Don't Let Your Phone Control Your Life
When I was 11 years old, I got my first phone. It was a seemingly magical connection to my friends, my faraway family, and the mysterious world around me. Everything a girl could ever want was right at my fingertips. I could take pictures, text friends, research anything my heart desired, and any problem that ailed me could probably be fixed by downloading a new app, or finding the right video. I, Alexa Nicole Magstadt, was practically an adult.
Before I got my phone, I spent my afternoons playing in my backyard imagining I was some sort of highly trained spy. The world was a blank canvas, and my potential was only limited by my ever-wandering imagination. But after my transition to phone-loving adulthood, I left all that behind.
I no longer spent days in the sun, evading “bad guys” who shared the names of my more aggravating classmates. I was too busy gazing at the millions of emoticons in my texting repertoire. Over time, my phone usage progressed. I became more and more connected with the world inside my pocket computer, and less and less with the world actually around me. My thoughts became filled with hashtags, Snap streaks, and silly YouTube challenges. Collecting abnormally shaped rocks in my backyard would have to wait.
But this never struck me as a problem. Everyone is on their phones, all the time. When I walk out my school doors every day, I'm surrounded by people mesmerized by their screens. Cars drive by, filled with parents making a fleeting attempt to talk to their child, while the student is staring into their lap mumbling one word answers. School busses are packed with kids completely engulfed in the land of Instagram. Planes fly overhead, bubbling with people too consumed in a text message to watch the wonderful world below.
So what's the problem with that? It's just how we live now, right? What are we supposed to do, throw away our devices and disconnect from the amazing new world that's been handed to us? It’s what I thought...until something happened last week that gave me a new perspective. I had forgotten my phone at a friend’s house and had to go without it until the next morning when I could get it back at school. I was thoroughly convinced that I'd be just fine.
But I was so very wrong. My parents were both at work and I came home to an empty house and a lot of darkness. I couldn't set an alarm to wake up the next day. I wasn't able to check the weather and lay tomorrow’s attire out on my bed. I felt so alone without my usual sitcom chatter playing in the background. I didn't even have my favorite mug cake recipe. I realized that I, the so-called independent adult, was just the very opposite.
After I got my phone back I tried desperately to wean back on my usage. I downloaded a phone usage tracking app and read every article I could find on cutting back on technology. I was working towards a change.
Maybe next time you’re bored and pick up your phone for another scrolling session on Instagram Explore, consider a more productive thing you could be doing. Read a book, meditate, play dress up in your own closet, give a parent or sibling a much needed massage, or just go outside and marvel at the world around you. Try something to better yourself, your family, or your world. Then, feel free to hop on social media.
I’m not saying to straight-up quit; I’m just saying to try to use your devices less. To make a small alteration in your daily routine. To try a new thing. Maybe it’ll be the one New Year’s Resolution that actually works. Maybe you'll forget you ever thought twice about your phone usage and continue along your current path of digital connectivity. The potential for change is completely up to you.
By Alexa Magstadt, 13