By: Melanie Gunderson ’19
The phrase “Get off your phone” can lead to one of two reactions: anger or sheepish guilt. But neither of these reactions results in an immediate change. This is because, whether we admit it or not, screen time is addictive, and like anything addictive, it must be used in moderation.
This is hardly a new subject. Pediatricians have called for pushing screen time limitations to children as old as 2-years-old. It has been proven that more television causes developmental delays in children. But this isn’t just an issue for kids, but also adults. More recent studies have begun to explore the issue of smartphone addiction and the subsequent feelings of anxiety and loneliness that may come as a result. And though denial can taste oh so sweet, the bitterness of anxiety and loneliness will soon overpower even the sweetest eye roll.
Recently, I went on a screen time diet and cut the sugary denial out of my diet. I installed the Google Chrome extension StayFocusd and the mobile app Forest to stay accountable. I noticed the changes immediately. My hectic schedule suddenly became calm as I reallocated my time to my hobbies instead of my Instagram feed, and when I shared the good news with a friend, she was anything but excited. Her general reaction was like most. It went something along the lines of “but how will you stay in the know?” And my answer was fairly simple: I won’t give up screen time completely, but instead I will try to strike a healthy balance between the two worlds.
The truth of the matter is that a large majority of our society and popular culture events take place on the Internet. Inside the world of a smartphone lies an important business email, a video call, or website update. Business and professional needs have adapted to the fast-paced digital world, and so society must follow suit if they want to keep up. To say that the interactions that take place online don’t matter would be naïve. That being said, letting sweet screen time dominate above our savory, in-person connections could have averse consequences.
There is still more research to be done to determine what excessive screen time is doing to us beyond anxiety, loneliness, and erratic sleep patterns. But one thing that I’ve noticed from my personal experience with a screen time diet is clear: I have been able to forge much healthier, concrete relationships. Time is money, and without feeling obligated to spend it sucked into a pocket world, I have been able to spend more time taking care of myself and caring for those close to me. My case is by no means universal or empirically proven, but it could be the bitter cure to a screen time affliction.