STAFF OPINION: A month without your phone

By Carlos Fuentes | November 11, 2019 3:46pm
Carlos Fuentes, reporter for The Beacon.
Media Credit: Annika Gordon / The Beacon

That’s it. I’ve had enough. I’ll say it: I’m tired of people being on their phones all the time. Not to sound like all of my older relatives, but there are few things more irritating to me than when I am trying to tell a friend something I find important, and they’re only half-listening to me while scrolling through their Instagram feed, with the occasional lookup, usually accompanied with an “uh-huh.” 

I understand that I might sound dramatic. But hear me out. 

According to a study performed by Baylor University in 2014, the average college student spends roughly nine hours on their phone every single day. Yes, you read that correctly. 

This means that it is completely normal to be on your phone 63 hours a week. Still don’t see the problem? This means that in four years of college, an average student can be expected to spend roughly 550 complete days on their phone. 

In 550 days, you could have a three-hour conversation with every single student at UP with time for water breaks in between. The average human has a walking speed of about 3 mph. In 550 days, you could walk the distance from Portland to New York City about 10 times — 10 times! You get the point. 

Five hundred and fifty complete days of being on your phone, spread out over four years. That’s a lot of time. Just writing this makes me want to throw my phone away. But I won’t. 

I’m a person, too. I’ve spent enough time on my phone to be on level 782 of Candy Crush, even if  I don’t like to admit it. But I have made it my goal to be on my phone as little as possible. Do you ever wonder what your day would look like without a phone? 

You’re forced to be fully present in the world around you. Terrifying, I know. 

Don’t get me wrong. I know how convenient and helpful phones can be, especially when it comes to checking emails, looking at homework, setting reminders and checking things like the weather. But if we’re being honest with ourselves, it’s the non-productive apps like social media that are taking up so much of our time, and I’ve fallen victim to this myself. 

I never really noticed any of this until my phone stopped working earlier this year and I was too stubborn to pay for a repair for about a month. When I wanted to get food with my friends, I had to actually go and find them. When I was with other people, I talked to them instead of mindlessly swiping through Snapchat stories. When I walked between classes, I observed the world around me and realized my phone had made me forget how entertaining the world can be when I wasn’t looking down at my screen. 

I realized that my phone had been preventing me from enjoying the world around me and the relationships I was taking for granted. 

I’m not suggesting we all go destroy our phones and talk about our feelings and live happily ever after. But have you thought about all the different things you could be doing with those hours that you are on your phone every day? 

Think of how many people you could meet; how many meaningful conversations you could have; how many hobbies you could pick up; how many books you could read; how many strangers you could help; how much time you could put into taking care of yourself.

I wonder how different society would be if we didn’t spend nine hours on our phones every day. 

How different would you be?

Carlos Fuentes is a reporter for The Beacon. He can be reached at