Turning My Phone Off has Never Been so Difficult


(Photo Illustration by Rex Sakamoto/The Observer)


(Photo Illustration by Rex Sakamoto/The Observer)

Last weekend, my friend and I went out to brunch to celebrate her birthday. The place was quaint and naturally we wanted to take some pictures. Immediately we started posting them to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Throughout brunch we kept our phones on the table right next to our silverware. Whenever one of us received a notification, we would pick up our phones and reply back to the person who liked it or made a comment. Throughout brunch either I was talking to a person on their cell phone or she was talking to me while I was on my phone.

This caused me to realize that our generation has become so consumed by our social devices that we forget to relate with one another in the present. Instead of interacting with the person with us, we would rather talk to a person miles away. Unfortunately, this doesn’t just happen at brunch. It occurs during all parts of the day and has handicapped our generation’s lives.

We live in a fast-paced world where messages are sent in mere seconds, conversations occur in real time among two or three continents, and news is relayed as it happens at all times of the day and in all parts of the world. Personally, I have become accustomed to this constant feed of information and it almost seems necessary to have your phone with you at all times.

For instance, once I went grocery shopping and I left my phone at home by accident. Instead of returning home, I went to the store thinking I would be back shortly. When I returned home a half hour later, a whole conversation between my friends about dinner plans had occurred via group text. Unfortunately, I did not have my phone and they left without me since I had not responded.

Another time I was out with my friend and we saw Mila Kunis. Of course, we had to take a picture and post it on Instagram. The only problem was that I left my phone at home because it needed to charge. Big mistake! I missed out on over a hundred “Likes” and probably a few new followers.

On the other hand my phone has interfered with my day on various occasions. In class it is difficult for me to set my phone aside and give my whole attention to the professor. Especially if my phone vibrates, I absolutely have to check my phone. Even worse, if the lecture seems boring, I will play a game on my phone. This causes me to miss information in class.

At night I never turn off my phone because I am afraid someone might have an emergency and need to call me. This is never the case. If I receive a text late at night, it is usually from a West coast friend who forgot about the time difference or a friend asking about some piece of homework they didn’t do. This repeated late night texting results in a less than attentive student in the morning.

As an experiment I turned my phone off for one night to see if I could unplug. A few minutes later I wanted to turn it back on and see if I had missed anything, trying to convince myself that I had something urgent to respond to, even though I didn’t. Listening to the hum of dryers and washing machines below, I finally fell asleep by 11.

When I turned on my phone the next morning during breakfast, a few text messages and emails appeared. I responded and that was it. The world did not collapse while I slept, nor did anyone suffer because I didn’t respond to them immediately.

Although I did not like turning off my phone, I still did it. Our generation needs to develop a code of ethics for when it is and is not appropriate to use one’s electronic device. We have placed precedence on our virtual relationships and as a result we ignore what is happening before us. Instead of fixing our eyes on a millions of pixels, we need to re-learn to engage with the people around us.