Lately, I feel that I have been glued to my phone — completely sucked in, and it seems to be affecting my behaviors, attitude and sleep. These last few weeks have been filled with updates constantly. There are tons of news topics coming out and spreading like wildfire. Notifications pop up on my phone endlessly from the variety of news sources I follow.
Over the last few years, I have read studies and articles about how the consumption of news media has negative side effects on day-to-day life. In 2017, The Guardian ran an opinion piece about distorted news media and its consequences, which made me start to pay attention to what media I was consuming. The conversations I have feel surface-level and, at times, completely pointless. Many of my friends discussed how we stay on autopilot in conversations when we are sitting on our phones instead of actually listening. Immediately, those with whom we are supposedly in conversation will pause or stop speaking completely after realizing we are haphazardly responding to them. There are times, more than I would like to admit, when I am a passive participant in a conversation because I have my phone in my hand.
This is a problem I was not thinking would affect my life as much as it has. I began to frustrate my friends and family with how often I would be on my phone. Sometimes in the middle of a conversation, I would pick up my phone and unlock it, then set it back down — it became an involuntary action, a behavior I developed simply because I could not help myself.
In the same vein, negativity about breaking news — on a local, national or international stage — has become a norm for me. My first reaction to most news stories, at least within the last couple of months, has been anger or frustration. I cannot help but think of the people being affected by these announcements or news stories. Presidential candidate debates, coronavirus outbreaks, natural disasters, Harding news — the list goes on. At times, my frustration is misplaced or blinds my realization of where the real issues are or even ways I can help. For my well-being, and those around me, I know I have to be more aware of how much media I am consuming and when I am doing it.
Getting rid of these habits is a long process; I am still in the middle of it. I have had to limit how much time I am on my phone apps that lock at a certain time. When I am with a group of friends, I make sure my phone is not on my person and on Do Not Disturb mode. I do not receive notifications after 10 most nights if my phone is locked.
I am more conscious about the first media I consume after I wake up — typically I will open a text of a Bible verse from my mom first. I make sure I do not scroll through all the news notifications I missed through the night or that morning. I have to remind myself daily that being the opinions editor does not mean I have to be up-to-date on every news topic or constantly seeing what the world is worried about.
You don’t have to live that way, either. Memes will still be funny, news stories will still hold weight and truth, TikToks will still be waiting for you to watch. In a world that tells us to not look away from our phones, I encourage you to put it down. Look up and be present in a conversation — I promise there will be more gratification there than from whatever your phone has to offer.