Keep your head up and put down your cellphone

By Rachel Walman

(Martin Ehrensvärd/ Flcikr)
(Martin Ehrensvärd/ Flcikr)

Let me just start out by saying this; I love my phone. I really do. I use Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter, and I’ve been a member of Facebook since eighth grade. But over the last year, I have also noticed a worrisome trend among people my age and younger. Phones, and especially the usage of social media on phones, have taken over the majority of our interactionism with other people and the world around us.

Just like everyone else, I do not want that empty bus seat next to me taken. But when it is, I am perfectly comfortable with popping in my headphones and not speaking to the stranger for the duration of the trip. At parties, as soon as I find myself on my own, I immediately pull out my phone to make sure it does not look like I’m aimless or awkward.

I do understand that through one’s phone, friends can be reached even when they are not physically present. No one wants, or likes, to draw attention to the fact that they are alone. Technology has become a great boon to human life on our planet, when used wisely and consciously.

The problem that I see stemming from the over-use of cellphones and social media is it detracts from all of the other equally engrossing things we could be doing instead. When you wake up on a Saturday morning, rather than spend two hours browsing through the 40-something Snapchat stories that have been posted the night before, or the never ending supply of trending hashtags on Instagram, why not go for a refreshing walk instead and appreciate the quiet of campus? Or why not head to the dining hall and stack up some pancakes, place your phone in your pocket and read a book for fun?

Ever since my younger sister got her own Instagram and Twitter accounts, she has spent our car rides silently scrolling, head down, her face lit up with the blue-white of the 5.44 by 2.64-inch cellphone screen. I try to engage in conversation with her, and she responds with absent-minded, one-word answers. I don’t blame her for this, because I know I’m guilty of doing the same thing. Rather, I’m saddened by the fact that our online lives have become more important than our real ones.

I do not condemn anyone who argues for the unique form of self-education that comes from social media; information is spread nowadays using hashtags and the “Live” or “Discover” categories of Snapchat, providing articles from companies such as Vox and National Geographic.

And let’s be honest, sometimes the outdoors is yucky, and you really, really just want to stay in bed this morning and look through #dessertstagram.

I only ask you to, occasionally, look up from your digital life. Take a walk through nature. Read a book. Go visit a museum. Spend car rides with your parents and siblings actually speaking with them. Embrace and be grateful for the technology we have, but don’t forget there’s life outside of your screen too.

Rachel Walman is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]