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Baby, put that phone down

There is a world out there beyond our phones


/ The Spectrum The Spectrum

I’m proud to be from the “tech generation.” The access to constant information, entertainment, resources... life has never been easier or more complicated.

And to think it hasn’t always been this way; a world once existed without Uber, streaming TV or Instagram. We are all involuntary actors immersed in the most rapidly changing, experimental segment of history to date.

It’s easy to get caught up in the more thrilling parts of this new dynamic; every day as technology evolves, the world changes just a little bit more and we don’t even know how or why yet. But it’s important to remember, like anything new, whether it be a business or a relationship, our generation’s marriage to technology needs frequent, purposeful self-correction.

What started as a hunt for a catchy song I heard on the radio, manifested into a series of mini self-realizations. I first heard the song “Phone Down” by Emily Warren while driving and I had to smile at the lyrics; thinking what a quintessential 21st century love-song it was; the speaker urging her significant other to “put his f**** phone down” so they could be alone.

Despite its catchy hook, the song made me uncomfortable for a reason I couldn’t quite identify. Later I realized it resonated with me because I represented Emily Warren’s dude and my neglected girlfriend was the world around me.

How many times had I laid in bed with my eyes glued to a screen while my boyfriend walked in the room and I didn’t even look up? In hindsight, it doesn’t really matter if I was watching a French bulldog eating an ice cream cone or reading up on what’s going on in Crimea, I was still ignoring a real person.

That’s the worst part about the Internet – it can feel like we’re being productive, which makes it easier to excuse how much time we devote to it. I wish this was an isolated experience, but the next day, in Wegmans, of all places, my cringe-worthy phone habits were again made apparent.

Standing in the self-checkout line, waiting impatiently for my card to process, I scrolled through Twitter. It never occurred to me, just because I technically could find a way to entertain myself through the mendacity of it all, didn’t make it necessary or appropriate. This stroke of wisdom came a moment later when the cashier broke me from my trance, prompting me to select credit or debit.

If uninterrupted, how long would I have stood there, contently waiting for my card to process, probably tweeting about how annoying chip readers are? Lmao get it together, Weggies.

All the while, my own stupidity was the reason my checkout wasn’t going smoother.

But it isn’t just me. Anytime I’m in public or experience any interim waiting period, everyone around me is looking down. I can’t count how many times someone’s almost ran into me walking to class because they were staring at their phone.

That’s not to say people haven’t always had ways of politely ignoring others in society – in many cases, phones have simply replaced newspapers.

But that in itself is problematic. Reading online simply isn’t as beneficial or as effective as reading in print. Studies have shown that our brains enter into a different, shallower mode of thinking when reading on a computer or phone screen. Researchers believe this phenomenon is a learned mechanism from all the skimming we do online casually.

The scary part is, this can have real ramifications. If we don’t use the “deep reading” part of our brains often enough, which activates when we become immersed in a document or a novel, these skills begin to erode.

Since my junior year of high school, I’ve read a total of three or four books that weren’t required by my classes.

I’m an English major. This horrifies me.

I make excuses to my mom or aunts when they giddily ask what I’ve been into reading lately, “Oh, you know how hard it is with school,” and they’ll smile and say, “Oh I hear ya kid, I remember those days.”

How heartbroken they will be to learn that it’s not the rigor of my studies keeping me from reading, but that I’ve wasted my limited free time scrolling through Paul Ryan/Papa Roach memes.

Still, I have hope for our changing world and myself. This isn’t a fatal flaw to the tech age; it’s just the kind of hiccup we have to work through when any major change occurs.

It seems appropriate to end with a few words the Internet has mistakenly attributed to F. Scott Fitzgerald, but are actually from screenwriter Eric Roth, “For what it’s worth, it’s never too late to be whoever you want to be. I hope you live a life you’re proud of, and if you find that you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start over.”

In the beginning of the summer, I started to read a book that actually was written by F. Scott Fitzgerald, “This Side of Paradise.” I don’t know why I stopped reading it; I most likely put it down one day to check Instagram and never picked it back up. Here I am months later, wondering despite myself, what happened to that self-involved little prick of a protagonist?

I look forward to hearing from Fitzgerald himself, the old-fashioned way.

Sarah Crowley is the senior features editor and can be reached at sarah.crowley@ubspectrum.com


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