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Touch-Screens vs. Losing Touch: How Not to Let Smartphones Divide Us

Written by Madi Werynski

Since Smartphones became popular, many people have observed that they’ve been separating us rather than uniting us. Since our tech can maintain our attention for extended periods of time, this can be detrimental to our relationships with others, our studying habits, and even our social skills.

Like fellow SLN blogger Ann Cheng mentions, phubbing is totally not cool. We all have that one friend who won’t even break away from their phone to hear your funny story or watch the scene from that movie you’ve been telling them about—“Dude, look! You’re missing the good part!” Sound familiar?

Not only can technology negatively impact our relationships with others, but we’ve all heard about the ways our texting lingo hurts our writing skills in the real world. Remember, just bc u txt lyk dis dusnt mean its kool 2 write that way.

Then again, that’s not really news. A topic that’s been less explored is the idea that our prized gadgets may actually be hindering our social skills and contributing to social anxiety. This becomes especially problematic when it begins to affect us in the classroom. Eek!

The reality of this situation is that we are at risk of becoming more introverted and reclusive, while interpersonal skills are being tossed away faster than the old generations of iPhones.

“Smartphones were made with the assumption that we would use them for good, not evil.”

We should combat these issues so that we can still enjoy our gadgets for their real intention—improving and facilitating our lives—while knowing when to stay away from them. These devices were created to bring us closer to friends and family, grant us instant access to information from all types of sources, and to improve the quality of our lives in general. With that in mind, here are some tips for being smarter with your Smartphone.

Even it Out

It’s understandable that we enjoy using our phones to catch up with our buddies, but spending all of your time talking to pals online when your other friends are sitting in front of you isn’t cool. Make sure you’re spreading yourself evenly to everyone who wants your time. Talk to your online friends when you’re not spending time with other ones, and be sure to divide your time on and offline reasonably.

“Courtesy makes the world go ‘round.”

Set a Date

We sometimes spend more time texting our friends than hanging out with them in person; finding time to get together can be challenging with our busy schedules and all. Set a date where both of you have time to meet up and do something in person. Like, actually do something (i.e. not text). Texting is convenient for quick conversations, but nothing compares to the real thing. You can even use your Calendar App to set a date and a reminder so you don’t forget about it!

Leave it at the Door

If you don’t think you or your friend can resist the temptation to check Facebook while watching a movie together, maybe your only solution is to leave it at the door. Have a designated area for friends to ditch their phones when they come in to ensure solid, uninterrupted bonding time without being bonded to your cellphones instead. Be considerate and avoid staring at your phone when people are trying to spend time with you, because there is such a thing as phone etiquette and you should respect the people you’re with by giving them your attention. Courtesy makes the world go ‘round.

Make it a Game

When you have a group of friends over and you know that one buddy will be itching to check their notifications, make it a game to keep your hands off your devices—you could definitely get creative with that. You could, for example, turn it into a competition where the first friend to check their phone has to buy everyone else pizza. That way, you’ll be less likely to use your own phone and you might score some food out of it. It’s a win-win.

“Turn it into a competition where the first friend to check their phone has to buy everyone else pizza.”

Have Study Buddies

Having a study buddy or two (or ten, even) can kill two birds with one stone. When you’re studying or brainstorming collectively, you can spend uninterrupted time with your friends. It makes studying more fun and you can quiz each other for upcoming tests, too. By being together, you can also help each other stay on track and avoid procrastinating on Instagram and watching Vine compilations. Because let’s be honest—we all do it.

Explore the Outdoors

Even I admit that when a new season of my favourite TV series come out—ahem, Orange is the New Black—I will lock myself inside and binge-watch like none have ever binge-watched before. But unless you have a really good excuse, stay awaaay from the couch. If you spend your time out doing exciting things, you won’t get Facebook blues while scrolling through your News Feed enviously, looking at all the awesome things your friends are out doing. Not to mention that if you choose somewhere like the beach, you won’t want to bring your cellphone at all. Avoid getting it wet and escape bad reception by leaving it at home (okay, fine—in the car) and simply enjoy the great outdoors.

Use Apps Productively

Smartphones were made with the assumption that we would use them for good, not evil. And yes, spending twelve consecutive hours watching cat videos and then somehow ending up on the weird side of YouTube counts as evil. You know exactly what I’m talking about. There are loads of apps geared towards students to make our lives easier and more productive. Check out these 8 awesome app recommendations to see even smarter ways to use your Smartphone.

Got your own tips for waning off the tech while you’re hanging out with friends? Let us know in the comments below!

*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Student Life Network or their partners.