Please, let's put down our phones

We have all been there: you’re sitting at the dinner table, scrolling through your Instagram feed, ignoring the conversations floating around you. You get yelled at for not paying enough attention to those around you, so you put your phone away, only to check it two minutes later. It is a vicious cycle many of us have fallen victim to; it is also a cycle that we witness among our friends, family, and sometimes even our teachers.

No matter what end of the spectrum you are on--whether you are glued to your phone every second of the day or one of the lucky few to be a minimal-phone user--it is safe to say that we are all (hopefully) aware of the social phenomena that cell phones and social media have caused--reduced face-to-face communication and less meaningful relationships.

This issue of “phubbing”--a recently coined term referring to when a person interrupts a conversation to check his or her phone--is so ubiquitous that it has almost become second nature for most of us to often check the time on our phones without even actually looking at the time. Most of us may not realize it, but on average, we’re spending more than four hours every day glued to our little four-inch screens. What does this translate to? Well, several startling trends actually.

For one, we’re losing the authenticity that comes with face-to-face conversations. Research has shown that the mere presence of a cell phone during a conversation can reduce the quality of an interaction and make us feel less connected. Perhaps this could be because the phone is the gateway to other social interactions, and its presence only diverts our attention from who or what is right in front of us.

“There was a situation where all my friends were together and instead of socializing with each other and with the other adults, they were using their phones nonstop,” junior Rachel Battersby said.

With interactions like these becoming more commonplace, it’s no wonder that we’ve lost some of man’s most basic skills, including conversation and empathy.

See, the phone itself is not a bad thing; it’s the intent of our phone use that socially derails us. The art of conversation is becoming more and more rare today because of our preference to text or chat online. In doing this, we’ve lost what it feels like to talk spontaneously with others, to be vulnerable, and really, to expand our social horizons.

Excessive phone use is also the forerunner of another trend, one that captures the very essence of just how disruptive phone use can be. According to a recent study by the Pew Research Center, 89 percent of cellphone owners admitted to having used their phones during the last social event they attended. Of these people, 82 percent admitted to having felt guilty for their phone use.

Researchers haven’t endowed this trend with a name just yet, but this notion of being knowingly unsocial is testament to phones’ ability to  “zombify” their owners.

“People need to spend less time on their phones and more time interacting with other students. That’s the point of school,” senior Greg Pantazis said. “When I use my phone during lunch I often feel guilty for missing out on the conversations around me.”

So how exactly do we keep our phones from controlling us? Well, the answer lies within our will power. Phone control is really a matter of cognizance; we need to remain aware of our use and know that it’s okay for phones to supplement our interactions, not dominate them. Imagine the possibilities if we just look up.

Fortunately, this issue of phone overuse isn’t quite as bad here at BHS as one might think. Although the issue does exist, it doesn’t zombify students to the same degree as it typically does in public places.

“I don’t believe [phone overuse] is an issue at this school,” Dean of Students Fred Wolfgramm said. “That’s what I love about our school. We’re social.”

Posted on February 3, 2016 .