Welcome to our new section, Thrive on Campus, devoted to covering the urgent issue of mental health among college and university students from all angles. If you are a college student, we invite you to apply to be an Editor-at-Large, or to simply contribute (please tag your pieces ThriveOnCampus.) We welcome faculty, clinicians, and graduates to contribute as well. Read more here.
Tracking my screen time started as a fun test — I always wondered how often I’d subconsciously picked up my phone or how much time I actually spent staring at my screen. Why have I trained myself to pick up the phone when there is a lull in conversation or pause in my life? To get to the bottom of this, I decided to track my screen time.
Growing up, I was only allotted 30 minutes of “screen time,” as my mom would call it, every day. My 30 minutes could be a TV show after school or a game on the computer, but that was pretty much it because iPads didn’t exist. Therefore, my time spent in front of a screen was minimal.
Once I got my first smart phone in high school, the “30 minutes of screen time” rule screeched to a halt, and then my addiction began. I never actually thought my daily technology use was an addiction. Instead I saw it as a tool that aided me with school work, connected me to my friends, helped me order food, and explained the world. Harmless, right?
After the first day of tracking, I realized my screen time was disgustingly overwhelming.
I woke up at 9 a.m. as I usually do on a Sunday. My alarm is on my phone, so naturally I look at a screen as soon as my eyes open. The mindless act of turning my alarm off snowballs into my morning social media fix. I spend 20 minutes catching up on all the snap stories of drunk nights out and Insta pics that have finally made their way into my feed. By 12 p.m. I realize I’ve spent three hours looking at a screen. Between my phone and computer, half my time awake has been spent staring into a box pumping out artificial light.
This causes a bit of uneasiness. It’s the first few hours of the first day of this “challenge.” I begin to panic — all of my assignments are online. All of my lectures and calendars require the use of some technology. There is an unseen umbilical cord attaching myself to my technology — if my screens die, I might too.
By 9 p.m. I had spent over eight hours looking at or using some sort blue-light emitting screen. I grew anxious realizing the amount of time I spent on my phone or computer, so I effectively ended my week of tracking.
Instead, I decided to be mindful about my technology and put that ISHHH down.
When my mind would wander from homework or reading, I got up and did a lap around the apartment instead of reaching for my phone. Then I would come back, realign myself, and get my work done. When ending any addiction, you must start slowly and do things to take your mind off of the thing you’re missing (aka the walking seriously helps).
I used my computer only when I had to. Instead of watching Netflix before bed, I picked up a book (which actually helped me fall asleep quickly and sleep deeply). I steered clear from idle social media scrolling by putting my phone in another room while doing work and putting it in my back pack when I walked to class.
The results were incomparable. I felt more confident because I wasn’t constantly on social media comparing myself to other people. I felt more productive because I focused all my energy on my work and cranked it out timely. And I felt cleansed.
It’s time to end the phone scrolling when there’s a lull in conversation. It’s time to encourage small talk while waiting for the bus. It’s time to be comfortable with not having screens in front of our faces. It’s time to be more present and aware of our surroundings. I encourage you to track your screen time, just for a day, then go on a technology cleanse. It’s totally worth it, I swear.
Originally published at spoonuniversity.com
Subscribe here for all the latest news on how you can keep Thriving.
More on Mental Health on Campus: