How much time do you spend on your phone? Probably more than you think. According to a recent TIME article, Americans check their phones 46 times a day. Meanwhile, those between ages 18 to 24 check their phones 74 times a day. At CMC, we often feel compelled to remain online, returning emails or quickly responding to texts. We scroll through Instagram, update our Snapchat stories, and check our Facebook newsfeeds. These brief moments of activity add up to a shocking 4.7 hours of screen time per day. 4.7 hours! The average American is awake for just fifteen hours, meaning we’re spending a third of our days on our phones.
As much as I enjoy looking at images of cute puppies on Instagram and sending photos of delicious plates of pasta to my friends on Snapchat, I decided I needed a break from my phone. A weekend at the beach with my family this summer provided me with the perfect opportunity for this break. Arriving by train to Watch Hill, Rhode Island, I put my phone on airplane mode and prepared for my own twenty-four hour “digital detox.”
I began my detox just before meeting my family at a restaurant for dinner. Surprisingly, 81 percent of Americans spend time on their phones in restaurants, the TIME article reports. However, I’ve never been one to text or browse social media while dining with others, so I assumed resisting my phone during this meal would prove easy. Then, my mom asked me about the “gremolata” on the salmon dish—I couldn’t Google the word on airplane mode. Meanwhile, my sister showed me our neighbor’s latest Instagram post and I wondered if looking at other people’s phones would count as breaking my detox. When my plate of baked truffle mac and cheese appeared (this is not a clean eating detox), I struggled to refrain from posting it to my Snap story.
As the evening continued, I found myself continuing to “check” my phone out of habit, even though I couldn’t receive any messages on airplane mode. Although we’ve all heard we shouldn’t look at our screens before bed, I typically respond to emails and send a few messages right before I turn out the lights. My digital detox changed this practice; I wound down with a book instead and fell asleep quickly. Its not surprising that using a phone before bed can force us to lose an hour of sleep each night, disrupting our bodies’ production of melatonin.
My detox became less challenging the next day, as I spent my morning outside reading with coffee and the afternoon playing in the waves with my sister. I brought my phone to the beach with me, but left it in my bag except for a few quick photos. When dinnertime arrived, I realized that I had survived my 24 hours, but still avoided turning off airplane mode until later in the evening. My Instagram feed could go unattended for a few more hours.
After my detox, I felt refreshed and renewed. A weekend without texting and social media allowed me to be more present and appreciate spending time with my family. As I return to CMC where we face a constant barrage of emails and Snapchats each day, I will be more mindful of my phone’s role in my life. While I certainly would not suggest that we should all throw our phones away, I do think we can try to carve out “phone-less” times, perhaps leaving our phones in our backpacks during lunch, disabling email notifications when we spend the day off campus, or walking through campus without looking down at our screens.