Rickman and Sari: No Phone Pheels

In 2021, it’s difficult to go a day without using your cell phone. However, a cell phone break is a great refresh for both your brain and your body.  

Think about all the days you have had your phone and do the math. Every notification, tweet, text, scroll. Chances are you have spent a solid chunk of your life looking into your phone screen.  

Spending too much time on your cell phone is not a healthy habit. We may need to remain connected to our phones in order to participate in social interactions through social media. 

However, is that the best option for you? Does this type of habit have any positive impacts on our lives as a whole? We reached out to some of our fellow students here at Oregon State to see what their daily phone usage was like, and to get their thoughts on the matter.

Paige Bowler, a third-year student studying speech communication with an applied journalism minor said that she spends approximately 4 hours a day on her phone. Since starting college, she has taken a step back from social media. 

“Sometimes I spend days and weeks away from social media and then other days I check it once a day,” Bowler said. “In high school, I was definitely an active user but since starting college, I am rarely checking all the websites.” 

“I’m definitely on my phone more than I’d like to admit,” said Mckenzie Palmer, a first-year forestry and natural resources student. “I would guess that I spend about 30 hours a week on my phone, mostly when I’m in bed right before I go to sleep or right when I wake up.”   

Jennifer Coffman, a first-year English student, spends up to 11 hours a day on her phone. When asked about what makes her check her phone so frequently, it was apparent that it was out of necessity.

“A lot of my friends are in unsafe situations, and I want to ensure that I’m available to help them when something pops up,” Coffman said. “I also use music as a way to de-stress, I think that the constant stream of music from my phone encourages me to use it frequently.”

That’s the tricky part. Our phones have become an all-in-one tool that we rely upon for communication, information and entertainment. It is important to stay connected and to look out for friends and family, and a lot of the time phones are necessary for that. 

But where do we draw the line? When phone usage starts to drift from necessary communication to prolonged and habitual scrolling through the latest internet fads, it can become a dangerous drain on our attention and time.

After all, time is money and what we put our attention on is what makes time valuable. That value is either put back into your own life by learning, spending time with people you care about and doing things that you love to do, or it is passed on to the highest bidder. Zeynep Tufecky, an associate professor of UNC School of Information and Library Science had some interesting thoughts about this in her TED Radio Hour: Attention Please

“Everybody has 24 hours in the day. You sleep some, you work some, and what time you have free is one of the most important things you have,” Tufecky said. “Getting your attention and putting it in front of you can change your opinions. It changes what you prioritize. It affects politics. It affects your social interactions. 

“I think that in an age where you have too much information, the crucial resource is that which information consumes, which is attention. Your attention is being battled over and being packaged and sold.”   

Not only do phones have a monopoly on our attention, but they often impede other aspects of our lives as well. Schoolwork is something that we all have to do, but don’t always love to do. When students get tired of working on assignments, we often turn to phones for a distraction.  

“I am easily distracted by my phone, and end up spending way too long scrolling through social media instead of doing work,” Palmer said. “It’s especially difficult when I’m working on a class that I’m not very interested in. It’s very easy to just use my phone instead because it’s more interesting.”

Bowler said that a cell phone pushes her to procrastinate about two to three times a day. “When it comes to homework, it’s really hard to get motivated but I always manage to push myself.” 

People’s frequent use of their phones has been attributed to social media. Since there are many different forms of social media that have effectively attracted peoples’ attention during the day, most people find a cell phone to be their ideal company to fulfill their lives. 

“The only important social media app on my phone, related to maintaining relationships, is Snapchat. Again, this is how my friends reach out to me if something bad is happening, so I feel that it’s important to check it,” Coffman said. “Other than that, I don’t care that much about checking other social media apps.” 

“Honestly, it’s not a necessary part of my day but I still make it part of my routine,” Palmer said. “I have been thinking about that recently. I don’t really benefit from checking social media, and it even makes me feel worse most of the time. But I still do it, and rarely go long periods of time without checking social media.” 

“Do you ever go on YouTube meaning to watch one video and an hour later you’ve watched 27? You know how YouTube has this column on the right that says up next, and it autoplays something? It’s an algorithm picking what it thinks that you might be interested in and maybe not find on your own. It’s not a human editor,” Tufecky said. 

Are phones really all that bad? Would we be better off without them? We thought it would be a fun experiment to see what it would be like to spend a whole day without a phone. To see how much of an actual difference it would make a BD contributor, Colin Rickman, locked up his phone for 24 hours. No social media, no notifications, no distractions.   

Colin Rickman, Beaver’s Digest Contributor

To put it simply, it didn’t make that much of a difference. I went through my normal daily routine just as I normally would, just without a phone in my pocket. I got up, went to class, did my homework, saw my friends, and went to sleep. It was very anti-climatic honestly. 

I did feel a lot more focused, more in the moment than usual. I wasn’t constantly being taken out of my environment and putting my mind on other unimportant things. When I was with my friends I was actually with them the whole time. I didn’t systematically get lost in my phone every now and then, which is sadly all too common for me. 

I also felt like I was more productive. I finished the normal homework load I have quicker than usual. I got distracted just as often but I didn’t have the same outlet to further those distractions. I just stared blankly at the wall for a few seconds then got back to work rather than spending five minutes on my phone. 

It wasn’t a revolutionary life-changing experience, but it did help me realize that phones are tools, and they should be treated as such. They are important for communication and knowledge but not as important for entertainment. 

A cell phone has many advantages that can help us with various tasks in our lives, and we all use a cell phone to communicate. As long as we are mindful of the detrimental effects they have it can be a powerful tool rather than a hindrance. 

Final Thoughts

How is that done? There must be a middle ground where we can enjoy all the benefits of cellphones while not being bogged down by the negative aspects they have. We think the most important part is knowing when to separate yourself from it. It will be alright, it won’t run away from you. We asked our fellow students what they do to be more productive when they have spent too much time on their phones. 

Bowler said that a strategy she has taken to be more productive when she spends too much time on her phone during the day is getting rid of it and putting it down. “Even though I hate it, my cell phone dying is secretly a blessing. I manage to bust out content twice as fast.”

“If I’ve spent too much time on my phone, I try to take a short walk outside to recalibrate my brain and refocus myself,” Palmer said. “I also try to keep my phone out of sight, either in a drawer or just under my jacket or something. I also put it on silent or do not disturb sometimes so I won’t get distracted by notifications.” 

“I plan out how much stuff I ignored and look at how to get it all done,” Coffman said. “When enacting this plan, I put my phone face down on the other side of the room in order to not get distracted by various notifications.” 

Everyone will have a different strategy that will work for them, but simply putting distance between yourself and your phone is a good place to start. Start seeing your phone as a tool rather than something to get lost in.