Once upon a time, students passed carefully folded notes in class and slid love letters under dorm room doors. Today, they are more likely to send text messages. This is a precursor to how technology is having a narcotic-like effect on the world’s population today. We have become so afraid of being disconnected and plunged into a world of silence and stillness that even if scientists told us our computers would make our fingers fall off, we’d keep typing. Look around campus as you are walking to class and you’ll see what I mean. In groups of strangers (for example, waiting in line at Starbucks), rather than taking the time to socially interact with new people, you will find peoples’ eyes glued to their phones. When did social interaction become a jarring and rare occurrence among strangers?
Although cellular phones and personal digital assistants were created to make modern life more convenient, they are beginning to interfere in the lives of users who don’t know when to turn them off. How people respond to being separated from their cell phones is the biggest clue of this effect. People who use their phones on a regular basis often become anxious when they are forced to turn off their phone or if they forget it at home, so much so that they can’t enjoy whatever they’re doing. Cell phone addicts compulsively check their phones for text messages. As with traditional addictions, excessive cell phone use is associated with certain patterns of behavior, including using something to feel good, needing more of it over time to get the same feeling, and going through withdrawal if deprived of it. This is not even taking into account the negative effects of cell phone usage; technology dedication is linked as a destructive behavior, reduced cognitive ability, increased anxiety, classroom distraction, and depletion of social interaction.
So what does this mean for college students? Many of us grew up with cell phones. I personally received my first cell phone (if you count a Tracfone with the snake game and a certain amount of spendable minutes as a phone) in middle school to call my parents for rides after school. Though I only used it for those purposes, I have had a phone ever since. I can attest to the fact that I listen to music via my phone on my way to class, and I use mobile applications and texting to communicate with people that I need to get in touch with. However, I also fear the day that I will need to put a “cell phone bucket” in my future third grade classroom. My advice is this: put the cell phone away for an hour or so. Realize how much you depend on it, and then like any other addiction, gradually begin to use it less and less. Simply monitoring your cell phone use and reflecting upon it critically forces you to look up and see the beauty of the world around you instead of the screen in your hands. Slavery to technology will ultimately lead to us becoming emotionless robots ourselves.