The screenage years: Why you should put the phone down

A.J. Newth, Associate Opinion Editor

Technology is amazing, whether it’s the ability to communicate with others or to complete difficult tasks, it has become the backbone of our generation and many to come. But at what point does technological adoration turn into addiction?

Walking through the campus of Quinnipiac University I notice many things. I enjoy views of the brick buildings, the large open quad, the backdrop of the Sleeping Giant and every student walking with their head down, staring at their phones.

I can’t be too hypocritical because I know I am guilty of the same problem. If I’m not with friends or classmates, I tend to gravitate towards my phone in almost every situation. Whether I’m making the eight-minute walk across campus, waiting in the Starbucks line or even picking up my mail.

When did it become so difficult for us to talk to one another?

People already spend an excessive amount of time on their phones, with a 2021 Statista survey finding that more than half the respondents spent five to six hours on their phones daily. That’s enough time to attend a full day of high school, catch a cross-country flight or walk a marathon.

Social media has made it increasingly difficult to put the screen down, as research shows that smartphone addiction is strongly related with compulsive buying behavior, instant gratification and a short attention span. Phone activity also contributes to the release of dopamine in our brains, making us feel aroused, motivated or happy. All feelings that are similar to those during survival needs like eating or having sex, which can make it a difficult bond to break.

We never realize what a detrimental effect our phones can have on us, especially as

young adults. Nancy DeAngelis, CRNP, director of behavioral health at Jefferson Health Abington breaks down this issue in the Journal of American Medical Association.

“The overuse of social media can actually rewire a young child or teen’s brain to constantly seek out immediate gratification, leading to obsessive compulsive and addictive behaviors,” DeAngelis said. “This is what can make mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression, ADHD and body dysmorphia worse.”

I constantly hear anecdotes from my parents and others from that generation who mention how simple life was before smartphones. Even just walking through a college campus, it’s a pretty difficult utopia to imagine. A world where people spoke to one another in lines, sat with strangers in the cafeteria and made new friends on walks to class seems very outlandish.

While social media is its own issue, it’s not the only problem surrounding phones. There are actually physical consequences that come from smartphone addiction. Besides excessive eye strain, headaches and disorientation, a newer result of extreme phone usage is a deformity in pinky fingers, per Business Insider. The term “smartphone pinky” refers to small dents caused from a cell phone resting on the little finger that’s used to hold the phone. While doctors don’t believe it’s permanent, it only further proves how obsessed we are with our devices.

I understand how lucky we are to live in a time where we have so much. We have access to knowledge, research and long-distance friends and relatives, all courtesy of technology. I’m not suggesting we quit smartphones altogether, because I truly believe that the way humans have adapted with phones, we would not be able to live without them.

I suggest we simply cut back on our phone usage. Find alternative uses for our time and methods to stimulate our brains in positive ways. How many college students read for fun and would choose that over a few hours of scrolling?

There are plenty of features built into today’s phones that can help cut back. Consider the Apple feature “Screen Time”. It tracks daily phone usage and breaks it down by category and specific app to help monitor areas of improvement. You can even opt to limit your usage by placing controls that will shut off access to specific apps at a certain time or certain amount of activity.

Quitting smartphone addiction is not an easy feat. Just like every addiction, the withdrawals are a very real part of the problem. In this case, symptoms of withdrawal could be restlessness, anger or irritability, difficulty concentrating, sleep problems or craving access to a phone or other device, per Help Guide.

While I’ve done my best to cut back on my personal usage, I’ve experienced the symptoms myself. When I put my phone down, I tended to gravitate towards Netflix to binge-watch a new season of my favorite show or my iPad to catch up on retired Pinterest boards. While detox and recovery may seem like heavy words for the subject, they’re very appropriate, and healing isn’t linear.

Next time I walk across the quad at Quinnipiac, I plan to do so with my phone in my pocket. I’m setting a goal to try to speak to at least two people while waiting in lines instead of looking down at my device. While I still need my music, I’m going to do my best to find new ways to occupy my mind that excite me more than the endless void of social media. I’m working on my unhealthy phone habits and I challenge you to do the same.