Students unplug for 48-hour phone fast

To start off the new year, students turned off their phones in hopes of reducing their screen time. Sophia Shin/Photo Editor
 Last week, I along with 35 students participated in the 48-hour phone fast organized by Tobias Muellers ’18, who thought of the idea, and Andrew Bloniarz ’18.

“I helped out however I could because I thought the idea was a great one!” Bloniarz said. “We had talked about it over Thanksgiving break and spent the first weeks of Winter Study planning it all out.”

As soon as I turned off my phone at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, I felt freed somehow. Freed from getting alerts every five minutes. Freed from having to constantly check the time. Normally, I am always planning or keeping track of things on my phone, but only when I stopped doing so did I start fully living in the present. Only when I stopped taking photos did I start appreciating – really appreciating – the tree branches decorated by the pure, pure snow. Only when I stopped walking with my headphones on did I notice the sounds of the wind blowing, my footsteps and other people’s footsteps.

I first became aware of my phone addiction through a TED talk by Manoush Zomorodi called, “How boredom can lead to your most brilliant ideas.” She talked about how we struggle to  fill the gaps in our daily life with phone time. When we are waiting for our bagels and coffee at Doddrich, we are checking our emails. The first thing we do after a 50-minute long class is pull out our phones and make lunch plans with friends.

According to comScore’s 2017 Cross Platform Future in Focus report, the average American adult spends two hours and 51 minutes on their smartphone every day. That’s about 86 hours a month!

Zomorodi also discussed the role phones have in killing our creativity. “It turns out that when you get bored, you ignite a network in your brain called the ‘default mode,’” Zomorodi said. “In this default mode is when we connect disparate ideas, we solve some of our most nagging problems.”

With this in mind, the next time you are stuck on a paper or a problem set, try taking a break from your phone. Put it on airplane mode, take a walk or make yourself a cup of tea. Let your brain make those neuron connections on its own, and take time to appreciate the beautiful surroundings.

The 48-hour phone fast made me reflect on why I use my phone. Yes, I spend time on Google Calendar, my email, my fitness tracker and other productivity and health apps. The majority of the time, however, I am on social media, texting friends or checking how many likes I received. Do phones really help us foster our close relationships or a sense of community? The answer is … not necessarily.

“This phone fast helped me realize how social media was making me far unhappier than I had thought, and I’m very appreciative of the perspective this event gave me,” Bloniarz said.

At the pre-fast debrief on Wednesday night, one student made a great point that having a record of the text messages exchanged, memes tagged or Snapchat streaks maintained is not an accurate indication of the depth and state of a relationship. If anything, it tends to create the illusion of a close, healthy relationship.

Over the course of the phone fast, I was able to reclaim the spaciousness that the screen had been taking away from me previously. I have turned my phone back on, but I urge us all to take time to away from our screens, to be more mindful and intentional with our usage instead of allowing the tiny screen to block our view of the world.

For Bloniarz, the next step is to reduce his screen time even more. “Taking a break from social media was so good for me,” Bloniarz said. “I know I certainly relied on my laptop a bit while not using my phone, and I’d be excited to see how the experience would differ without any screens at all.”

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