The People behind the Screens

Courtesy of Lianna Johnstone
Courtesy of Lianna Johnstone

by Delphine Burns


Sometimes Halloween gets a little out of control. For some, that might have meant wearing crazy costumes and going out to the countless 5C parties held that night. For others, that meant binge-eating Halloween candy and binge-watching horror movies. For me, that meant accidentally dropping my phone into the toilet around midnight, leaving it plagued with pretty severe water damage. While many would view this as negative, like I originally did, there were definitely some valuable lessons learned.

I’ve never been one who is extremely into social media. I mean, I like Facebook. Facebook is oddly entertaining when you’re supposed to be doing homework. For procrastination purposes, social media is swell. However, I’ve never been one to be totally consumed by social media, or care much about who is “following” me. I’ve never known a lot about phones or computers, or technology in general. It’s just not my interest. I’d rather write on paper than type. I’d rather read a book than a Kindle. And, I’d most definitely rather have a conversation than text.

I already never brought my phone to any meals in the dining hall, hoping that I could cultivate more meaningful face-to-face interactions with people. College must have been so different when people at the long tables in the dining halls had to acknowledge each other’s existences instead of hiding behind laptop screens. Our parents and their friends would actually talk in the omelet lines instead of being hypnotized by the tiny glowing screens grasped tightly between their thumb and fingers.

A lot of my friends laugh or roll their eyes at me when I lament to them that all I really want is a deep conversation uninterrupted by the dinging of some trivial text message appearing on their screen. They talk about how it’s a different time, or how I’m being nerdy, or how I should just accept that with new technology, society changes. They’re annoyed when I’m not easy to contact because I’ve either forgotten my phone in my room, or elected not to take it with me. I understand. Immediate contact is helpful, but society used to be totally fine and functional without it.

I’m grateful for technology, certainly, but I also think it’s pretty detrimental to human connections. I think a big reason social dynamics such as hookup culture or friendship drama occur is our inability to connect with each other on a basic level. Our society has been reduced to sexting and group texts. We blame apps like Yik Yak or Tinder, when really this societal issue has been brewing for a far longer time than we are willing to consider. This started when face-to-face interaction stopped. When texting, calling, Facebook-messaging, and emails became the norm, we lost a vital component of the human experience. Only now that we’re subjected to applications that are more obviously anonymous are we noticing the societal issues that have afflicted us for so long. It’s a little late to be mourning this loss.

So, losing my phone to the toilet was not the worst that could’ve happened to me. Giving me a few days of not having to explain to people why I didn’t feel like carrying my phone was liberating. It was empowering being able to sit alone outside and just admire nature without being bombarded by whatever notifications used to flash upon my phone’s screen. For days, I didn’t even bother turning my phone on to see if the damage had been reduced. I assumed it was ruined, and lived my life accordingly, disconnected from my main source of technology.

Ironically, my phone ended up being mostly okay. There are still some glitches caused by its unexpected midnight swim. It’s operational, though. I still leave it around a lot, and neglect to check it nearly as much as your average college student would. Spending a few days completely without it made me realize just how excessive it really is. Life goes on whether you’re part of the group text or not. Maybe next time, try knocking on your friend’s door. We all live right next to each other, anyway.

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