There is more to life than Dark Kermit memes

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Two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to give up my iPhone for a class assignment. It was only for three days, and I thought I’d be fine. When my professor announced this opportunity in lieu of keeping a media diary, I observed shocked faces in the class. One of my friends said, “I’m way too dedicated to my Snapchat streaks to do that! I have over 600 days with one person, I can’t leave them hanging.”

If there’s one thing I like, it’s a challenge. Last year for my New Year’s resolution I thought it’d be a good idea to give up Snapchat for an entire year… I made it two months. For this assignment, I was determined to succeed. With a sense of pride, I handed my phone to my professor for safekeeping and continued on with my day.

The first negative effect I noticed was my jittery hands. During my commute, I’d instinctively fidget and reach to the place I normally keep my iPhone. Similarly, I would feel my phone buzzing in my pocket, but it wasn’t there. Instead of a relaxing, freeing experience, I felt tense. Searching for an old, forgotten watch, a whole new set of worries and stress was added to my life. What if I was late for class? What if I was going to miss a call or text? What if I got stranded on the road? Would anyone be worried about me?

After the first day, my fears were somewhat abated. I started to enjoy myself even. Standing in line for lunch at Fusz, I was approached by more people than when I would have my phone on a normal day. My commute turned into a time of self-reflection and contemplation. I didn’t feel rushed; there was no pressure to be constantly available to my friends.

Normally, I go from activity to activity; there is no time for breaks. My phone was an escape, a way to forget about what issues are happening in my life. Pass by someone I don’t want to talk to? Take out my phone. Standing in line? Take out my phone. It’s the solution to all problems.

The most difficult part of not having a phone was the extra work required to plan events with friends. Any meet-up was meticulously planned; I thought any last-minute changes would result in chaos. Throughout the three days, I realized that the world wouldn’t end if I didn’t have my phone. Amazingly, my life was more peaceful and calm without the cacophony of notifications.

In a materialist society, self-worth is being determined by how many Facebook friends or likes a person has rather than his or her personality. Celebrities define the latest trends: if Kylie Jenner says you must have something, then you must, right? Smartphones are a body appendage rather than a tool. Comparisons are a lifestyle. We all have that one friend (or possibly more) who travels abroad and looks like he or she is having the time of their life. While your friend is skiing in the Alps, you’re at home eating frosting and staring at a computer screen.

There are benefits to technology and being connected, but there’s more to life than Dark Kermit memes. Once my phone was returned, I thought, “what do I want to be remembered for?” Fifty years from now, I didn’t want my grandchildren saying, “Yeah, never saw Grandma Meg away from that cell phone of hers.” In the wise words of Matthew Broderick (Ferris Bueller), “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it.”

Without technology, I was less concerned about who was dating who or what political views someone had; instead, I thought about events I wanted to go to or sports I wanted to try. During car rides, I developed a list of hiking trails and cities I plan to visit. I was more engaged with people and didn’t seek others’ approval constantly.

Now I am less attached to my phone and plan to keep it that way. It’s a convenience, not a constant interruption. Instead of being a spectator of life, I will be a participant and encourage others to do the same.