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May 23, 2015

Unplugging from our phones, reconnecting with ourselves

by Ellie Struewing, Online Features Editor
Digital technology can do just about anything: it entertains us, it allows us to constantly communicate and it gives us instant access to the vast amount of information on the Internet. It is a pathway for procrastination and a blocker of boredom. But it's also a distraction from life itself. When kids spend all of their time on digital devices, it can keep them from learning basic social skills like how to hold an extended face-to-face conversation. We plug in the headphones, turn up the music, and turn down the world around us. The overuse of technology creates an exhausting cycle that leads many people to check their phone immediately upon waking up and take one last look right before going to sleep at night.

So what happens when that is all taken away?

The idea of "unplugging", or the purposeful elimination of digital technology like phones, computers and iPods for a specific amount of time, wouldn't have been necessary 10 years ago. However, as we become more accustomed to having the power of the Internet in our pockets, unplugging is getting harder and harder to do. What’s worse, many people never even try. While it is doubtful that society can move towards a less technology reliant and more balanced lifestyle, more individuals should try temporarily unplugging to get a better perspective on just how big a role these kinds of devices play in day-to-day life.

Everybody has heard the statistics (teenagers spend an average of 7.5 hours a day consuming digital media) and seen the effects at school (let's not forget about the Chromebooks). A quick walk down Blair Boulevard during lunchtime shows how many kids are more interested in what's going on in the digital world than what's happening around them. Large amounts of technology use can natural sleep patterns and lead toweight gain, among many other things. In addition, China has seen a jump in internet addiction camps designed to help kids who are addicted to technology.
Teenagers today spend an average of 7.5 hours consuming media every day. How does that compare to your digital usage? Donald De Alwis
Teenagers today spend an average of 7.5 hours consuming media every day. How does that compare to your digital usage?

While the effect of technology is pretty obvious on a large scale, it's also important to observe it on an individual scale, and unplugging is crucial in order to gain that perspective.

The first effects are small and easy to note. Instead of listening to music on the bus ride to school, you are forced to entertain yourself, whether it is by talking to someone or simply looking out the window and thinking. In addition, you must find the person that you wanted to ask about the homework rather than text them, and describe what you did over the weekend rather than showing pictures on your phone. You spend more time talking to your friends and less time checking Twitter and Instagram. After a while, you start to notice bigger things. Your overall mood may be improving. You might be getting better and longer sleep. You may even try new things, like picking up an instrument that you haven't played for years or simply taking walks to help clear your mind. Unplugging allows us to think about things that have been pushed to the back of our minds by eliminating a major source of distraction. It forces us to be aware of ourselves, our actions and everything that is going on around us.

Now, for many students, completely unplugging is essentially impossible. After all, we need to look at the Promethean board in order to take notes and do well in a class, and more and more homework assignments require the use of a computer or the Internet. In addition, many students have jobs that are impossible to do without digital technology. However, people can still have a meaningful unplugging experience without eliminating all technology. It's things like social media, TV and iPods--those things that are totally unnecessary yet we can't seem to live without--that should be turned off when unplugging.

Unplugging not only allows us to connect back with ourselves, but it also shows us how life could be if we made an effort to be more present rather than focusing so much time and energy on what's going on in our digital lives. So try it. Turn off your phone for a few days and see what happens when your eyes move from the screen to the sky.



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  • oh no technology is so scary on May 26, 2015 at 10:36 AM
    It's not like people will suddenly begin socializing happily and thinking deeply about the world around them if they "unplug." There are plenty of other sources of distraction - books, newspapers, fiddling with a hangnail... People 10 years ago were not more enlightened or aware. People who want distractions will always find them.
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