A group of students at New York’s Adelphi University recently got a taste of smartphone-free life. As part of a course in technology addiction, titled “Life Unplugged,” students were asked to give up their phones for seven days – the devices were stored by college security in sealed plastic bags just to make sure nobody could give in to temptation.
“The apps are designed to addict us and so I’m really interested in my students becoming conscious of their usage and also learning to focus … The fact that no one can focus, that my students can’t sleep … They feel bad about themselves because of social media, the list goes on and on,” said Professor Donna Freitas, who is also the author of The Happiness Effect: How Social Media is Driving a Generation to Appear Perfect at Any Cost.
Although the students had made emergency contact arrangements and were allowed access to computers during the period, they were nervous about giving up the constant company of their smartphones. “This is going to test how brave I am,” commented Melonie Klein. “My hands are shaking right now,” another student joked in the classroom.
One week later, after being deprived of a continuous connection to the online world, the students’ perspective on technology seems to have changed. “Everything is perfect right now. I’m having a lot better relationships … it’s a stress-free environment, no pressure about social media,” Jacob Dannenberg said.
“I’m freaking out, I could probably cry right now,” said Adrianna Cigliano at the beginning of the week, but by the end of the experiment, she told CBS-2 News, “I think it’s really refreshing and relaxing … I was able to fall asleep a lot easier … Doing homework was 100 percent easier. I got it done faster, I was in the zone.” She added, “I want to keep that balance and figure out the healthy relationship that we deserve to have with our phones.”
“I’m nervous because I have it in my hands all the time every second of the day and have everything at my fingertips all the time,” Ashley Castillero said when handing her device in, but at the end of the week, she had resolved to change her habits. “My screen time is definitely going to go down and I’m going start to appreciate my surroundings more because usually I’m looking at my screen all the time.”
Non-profit organization Common Sense Media recently conducted a survey on phone usage among young people. The study found that 84% of teenagers in the U.S. now have phones, and that teens reported over seven hours of usage per day.
“My desire in that my students become critical thinkers about their smartphones. I want them to become users of their phones, as opposed to feeling used by their phones,” Professor Freitas told PIX11 News.