I can be headstrong, impetuous and fairly mopey when I don’t get my own way. My parents realized this early on when they tried to separate me from what would slowly become my undoing.
It was close to the end of 11th grade, and I had my nose in my books and my phone hidden between the pages. My Snapchat score just hit 50,000, and I earned my first 365-day streak. My dad, perplexed, couldn’t for the life of him figure out what I was doing. “Who are you writing to? What are you sending photos of? You just saw your friends at school!” I was not, in fact, writing anything, but I was instead delving deeper and deeper into the world of memes and compulsive news feed-refreshing.
As my phone became a permanent fixture in my hand, replacing my stack of bathroom magazines, dinner conversations and focused studying, my parents did what any good parents would do — they tried to intervene. The closer I got to my phone, the angrier my parents got, and the more I tried to argue, the more resilient they became.
They came up with a comfortable compromise — I could use my phone whenever I wanted to, but I had to leave it on a table in the center of the house when I wasn’t using it. This was the start to my self-proclaimed, unjust repression and ill-treatment. My parents were clearly trying to ruin my life. I needed my phone for everything: class, friends and entertainment. My 17-year-old stubborn, Aries self refused to give in and simply would not leave my phone on a table for a few hours a day.
Now that I am in my sophomore year of college, I can bask in the victory of unlimited, unmonitored phone time.
I wake up and scroll through Twitter. I tag my friends in a couple of dog memes, send out streak snaps and watch the stories I shamefully missed while I was asleep, all before I consider getting out of bed.
My day then continues this way. When I’m doing my homework, I lunge across my room, dropping my books when I see my screen light up. I passively scroll through social media feeds in lecture. Even when I’m in a meeting, I immediately stop to pull my phone out of my pocket when I feel it buzz.
Recently, I missed my crosswalk light because I was busy taking a quiz titled “Are You A Bad Texter?” I had to wait for the next light and was late for lecture, but hey, at least I found out that I’m a really great texter — who would’ve thought?
My dad’s question about who I’m talking to echoes in my head sometimes. I convince myself that I’m on my phone all the time because I’m talking to my many friends. It’s obviously because I’m popular and have lots to say.
Unfortunately, that isn’t it.
My relationship with my phone became more concerning once I realized that I wasn’t really talking to any of my friends. Instead of technology allowing me to be more social, it became a shield to save me from communicating with people around me.
Pew Research Center concluded that 47 percent of young smartphone owners use their phones to avoid social interaction. Half my time scrolling through Twitter and Instagram is because I don’t want to look up and make awkward eye contact with strangers around me. I guiltily admitted to myself that there might have been a tiny bit of truth in what my dad was trying to get at; I did see all my friends at school — and I was sacrificing every waking minute for an inanimate object.
Once I realized that my phone usage was going overboard, I thought it was a simple fix, but it turned out it wasn’t. I did what my parents tried to do years ago and left my phone in a different room. When this failed, I turned off notifications on all my apps. I downloaded a productivity app to force-lock my phone and stop me from touching it, and I even tried to convince myself to leave my phone in my backpack in all my classes. Two weeks into my unsuccessful attempts to break up with my phone, I sat down and re-evaluated my increasingly problematic relationship.
My wrangle with my parents was a teenage power play, in which I refused to bow down and let them win. Now, years later, I am losing against the same thing I fought for. My phone drew me in and made me depend on it. It played on my weaknesses and pulled me so far into the world of tweets and Reddit threads that it knew I was too far gone to back out. My phone is the alpha in this relationship, and no matter how hard I try to slip away, it pulls me back.
I can almost hear my dad’s “I told you so” every time my gaze wavers to my screen, so if you see me texting at a red light, tap me on the shoulder and say hi. I need a digital detox, and my news feed can wait.
“Off the Beat” columns are written by Daily Cal staff members until the summer semester’s regular opinion writers have been selected. Contact the opinion desk at [email protected] or follow us on Twitter @dailycalopinion.