Turning on devices turns off relationships


Caylea Ray

Whether it’s a smartphone or a basic flip phone, text messages, social media updates and other calls from the social world are constantly competing for attention from cell phone users.
With such easy access to the social platform and an ability to make communication much more convenient, cell phone usage continues to dominate students’ lives.
Technology has become a social norm during the past decade, making cellphones an enormous part of people’s lives. Nearly one in four people worldwide will use social networks, according to a new eMarketer report, “Worldwide Social Network Users: 2013 Forecast and Comparative Estimates.”
Ten percent of internet users who are married or partnered say that the internet has a major impact on their relationship, and 17 percent say it has had a minor impact, according to the Pew Research Center. This growing use of personal devices has caused relationships among families and friends to weaken.
“My brother has his own computer in his room, and he’s on it constantly, and it has completely severed the relationships he had with my family,” sophomore Gretchen Cone said. “For him it’s a punishment to eat dinner with the whole family, and the second he’s done, he gets back to his room to get on his computer. I make it a point to be off my phone when I’m with my boyfriend or family so I can spend time with them.”
There is no doubt that cell phones have their benefits. Ninety percent of Americans have a cellphone and 58 percent own smartphones, allowing people to contact whomever they wish. The surprising aspect of this, though, is the percentage of people who have developed a psychological attachment to their cell phones.
Sixty-six percent of the population suffers from nomophobia, the fear of being without their phone. When this growing dependency is coupled with the convenience of texting or social media, harmful words are sometimes unleashed, creating the stereotypical high school drama.
“Like anything, there’s good and bad. It’s good that we can get a hold of people at any time. The thing that I deal with as a school counselor that’s not so fun is that if people are in a relationship,” RBHS outreach counselor Kelly Anderson said. “Let’s say, that one of them has an ex-boyfriend or girlfriend that’s involved, too. I have seen were the texting can be hurtful. Students will post things on Instagram [or] Facebook that shouldn’t be posted on there and it can be extremely harmful.”
This drama, or even the use of cellphones, can also be a distraction when it comes to education. While having phones in schools can be useful for some students to take notes or research on their phones, it can still cause a distraction in a learning environment.
For English teacher Jennifer Black-Cone, also the mother of Gretchen Cone, all phones have presented an obtrusive nature.
“From a teacher’s standpoint, cellphones just drive me crazy because it’s a distraction for my students,” Black-Cone said. “They feel like they always have to have it on and people are constantly contacting them. I wouldn’t let a student pop their head into my class to say something to one of my students, so why would I let my students have their phones out? That’s exactly what they’re doing on their phones.”
Health and Human Services researchers at Kent State University in Ohio surveyed around 500 undergraduates and tracked their daily cellphone use, along with their happiness. The results showed that students with more cell phone use had lower grades, higher anxiety, and were less happy than others who did not use their phones as often.
“I’d rather not mention that I would be a lot smarter and know a lot more without my phone because then the school might make the phone rules more strict,” Gretchen Cone said. “I know that on days when my mom takes my phone I learn a lot more and am more alert and active in class.”
While personal devices can hinder focus and decrease attention spans of students, the easy access and inter-connectivity they provide can be an aid in daily life and communication. For example, a simple text can determine the plans for the rest of the evening or confirm a schedule.
“I’m that interesting generation that doesn’t allow my phone to always be connected to me,” Black-Cone said. “I’ll go a whole day without checking my phone, which annoys my daughter when she’s trying to reach me but … I can always text my daughter or my husband if I need them but I’m not dependent on it like some people are.”
By Caylea Erickson
feature photo by Madelyn Stewart