Put Your Phone Down

Lucy Bloomstran, Features Editor

Generation-Z. The iGen. Categorized as those who were born anytime from the mid-1990’s to mid-2000’s, the post-millennial generation is stereotyped as the kids who are conjoined at the hip to their smartphones and eat Tide pods for the approval of strangers on the Internet. Chances are if you’re reading this, you either are a Gen-Z kid, or you’re extremely close to someone who was born in the age of the Internet. Millennials may have single-handedly ruined the housing market with their overpriced avocado toast, but we are also getting blamed for ruining communication itself.

Before I launch into my tirade, let me preface it by saying that everything you are about to read is entirely hypocritical. As much as I try to fight it, I’m part of the problem. We all are. It’s a “tragedy of the commons” type of thing (shoutout 7th grade Wagner class). If I decide to hurl my phone at a wall (this has happened) and go completely off the grid, nothing is going to change. I’ll just log onto my various social media platforms from another device and continue scrolling into the void. If everyone at this school, everyone in Missouri, got rid of their smartphones and started communicating via carrier pigeon, billions of people will continue to keep their “friends” constantly updated about where they are, who they’re with, and what they’re doing. Our phones allow–nay–force us to be in constant contact with everyone in our respective circles.

Sure, being constantly in touch with the rest of the world is great for emergencies, and when you need 5 peoples’ immediate opinions on whether you should buy that shirt, but in the long run, it’s doing more harm than good. Tangent: my first phone was a burner phone, to be used only for “emergencies.” It didn’t access the internet, it cost real money to send a text, and it worked in about 10% of the places I went. This caused all sorts of problems for 12 year old me–namely, the lack of Angry Birds–but I now, in my great seventeen-year-old wisdom, realize that those were the good old days. Granted, I was only twelve years old and had significantly less on my plate, but I wasn’t preoccupied with navigating six conversations at a time while simultaneously updating my five social media platforms while I was attempting to be a functioning member of society ~irl~. No one was texting me at one in the morning to ask me what Instagram filter they should use and what time would be optimal for posting. I wasn’t constantly drowning in meaningless notifications and dead-ended conversations.

Our smartphones are not only causing us to forget how to have real human interaction, but they also cause us to
be constantly on call to the rest of the world The complete lack of thought that goes into replying instantly presents a myriad of problems. I can’t even begin to count the number of petty fights I’ve had with friends and family over a simple miscommunication that could have been avoided with a phone call or even the rare face-to-face conversation. You can’t leave someone on read when they’re physically standing in front of you. Beyond the unintentional miscommunication, rapid communication has also driven us toward increased informality and often rude interactions with our peers. Our screens are giving us an opportunity to go completely incognito, if you will, and hide behind our usernames and accounts, ushering in a new era of informality and rudeness. Mr. Wu fears for the future of our generation, commenting that “respect is gone … when I was a student here I would be terrified to say the things kids today say to teachers and peers,” and points to an email from a student containing at least 1,000 question marks and nothing else.

The moral of this rant: put your phone down (please!). I know that reading this probably isn’t going to make the entirety of the Burroughs community shut down their social media outlets and opt for a life entirely off the grid, and I’d be lying if I said my Instagram was going anywhere anytime soon. But honestly, our phones are causing us so much more unnecessary anxiety–and I think we can concur we’re pretty much all walking balls of stress. So shut it down an hour before you go to bed! Put it away when you’re doing homework! Don’t obsess over your Instagram likes and number of views on your Snapchat story! And for God’s sake–put it down when you’re talking to another human. It’s going to be a big change, but trust me, you’ll be happier for it.