What Happens When You Look Up

My iPhone might be the single-handedly most important object in my life. Or chocolate-dipped strawberries. I haven’t decided yet. But whichever one comes first, my iPhone does not ever leave my hand, and as sad as it is to say, it is unfortunately true. So I decided to see if the rest of the college population is as bad as me about this. And I can report to you now, that they are… that some might even be worse. I mean for starters, I saw a girl actually walk into a street sign because she was texting. Or online shopping, because in that case, it is perfectly acceptable.

The first thing I decided to do was survey Rutgers buses. It is unbelievable that we spend so much time with so many strangers every day, yet we are unable to have conversations that extend beyond, “Can I sit here?” So on my first bus of the day, I sat and observed. There were 40 students on the bus, and 31 of them were on their phones. And no, not just listening to music, but texting or playing games. The next bus I was on had 31 students, and 23 of them were on their phones. The third bus of that day, and the last, was so packed (typical of the LXs this year) that I could not count the amount of people, but let me tell you, even when we were all sandwiched in with no space to breathe, let alone move, people still managed to fish their phones out of their pockets. I repeated this experiment for the rest of the week, and every time, the result was more than 70% of the students were on their cell phones each time I was on the bus.

So I took this experiment a little further. I actually spoke to people… Can you believe that? Words came out of my mouth… and they were normal words, not shortened abbreviations for laughing or a sad-face emoji in substitute for actual grieving. And the results did actually surprise me. Any time I asked someone a question next to me, I made sure it was an open-ended one from which a conversation could form. I asked a total of ten people this whole week and four of them did not touch their cell phones and actually had a decent conversation with me until we reached our designated bus stops. Three of them answered while on their cell phones. And the other three responded with a short reply and then went back to their phones. So to sum up, I did not make any new friends, but I did have some actual laughs on a bus, and it was a great change from the normal quietness and occasional bad music blasting from a pair of Beats.

The final test of this iPhone challenge occurred during dinner. On a normal Thursday night, I had dinner at Brower with six of my friends. But before we started eating, I asked each and all of them to put their phones in their pockets for the entirety of the meal. Of course the first question I got was, “Can’t I just keep it face-down?”

And I simply replied, “No.”

So guess what happened that Brower meal? Well here’s a clue: none of us died. We all lived to fail our exams the next day, we all still remained friends, we, believe it or not, survived not touching our cell phones for 45 minutes. Rather, we laughed a lot, insulted each other a lot, and managed to not have a panic attack over being away from our other half (the iPhone of course).

So why is it that we are so afraid to be disconnected from the virtual world and instead reconnect ourselves with the physical world around us? Why do we get a panic attack when we can’t feel our phones in our pockets? Why do we refuse to walk a few doors down to ask our neighbors for scissors, but instead just text them if they have a pair? Why are we so afraid to let ourselves look up?

After my week of going phoneless for various amounts of time, I’m not going to lie – I did have mild anxiety at times. I would feel for my cellphone, want to turn it on, but then have to mentally yell at myself not to. And a couple of times, I couldn’t resist. And what did I gain from checking my phone during those points of weakness? I saw that I gained one new follower on Instagram, I had a text from my friend that said “Lol,” and I had a couple of emails from stores that I really should unsubscribe from because I am a one romper away from drowning in debt.

So I urge you fellow iPhone addicts, put your phone down for a minute on the bus. Look around your surroundings to see if you actually know what road you’re on. See if those boys dressed in a banana and a gorilla costume are still running down College Avenue. And then put your phone down for ten minutes. Get to know the people who live next door to you. Spend ten minutes trying to figure out when your next essay is due and how you’re going to write it. And then, put your phone down for a meal. Resist the urge to touch it during dinner. I promise you, it is not that hard. Sure, nothing life-changing may happen in those few minutes that you don’t touch your phone, but I also promise you, nothing life-changing will happen if you are on your phone either. So put your phone down, make new friends, ask people about the music they listen to, compliment someone’s shirt, or just look out the window. There’s a whole world around you when you remember to look up.Oct-1

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