Try to answer the following questions as honestly as you can.
- How often do you type a text message, then edit what you want to say many more times until you write out the perfect phrase?
- When was the last time you ate a meal with a friend without checking your phone for the latest notification?
- How often have you broke bad news to someone by text or email because it was too hard to say it in person?
- When you get bored, how often do you pick up your phone and scroll through your newsfeed?
- Do you spend more time on social media than you would like to?
- Do you feel like you always need to be connected so you don’t miss out on an opportunity?
Our time in college is among the most formative times of our lives. We learn how to balance our own schedules, network, build lasting friendships, get a quality education and numerous other things that help us in our journeys into young adulthood. Our time in college is limited though. Most college students only get four years to best prepare themselves for their futures outside of school until they graduate. How do we want to spend the finite time we are given?
Modern technology has offered us a new set of tools to accomplish our goals and continue to spark innovation throughout the world. The internet, smartphones, and social media have allowed us to connect with like minded individuals across the state, country, and continent. They have helped spark ideas and innovation when two people could not collaborate in the same physical space. They have allowed us to use less paper, saving trees, and applications like Skype have decreased our travel costs for business meetings.
Modern technology is a tool. Humans have used tools to more efficiently finish tasks throughout our entire history as a species. But humans are supposed to use tools, not the other way around, right? What if some of our modern tools are actually using us? What if the internet, smartphones, and social media have transformed from tools we choose to use, to burdens that decrease our quality of life?
Research has shown that certain kinds of internet, smartphone, and social media use, if unchecked, have been linked to increased anxiety and depression, decreased GPA, and an overall decreased satisfaction of life in college students. Does that come as a big surprise? When we are out with friends, we spend more time on our phones than we do enjoying what we actually met up to do. Our relationships with others stay shallow because we rarely take the time to get to know someone before being interrupted by a notification. We constantly feel like other people are having a better time than we are because their Snapchat stories look so fun. When we study, we find it hard to sustain focus on the task at hand for more than a few minutes at a time. We get anxious when we don’t get a response to our texts within a few minutes of sending one. We stay up late in our beds to read tweets before we go to sleep for the night. And we start to draw conclusions about our self worth based on how many “likes” we get on our social media posts. We feel like we just can’t keep up with everything going on around us. Paradoxically, while we are trying to stay afloat of all things new in the digital world, we miss out on many of the opportunities and relationships our college years have to offer us. The way we use our technology leaves us feeling stressed, anxious, and constantly “busy”.
Like mentioned earlier, our time in college is limited. We have a finite amount of time to maximize our growth both academically and personally. Most of us aren’t majoring in computer science, so why do we spent up to a third of our day staring at a screen? Couldn’t we find a better way to use our time without the stress constant connection brings? To truly get the most out of the college experience, we think student’s current relationship with technology needs to change.
Tommies Unplugged thinks that together, we can improve the way college students use technology. We are not anti-technology. Rather, we work to highlight the distinction between technology use that is conducive to personal growth, health, and success, and technology use that is maladaptive. We strive to teach students how to use technology more mindfully; increasing productivity, individuality, communication, and other skills necessary for growth and creativity both during school and after graduation.