As a millennial, I constantly grapple with how much I should use my phone. In all honesty, I am addicted to it: I look at the screen too much and find that I always need it in arm’s reach.
But it’s not like I’m doing bad things on my phone! I don’t do anything illegal or even play games; I take photographs, edit them, communicate with friends, read important news articles and emails, research cool things to do in NYC, and browse public Instagram accounts for creative inspiration. I’ve learned a ton from using my phone.
...But there are also consequences. I noticed at one point that my eyes became dry and fatigued, my head hurt, and I didn’t sleep nearly as well – all things that seem pretty minor individually but altogether dramatically affected my every day life. I felt unnecessarily more sluggish. Even when I was exhausted, it took me hours to fall asleep. A device that offers me so much shouldn’t also physically ail me, right? I asked myself why I can’t just separate from my phone, turn it off, and go do something without being attached to a tiny device that connects me to everyone and everything.
In my junior year of high school, I actually had a taste of the screen-less life. I participated in a semester school program in rural Vermont where 44 other high school juniors and I took classes and lived and worked on a farm. There was wi-fi in the classroom, but not in the dining hall, dorms, or anywhere else on our small campus. The extent to which I used any device with a screen was minimal: I used my computer to type essays that I couldn’t write by hand, and took photos on my phone if it was dangerous to bring a camera. I ended up losing my phone by the end of the semester and didn’t realize it for almost a month. Although there was no rule prohibiting phones, I noticed that it actually looked poorly on you to be using one, as if you couldn’t entertain yourself another way; I was in an environment where we really didn't need to use our phones, so no one did. When screen addiction is not the norm, you’ll use it less and less. And while phones seem more necessary at home, I think we use them more than we should because we feel we have to.
Being home now for a long time since my semester away, I’m finally going to really try separate from my phone a bit more. I have “computer vision syndrome” (digital eye strain) and it’s fixable. I’ve been wearing Felix Grays which has dramatically helped how I feel; I sleep better and my eyes are less dry and tired. I’ll also try to just keep my phone on airplane mode if communication with others isn’t necessary, and I’ll read before I go to bed rather than surf Instagram one last time. Take the challenge with me! The first step is to don Turing, Nash, or Faraday – take your pick!