Put your damn phone away and talk to the person next to you

Ryan Moore, Co-Editor-in-Chief

Think back to high school. For some of you, that might just be a few short months ago, for others, like me, you may have to dig deep into the recesses of your mind to a time when your back didn’t hurt, your hip didn’t pop every time you get out of a chair and you didn’t rely on at least a full french press of coffee to keep you alive every morning. Think back to the times in high school where your teacher finished the daily lesson and uttered the words you were always hoping to hear, “okay, we’re done for the day; the last five minutes of class are yours.”

What followed was social maintenance galore. This was your opportunity to chat with your friends about the weekend activities, brown nose the teacher or attempt to have a conversation with your crush. Of course, this is one of the primary functions of school as an institution. In addition to educating the youth, school is an essential part of socializing young people as it is one of the first institutions outside the family many children find themselves in.

Now, I am back in a high school but this time it is as a student teacher. I am getting to see high school from a totally different perspective. Some things are exactly as I remembered, yet there are aspects that are totally different. Now, I am the one who gets to say, “okay, we’re done for the day; the last five minutes of class are yours.”

What I was expecting when I said this was the chatter that I had fond memories of. However, the room of eleventh graders went dead silent­—like, test taking silent. And what is the cause of this silence? The thing that you likely have on your person or in your hand right now: cell phones. Every student in my class bent their heads to use their phone; two-thirds of the class put headphones in; and a few relocated to tether themselves to an outlet. I would contest that cell phone addiction is a very present part of our reality, and many of my students suffer from it.

However, this is not to say that this is a problem that only exists in younger generations. I’m sure you could enter any class at Augsburg in the few minutes before the professor calls the class to order and see cell phone usage rivaling that which I’ve come to see every day. There have been arguments to make nomophobia—fear of not having one’s cell phone—has been a proposed addition to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. A distracted driving bill is likely to make its way on the floor of the state legislature within the next two months.

Cell phones, and more specifically smartphones, have completely altered the way we live our lives. In more ways than one this technology has opened us up to a world of benefits. As they say, the world has gotten smaller. It is now possible to stay in contact with friends abroad, interview with international companies and even Tweet from the toilet. Truly, this revolutionary piece of tech has become an integral part of day to day life.

We musn’t let ourselves forget the danger, however. A quick internet search will yield findings of excessive cell phone use being detrimental to things like our mental health and our sleep. We also must acknowledge the negative effects being glued to our cell phones can have on our social health and the stress they can cause. While it may seem like you need to respond to that Snapchat, check that social media feed or send a text, you don’t. You are allowed to prioritize the people around you and make connections.

Now, as an “adult” in the classroom, I am never on my phone; it lives in my jacket pocket for the entire work day. It has made a world of difference to the way I think about something that was once such a big part of my day.

This article was originally published in the Feb. 22, 2019 issue.