Unplug the Monster in Your Hands


Ruby Batcheller

Technology can be both helpful and harmful, but its unhealthy effects can often go overlooked.

Mackenzie Torres, Staff Reporter

Three out of four teens in America own an iPhone.

This statistic was from a survey in 2017, and since then, technology dependence has only increased.

Physical stores have begun to phase out with an increase in online shopping, forcing a great number of Americans to lose their businesses. There has also been a decrease in outdoor recreational activity with more and more people finding enjoyment in virtual reality or video games. The fear of being away from your mobile phone even has a name now: nomophobia. The creation of this word can be attributed to one thing — an overbearing technology dependence.

It isn’t surprising that mental health is constantly being brought up as a serious issue when people are having anxiety episodes over losing a little magic box.

An astonishing 92% of teens report going online daily, and most can find their favorite social media app with their eyes closed. 

I can’t count the number of times I have opened my phone and immediately opened my favorite app without thinking. The action is no longer a conscious, intentional one. And what’s worse is that I know my way around my phone better than the names of streets in my neighborhood.

To say the least, we are way too comfortable with our phones and far too confident with our multitasking capabilities. Close to 11 teenagers die a day from texting and driving. If it doesn’t already, this should terrify you. It certainly worries teachers, as 87% consider technology a catalyst for a distracted generation. Considering almost 390,000 injuries occur a year from drivers texting, they aren’t wrong.

My parents could not wait to get their licenses in high school. Why? So they could see their friends at their own discretion, but now with phones, it’s unnecessary to leave your house to see someone. This isn’t to say that young people, myself included, don’t want face-to-face interaction, but it isn’t the only way to be social anymore.

Now more than a quarter of high school students graduate without a license. Technology caters to our every need, leaving nothing productive left to be done by us. We don’t have to leave our homes for food anymore — DoorDash and Grubhub cover that. And why go on a real bike ride when a Peloton machine is just in the next room? I’m not criticizing these companies; their ingenuity is genius and they should be proud of the industries they have created, but this cycle of lazy clicking and instant gratification perpetuates more damage.

The constant feed of information is majorly to blame, and companies understand the attachment young people have and use it to their benefit constantly. And while there are numerous instances where companies find information hidden in your search history and location, they also get substantial attention from email subscriptions and ads. 

But still, there can be hope found with those who understand the detrimental effects of  technology.

A professor from Sonoma State University incorporates technology fasts into her curriculum, and many of her students have reported better sleep and deeper conversations as positive side effects. This is because technology, especially phones, not only has a mental but a physical hold on us. Blue light — the specific wavelength of light that is emitted from screens —  stunts melatonin production, and social media reinforces our need for instant gratification. 

However, Professor Gomes is aware of the difficulty of breaking a habit cold turkey, so she suggests her students start out with a more regimented approach. Instead of ignoring their phones altogether, limiting time spent on certain apps proved to be more effective and far less challenging. 

This simpler strategy was the only way for her students to keep the fast instead of breaking it like a New Year’s resolution. In my experience, there is another way to keep technology out of the picture: eliminating all access and changing your environment. 

Now, I’m not suggesting you throw your phone out the next chance you get, but there is a huge benefit to having no service or access to the most addictive apps that use it.

Every year, my family goes on a trip to Cultus Lake in central Oregon, about an hour’s drive past Sunriver if you’re coming from Bend. There is a strip of road where I know to call my dad and tell him I love him because, after a certain point, I lose cell service. I’m not able to talk to anyone outside of the campground for nine days.

We spend weeks planning the trip, and every year I have to think of ways to keep myself occupied when we aren’t on the water wake surfing or on the beach hanging out. I usually have an hour or two in the cabin, where I sit on my half of the bunk bed that I share with my brother and read, write, or find some other activity to keep myself occupied. 

The first few days of the trip, I’m either bored or anxious. I no longer have the instant gratification that comes with Wi-Fi, so when I automatically try to open apps that require it, I’m left disappointed. 

However, the days when I feel the most hopeless are when I finally find calm. I eventually flow into a rhythm where my phone, and technology in general, is the farthest thing from important. Each day is centered around my family and our experiences together — reading, listening to music, and playing cards are my time-fillers when I’m not talking to someone. 

Our mornings start early, and our nights end late, but the minuscule amount of blue light I take in allows me to get some fantastic sleep. Generally speaking, the only homework I can do is my summer reading book, so that makes forgetting about school easy. 

The parallel between peace and concern I find when thinking about my experience at Cultus is very interesting to me. On one hand, I’m profoundly grateful for the reprieve from stress that comes with the disconnect. But on the other hand, I’m consistently surprised by my withdrawal-like symptoms every year. I shouldn’t be this reliant on something that holds no real need for my happiness. Yes, technology is needed for the majority of things in our school and work lives, but our personal lives shouldn’t be affected by it.

Nowadays, we view our physical world as only half of our lives, with the other half spent in the technological universe. And with dependence only increasing with every generation, who’s to say computer chips in our brains aren’t that far off? 

It isn’t the practicality of our devices that I’m putting into question, but how we use them as crutches. It’s important to ask if it is acceptable to allow our lives to be led down this cyber-dependant path. Or is it worth your time to have a few moments when you’re truly awake?