Teenage Reliance on Phones​

By: Nick Swafford

Phones. Phones everywhere. You can’t escape them. Even when we try to leave them behind, they always seem to end up right back into your hand. 

And that is the problem with teenage phone usage. We can’t ever put them down. And I know what you’re thinking, “No, I can live without mine,” but let me enlighten you—you can’t. Think about not only the amount of time that you spend on your phone each day, but everything that defines you on your phone. Your photos. Your contacts. Your messages. Your Snapchat streaks. I’m sure you get the idea. When we think of phone usage, we usually think about the things we use for entertainment on it, and so we think, “Oh yeah, I can live without Netflix for a bit,” but if we get rid of the phone in its entirety, that’s when things will start hitting the fan. 

Let’s say that you had to live without your phone for just a week. In this particular scenario, your phone isn’t just sitting somewhere waiting for your return, it’s dead. Dead, dead. Like, fell down a cliff, hit every rock on the way down, and then fell into the ocean, where it was immediately eaten by a shark. It’s gone. You have no phone. All your photos are gone, streaks abandoned, and contacts missing. Now that will start making you question life a little bit. Not only will you start questioning life, but you will also start going through withdrawals.

Your phone is a drug that acts as a distraction. Without a phone, the gaps of time that will now be left empty will now make you feel empty. Left alone with your thoughts is a scary thing, more so than you might think. It has a weird psychological effect because, in today’s busy and loud world, there are very few times when we are truly alone to just think. It is such a change of pace that it starts to feel really uncomfortable. We need something to distract us from our own thoughts. This phenomenon is somewhat like “Car Radio” by Twenty One Pilots. If you’ve heard that song, then you know what I’m getting at. 

The influx of emotions is mind-boggling. At this point, you are probably thinking I’m a belligerent nitwit, but I’m not. I’m actually speaking from experience.

Yep, you heard me right. This tragedy happened to me. And at one of the worst possible times—a week before school. 

It was a beach trip with a few of my friends, and what should’ve been a great day at the beach with my friends ended up being a great day at the beach with friends—but without a phone. I lost it pretty early on in the trip, but because of emotional reasons, I cannot go into the details of how it died because it is a little too sensitive of a subject. My poor iPhone 6s, Rose Gold, 64gb phone. The phone was close to fully charged when I arrived, but it wouldn’t turn on no matter what I did. I kept trying, but nothing ever showed any signs of life. Like any rational person, I had a slight panic attack, but I did all I could at the moment. I took care of the phone to the best of my immediate ability in the moment, but soon I just went back to the trip and focussed on enjoying the rest of the day. Without my phone, the actual trip from that point on was strangely blissful. No worrying about texts or anything. It was when I got back from the trip when reality began to set in.

With my now lifeless phone, I wasn’t thinking completely rationally, but it was late at night, so I decided it was a problem for another day. The lack of a phone made me realize how much I used it. Needless to say, it was an eye-opener. With no phone, I was launched into my younger self, where all I could do was stare at the ceiling and watch cartoons to fill the void. It was like a strange out of body experience. The lack of my phone also meant I lost all my social media, and for once, it was nice not being worried about what other people are doing. Just doing my own thing was all that mattered, which, honestly, is how it should always be. None of this hit me the worst though—this was merely a change of pace—but what hit me the worst was losing my photos. 

I had years worth of photos on that phone. The trips I’ve taken, the places I’ve been, the people I’ve met—all cemented in time—all gone. Losing years worth of memories made me really upset. I don’t have a fantastic memory, so I keep memories fresh with photos so that each photo is a foothold into that moment in time. It might sound strange, but that’s actually how I feel about photos, so losing almost 600 photos I had stockpiled was like wiping out years of memories. Needless to say, that hit me hard, and I did everything I could to get a fraction of those photos back. I learned my lesson, though: I got more storage on ICloud, and I downloaded Google Photos. I won’t let such a tragedy happen to me twice. 

Moral of the story? Don’t take your phone for granted, and ALWAYS keep a backup of your stuff so that if something happens, you won’t be screwed like I was. There is a bigger meaning to this though. If my story shows you anything, it’s that teens are way too reliant on their phones. I’m guilty of it, and I accept that. I used my phone too much, and I have now learned to try and limit that on-screen time. I had to learn of my over-reliance the hard way, so I hope any of you reading this will learn from my experience, take my advice, and start limiting your screen time. 

Apparently, there’s a whole lot more to the world around us than what we see through the screen. Who knew?



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