Two people sit using their laptops.

The bell rings, what’s the first thing you do? You reach down and pull your phone out of your bag. Maybe you didn’t notice, but the other twenty students around you did the exact same thing. The addiction is seen throughout the halls, the streets, even at a dinner table surrounded by a group of friends. Everyone’s head is down and their shoulders are curved, their eyes missing out on what’s directly in front of them. We have become slaves to our devices, to the beeps and dings that it emits, to the never ending flow of messages and posts. I know this is true because like you, I am a victim. We can keep avoiding the issue or we can own up to, making the choice to at least be aware of the issue. It’s become a natural instinct, a compulsive habit, and is proof that our society is dependent on the little screen in front of us. We are plugged into a world that isn’t ours, but one we unintentionally created.

Our generation is in a unique place when it comes to technology. While we weren’t the masterminds behind its creation, we are the one’s who use such technology more than any other demographic group. In a study done by the Pew Research Center it was learned that 85% of young adults used their phones to go online, which is a over 10% higher than any other group. Not only that, but a CNN report concluded that many teens spend up to nine hours a day on social media. We may not realize it, but those few minutes we spend on our phones really do add up quickly. We have developed a crippling fear of boredom and unused time, needing a constant distraction from our own lives. We think that if we don’t answer right away that we are doing something wrong. Here’s the thing, what are we accomplishing by spending hours attached to our devices? Sure, to some extent we have escaped boredom, but we have also escaped productivity. It’s something that happens to all of us, we go to click on one thing and then end up mindlessly scrolling for far too long.

Unlike younger generations, this wasn’t what it was always like. We may as well be the last group who created our own worlds in our backyards, rather than on our screens. While we had an imagination, they now have an iPad. For them, not only will they grow up without knowing a world beyond their screen, but they will miss out on even more than we have. I’m not saying that children don’t ever play pretend any more, but next time you are at a restaurant take a look around. I’d be surprised if you can’t find at least a handful of kids playing on some kind of device. This is a sad new reality and I adamantly believe that as teenagers and role models we have a responsibility to change it. I don’t want young kids to constantly see us on our phones instead of speaking and to be given the message that it is okay and normal, since it’s not.

There certainly are many benefits to technology, as it has created instant access to a whole new world of information. Information, not communication, is what it should be used for. While it is great that we can now speak to people hundreds of miles away, it has diminished our ability to speak face to face, especially when there is something tough to say. Calls are virtually a thing of the past, as many find them awkward. Why not send a text? After all, you don’t have to respond right away nor see the other person’s reaction. Calls take away the ability to see and texts take away the ability to see and hear. Texting people we could easily talk with deprives us of using the human emotions we have been given. Our screens have become our greatest defense mechanism to uncomfortable situations. Don’t have something to say? Look down at your screen. See someone you want to avoid? Look down at your screen. Don’t have anything else to do? Look down at your screen. Don’t lie to yourself, we are all guilty of this.

We have a constant stream of photos, information, and texts being thrown at us every second. This pace reflects what our daily lives have become: rushed. We are always looking for what’s next or what we are missing, rather than what we have. We hardly give ourselves a moment to reflect and learn, to adapt and grow. I wish we could see how many seconds we each have wasted behind a screen. I have a feeling we would all be sick to our stomach, asking ourselves how such a number is even possible. Each moment we spend staring at a screen is another moment we won’t ever get back. At the end of your life, you aren't going to look back and wish you spent more time scrolling through photos. You are going to wish you got the chance to say what you left unsaid, face to face. There are feelings you simply can't get from a text and those are the moments you aren't going to want to miss.

Sometimes I feel like our phone chargers are the IV fluids we need to stay alive. The facts and the science all point to reasons why we should cut back on our phone usage, but that’s not even what I care about. I care about the moral reasons why we should and the sickening reality of what ‘normal’ has become. Next time the bell rings I’m going to resist the urge. We somehow have to rewire our brains to not reach down and check Instagram, Facebook, or Snapchat. It’s not going to be easy, but it’s imperative that we do so. We somehow have to get used to having a hard conversation face to face, to not be afraid of silence, and to not dread an unfilled moment. It’s only when we can achieve this will we be fully able to immerse ourselves in the real world and be able to understand each other and ourselves. So go on, unplug yourself, and let’s see what happens.

United States of America