’t see someone else’s reactions, it makes it easier for people to say nasty things on social media. And the more we shy away from face-to-face conversations and reciprocal communication, the harder it is to do in everyday life, which would make sense as to why so many people are plugged in and completely disconnected from everyone around them while we’re at school.

Friday: The school day felt short, but the night felt long. I went out on a Walmart trip with my boyfriend, and had a parked car conversation about how my social experiment is almost over. He admitted that it didn’t affect our communication as much as he thought it would. I explained to him how I see people act at school and I honestly think there are students that go to school to stare at their phones for every 45-minute class period, even for P.E. And for a while, I was one of those guilty students. But after this experience, I can truly say I don’t want to be disconnected from life anymore.

Saturday: When the weekend came, I knew I had a lot of time on my hands without a phone to distract me. I made my parents coffee and had the idea to eat breakfast outside because it was a nice day. My mom brought her phone outside to play her music and she told me how some people need their phones to keep their day going, which made sense. If I had a job, I wouldn’t be able to go a whole week with this experiment. I would need to know my schedule, and I would have to have access to important emails. This week went pretty easily going without my phone, but what would I have done if something important happened and I had no way to stay in contact with people or look up information?

Sunday: Sunday funday with the family! I seriously love spending time with my family, and I was a little disappointed I didn’t get to Snapchat and share the fun things we did. We were at my aunt’s house eating caldo de camaron. My cousin told me my experiment reminded her of Thanksgiving when my dad and I took everyone’s phone away at the table and at first no one liked it, and everyone joked, “You expect us to talk to each other now?” Remembering the story, I realized my dad and I are not as different as I thought we are. As I was sitting at the dinner table, laughing and joking with my family, I noticed that not many of them had their phones out, compared to how me and my cousins would be. I hope the future generation can learn to put their phones away and the ability to stay in the moment enjoying each other won’t fade when I have a family of my own.

It turns out I’m not the only one with this concern. Simon Sinek, a motivational speaker and marketing consultant, who did an interview on a television show called Inside Quest, pointed out how addiction to technology is costing relationships. He feels very passionately that there should be age restriction on social media and cell phones. He said, “We have age restrictions on smoking, drinking, gambling and we have no restrictions on social media and cellphones…It’s like telling teenagers, if this adolescent gets you down, there’s the liquor cabinet.” Sinek’s comment makes sense. After all, social media is unlimited to teenagers, the very individuals who are most affected by cyberbullying. Sinek said the combination of high-stress adolescence and addictive technology is very dangerous. “People quite by accident discover alcohol to help them cope with the stress and anxieties of adolescence,” Sinek said, pointing out how many addictions are in fact, uncovered during adolescence. Cell phones’ effect on teenagers is much the same as alcohol. “For the rest of their lives, [alcoholics] will suffer from significant stress and they will not turn to a person, they turn to the bottle…[With cell phones], we’re allowing confederate accesses to these dopamine  devices and media, [and] basically it’s becoming hard wired. As they grow older, too many kids don’t know how to grow deep meaning relationships. They will admit many of their friendships are superficial. They don’t count on their friends, they don’t rely on their friends, but they do have fun with their friends…So when significant stress starts to show up on their lives, they don’t turn to a person, they turn to a device.”

The problem is, the use of social media for stress only offers temporary relief. Studies show that people who spend more time on Facebook suffer higher rates of depression than people who spend less time on Facebook. The problem is not cell phones, it’s the imbalance. For example if you’re having dinner with friends and you’re texting someone that’s not there or even in a meeting and your phone is resting on the table, that’s a problem. The fact that you can’t put it away is a sign of an addiction.

The week after

I was obviously excited to use my phone again, but that died off after 10 minutes. Going through my social media, I realized nothing had changed; it was like the same post no different from the week before putting away my phone. I got bored fast. It did feel nice walking around knowing I was able to be contacted, but other than feeling secured again, I feared getting distracted on my phone again. Comparing last week to this week, I tried to stay off my phone as much as I could, but I just felt the need to have it near me for every class.

That whole week experience without my phone made me realize things I didn’t know. I learned that not that much interaction happens because were glued to our phones. People want interesting conversation and someone to talk to but that’s not going to happen unless we pay attention to the real world. Everyone should know how much cell phones are letting them affect their credibility, their ability to get work done, and their communicating skills. I saw deeply how this generation is affected by cell phones and how we are limiting ourselves to do good things and even productive things.

As you’re reading the end of this article, just think about going disconnected one day. It may not be as cruel as you think it is. It can get better and it begins with balance—balance between you and your cell phone. If you simply can’t put it away, there’s a possibility of an addiction. I felt good knowing I was paying more attention to the outside than to people’s statuses and posts. In the end, I mostly learned that cell phones are not a problem, it’s the owner that creates the problem. Cell phones can give us quick information, social interaction, and entertainment, but they shouldn’t control our lives. I will definitely be using my phone less from now on.