Last month, my phone developed a bad case of pink-line, which runs down the right-hand side of the screen and is growing larger by the week. I’m told that pink-line (when a vertical line in a phone’s display burns out) is terminal. Soon, I fear I will have to get the latest Sean Spicer bloopers from my laptop, rather than when I’m waiting for a professor to enter the room, trying to avoid human contact, or both.
In fact, my black-mirror box’s ailment has already helped (forced) me to reduce the mindless scrolling I use to procrastinate my homework, my guitar playing, my life … And — here comes the profound revelation: I feel better because of it. I wake up not thinking about the latest suicide bomber or the most recent instance of corporate America beating up the little guy (looking at you, United Airlines), because I didn’t spend the night scrolling myself to sleep.
I still wake up like Lestat fiending for his lifeblood (caffeine in my case), but that feels a hell of a lot better than reaching for the garish glow of the LCD screen. I suspect that — aside from the actual malarky happening in D.C. — most of the angst that so many of us are feeling these days is due to our addiction to our shiny screens. Walk around campus and observe how many Wildcats are doing the millennial two-step: walking with head pointed at phone, rather than where one is heading, while dodging others doing the same thing.
One of my favorite professors recently offered an observation about technology and how it is affecting us. His thought was that technology is evolving us to fit it, rather than us evolving it to fit us. Think about it: How much more likely are you to check your Facebook, reddit, Snapchat, etc., when you see a new notification? Did someone comment on one of my photos? Did my meme compel my internet friends to (gasp!) move their thumb to the up-vote arrow?
In my case, a notification usually means a friend, whom I never see in real life, is interested in an event I wasn’t aware of and, generally, didn’t care to be. And, now that I’m online, I might as well scroll until I see something vaguely interesting, which usually ends in at least fifteen minutes spent reading the trite comments elicited by a George Takei or God post. The apps train us to care about this crap, rather than us training the apps to do something valuable — like filter fake news and other bullshit.
As many of us move toward graduation (I’ll be there this fall), we step into what will hopefully be fulfilling careers, that for many of us, involve many more hours spent in front of the sterile glow of electronics. And unless you really just love the way your head feels after spending a day or an evening (or both) squinting at a screen, I suggest creating your own pink-line ailment for your device. Dropping it from shoulder height seems to have worked for me.
Once you’ve adequately modified your device, try using the internet as a tool: the way it was used in its early years. Use it to read news, send emails or do research. Stop using it as a pastime or an escape from the world happening around you (the suggested modification helps with this).
Put it away, enjoy the campus waterfowl (this also helps to avoid the lovely green presents they seem to leave all over the walks) or even try making eye-contact with your fellow classmates.
Especially if this is your last semester — consider whether you’d like to remember campus from your peripheral vision; or perhaps, would you like to remember how majestic the Wasatch Front looks in the morning? Maybe you’d like to remember how it felt when that person who you smiled at smiled back at you because you were both looking up as you walked around.
Perhaps you don’t need to make such a violent modification to your device in order to successfully quit doing the millennial two-step, but it couldn’t hurt. Your phone probably won’t like it, but then again, aren’t we supposed to be in control of these machines, rather than the other way around?