Unplugged: The World Beyond Your Screens

by Molly Scott

I think I’m addicted to Buzzfeed.

Take a look around Barnard’s campus (or probably any college campus these days) and what you see is a student population completely absorbed in technology – computers, phones, and tablets abound! In many ways, the technology of 2014 is extremely helpful in learning and makes college life, and life in general, much more convenient than it otherwise would be. However, a rapidly growing concern is that these machines are taking over our daily lives and that we’re losing touch with the “real world” through our heavy use of technology.

In fact, the problem is gaining such attention that The Week recently published an article discussing something that researchers call Digital Attention Disorder, or “the addiction to social networks and computers in general.” The Huffington Post featured an article that used the word “nomophobia,” or the fear of being without a cellphone. The article also mentions that in a recent study, college students checked their phone an average of 60 times per day!

It’s important to keep in mind, however, that these articles are pointing out extremes. But I definitely see these trends in my own life and the lives of my friends and fellow peers. Therefore, it’s important to consider what impact technology and social media is having on our academic performance, our social life, and our own health. We can even consider ways to “unplug” in order to enhance all areas of our lives. Here are some ideas:

Wean yourself off constantly checking your email. A big problem with smartphones and tablets is that people can continually check their email to a point where it becomes unnecessary. Try to reduce the amount of times you check your email throughout the day. Realistically, you could check it two to three times a day. You could also limit yourself to only checking email on the computer, not on your smartphone.

Get rid of the social media apps on your phone (or only use the app once a day). You can limit yourself to checking your Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, etc. only on the computer.

Time yourself! If you timed how many minutes per day you spent using social media, you’d probably be shocked. Wean yourself by limiting social media time (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, etc.) to 30 minutes per day, then work your way down to 15 minutes per day. You’ll be amazed by the amount of time you’ll save.

You need help when you have to put your phone in prison.

Everyday Health has two really great ways to help us unplug:

Do a media detox. This is simply impossible to do during the academic year, so consider doing one over spring break. Take two or three days (or whatever you can manage) to go technology-free. This will help prove to yourself that you are not dependent on your computer or phone.

Do a nighttime cleanse. Before bed every night, take an hour where screens are not involved whatsoever. With this time you can do your readings (ones that are printed-out), create an outline for a paper, catch up with a friend, or simply relax. Studies have shown that looking at screens before bedtime messes with your sleep anyway, so this is a great way to unplug and get better sleep.

According to The Huffington Post, the benefit to trying these unplugging techniques is increased mindfulness, which can lead to reduced stress levels, lower symptoms of anxiety and depression, and improve the ability to focus.

You should also consider what you can do with all that time you’ve saved (aka – more hours in the day to be productive): complete academic readings and assignments, exercise, grocery shop, sleep, spend quality time with friends and family, and go outside to connect with the world!

 Molly Scott is a junior at Barnard and Senior Editor of The Nine Ways of Knowing.

Images courtesy of Internet Addiction Recovery and ubergizmo.

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2 thoughts on “Unplugged: The World Beyond Your Screens

  1. Digital Attention Disorder – about time someone give a name to people who spend their waking hours contemplating everything they see in their social media accounts. This disorder has made everyone think that everything that is happening on their feed has something to do with them or that they should follow suit. – Layce of coursework writing

  2. I think the nighttime cleanse is important in more ways than one. I have heard that some people can really have problems falling asleep if they don't take the time to cool down for a bit before going to be. Technology, building your own sites o share iwth fmaily and friends or for educational purposes, is fun but taking everything in moderation is better.

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