“Your screen time is up 15% from last week, averaging 4 hours and 25 minutes per day, or 31 hours total for the week.” Guilt washed over me as this notification popped up on the screen of my iPhone Sunday morning. The past week had been packed with tests, papers, and presentations, so it seemed like I had barely been looking at my phone. However, the harsh reality set in when those numbers appeared in my notifications. I thought about what those 31 hours could have been filled with otherwise: going to the gym, studying, or talking to friends, instead of always glancing down at my phone screen. I could have gotten 31 more hours of sleep that week, I thought, as I remembered how I had struggled to power through each groggy morning.
The first week of school, one of my professors suggested a prompt for an extra credit assignment. She challenged us to turn off all screens for the short four day span of Thanksgiving break and see how it would affect our lives. Would we be lost without a phone to turn to in our times of boredom? How would we spend our time instead? How would our lives be changed by choosing to eliminate phones from our daily routines?
As those stats appeared on my phone, I remembered my professor’s suggestion and began pondering the idea. It is eye-opening to see the time breakdown of how often you look at your phone in a single week. These small devices have become our constant companions throughout the day. We wouldn’t think to go to class without bringing them along, and most students can’t even last the whole class period without checking to see if any notifications have lit up their phone screens.
There is a dopamine trigger in our brains that makes us want to check those screens, similar to the early stages of addiction. While addiction may seem an extreme word, the reality is that most of us couldn’t imagine going through the day without checking our phone at all. We would feel that we are missing out, that we didn’t know what was going on, that we couldn’t document things that occurred throughout the day, that we couldn’t connect to others, or perhaps that we wouldn’t even know how to fill those now unused hours. In turning off our phones, we may also recognize the unconscious stress of constant connectedness. There comes a certain pressure to be available at all times, to always be seeking out the ideal photo opportunities, or to post Snapchat stories proving we’re having the best time. Would you live your days differently if these things didn’t even cross your mind?
So, as you step into the brightly lit atrium of the newly renovated New Orleans airport and luxuriate in the new food options, consider sending off one last Snapchat to your friends of your Emeril’s Table meal or Chick-fil-a fries. Turn your music on, scroll through Instagram one last time, but once you hop on your flight and reach your destination, consider setting your phone down, and settling in for a few days simply spent with family and friends. As we head into Thanksgiving break, I am thinking how nice it might be to take a genuine break and be screen-free for a few days. I can see all that I can do with those 31 hours, including spending time with the people that I am most thankful for.
Cover Photo: Rachel Wine