Breaking up the Phone Barrier


My spring break trip to the Bahamas was more than a vacation from school and work – it was a vacation from my phone. When I thought about a whole week absent of a stream of text messages and emails, my first reaction was panic. What disaster would occur when I was unchained from my device, and all the connections it provided me with? As I soon discovered during that week, the brief breakup was far from disastrous.

Phones have wedged their way into our lives in a large way. They are used in both social and professional settings for emailing, texting, calling, and social networking. However, phones can often take our attention away from the task at hand – whether that is work, a lecture, or a family dinner. In these cases, phones become objects for distraction instead of tools for action. It can be difficult to draw the line where phones cross from being a help to being a hindrance in our everyday lives.

Although I believe my break from my phone was a healthy one, I do not deny that phones have earned a rightful place in our routines. The ability to contact someone within seconds means that staying connected with those who are important in our lives, especially if they live far away, has never been easier. Emergency contact is simpler and more efficient than ever before. However, there are times when phone usage is simply inappropriate.

I have never been fond of the prevalent use of phones in social situations. It is still often heard as a criticism when one person accuses another of “being on their phone the whole time” when they are with others. It can feel rude and even offensive when someone appears to be more interested in the person they are texting than the person they are physically with.

Without any of us in contact with someone else over phone, I got to know the family and friends who I was on my spring break trip with in a meaningful and honest way. We made eye contact when we had conversations, and told stories that we didn’t check our phones to remember. When we all stowed away our phones, we also stowed away a large social barrier.

Before the liberation I felt during my week-long phone breakup, I was certainly an offender of using my phone unnecessarily. According to Pew Research, about 41% of US adults use their phones for entertainment when they’re bored, and around 13% admit to regularly using their phones to avoid social interaction.

Whether it’s boredom, an awkward situation, or you’re waiting for a friend, pulling out a phone feels like an easy escape from the real world. I am training myself not to excessively use this means of escape, because I’ve learned that ignoring the real world means you’re missing out on parts of your life as it continues on around you.

For that one week, nobody pulled out their phone in avoidance. We turned to the person next to us and struck up a conversation. We laughed at our own jokes instead of at a YouTube video, and had discussions without checking Google to see who was actually right. Our interactions with each other were un-interrupted by faceless text messages or distracting emails. I may not have completely banished my phone from my life, but I have banished the idea that a phone is an adequate substitute for real-life interactions.