Technology Rules – Walking the Walk

I teach a “First Year Experience” course every fall, which is a course for freshmen that teaches them about the history of the university, gives them resources and tools for success, shows them opportunities to be involved, and includes discussions about diversity, tolerance, healthy living, and mindfulness.  I enjoy it, and there are always some great students who stay in touch.  It is nice to see them mature and thrive and move on.

I have a rule that all phones are put up during class.  This seems like a no-brainer to me, but while I had a phone in college, I didn’t use it much.  I can’t even say that I kept it in my purse or backpack all the time.  Even if I did, the only thing it did was make calls, and we all had landlines then so we agreed where to meet up and did just that.  I even held out on getting a texting plan for a long time even after I had a text-capable phone (I resented the 10 cents per text they charged when someone sent me a text).  Now, of course, I use it all the time.

It is amazing to me how young adults literally cannot be away from their phones.  Even if I ask that all phones be put in their bag (and most definitely kept off their desk), it never fails that there are people who must look at Instagram or Facebook or their text messages during class.  There are 18 people in my class – I will see it.  I constantly ask them what is so important that there must be an immediate response.  There is no answer to this.

I’ve read a lot about the phenomenon and included some links below.  And while I love my own iPhone, I didn’t grow up connected to technology the way they are now, and I rarely look at my phone throughout the day while I am at work (I have a landline, email, and the internet for distraction).  I have all of about 4 people who call me on my cell phone – my mom, my husband, my close friends who want to get together for drinks, and the occasional bill collector.  I don’t get many texts because I don’t send  a lot of them.   I have Instagram, which I really do love, but I post on it maybe 2 – 3 times per week and look at it about the same amount of times.  I look at Facebook for articles and news – I’ve hidden so many people that my feed is practically my closest friends and family (who don’t post often) and Pages that I have liked.  I just don’t give a shit what many people I know have to say.

The point of this post, however, is that I asked my class to create their own mindful use of technology rule.  Not many people will give up the internet and that isn’t what I’m asking of the class.  I only ask that they think about why they are on their phone or computer, and be mindful about the purpose of the phone and computer.  Don’t let them be a distraction, let them be a tool for knowledge.  Yes, talk with your mom during the week (I think maybe 1 – 3 times a week is appropriate for a freshman, otherwise they risk continued codependency – see “Snowplow Parenting”) but don’t be distracted by everything happening within that little box.  Look up every once in a while and be in the present moment, not worried about what is happening somewhere else – somewhere that you are not.  Enjoy the view, wherever you are, through your own eyes that see more than the camera lens.

As for texting, here is a good list of times not to text.  I cannot tell you how many cars I pass where the driver isn’t even concerned about hiding the fact that they are texting and driving, or Instagramming and driving, just generally not paying a damn bit of attention to the road.  Probably 80% of the cars I pass going to work have a driver who is looking at their phone.  My mother’s greatest fear when I started driving was that I would look down to change the radio for 2 seconds and have a wreck.  I can’t imagine what her worries would have been had I had a smart phone back then.  I’ve heard people say that they literally cannot remember driving home.  Umm…  this is dangerous.  And if you kill me, I will haunt you and your cell phone until you die, which will probably come earlier than you think because you’ll be Instagramming your Frosty or some shit and drive off a bridge.

I also agree with this article.  Tone of voice is lost in text message land.  It would be hard to date a young person who has grown up texting their whole lives.  A student of mine this year told me that she was so confused because her ex-boyfriend from high school who was the love of her life started texting her again even though he has a girlfriend.  When I had an ex-boyfriend from high school and I was in college, I never spoke to him again, and he couldn’t get in touch with me.  Praise Jesus that didn’t work out, by the way.  I told her not to mess with that guy for several of my wise old lady reasons (also beginning to sound like my mother), but I realized how damaging it is for someone to always be accessible.  I imagine she’d never get rid of her phone number that everyone has known since 8th grade unless her life was in real danger, and I think it is really unhealthy to not be able to cut ties with someone.

As for walking the walk, I have also begun to be more mindful in using technology.  I love technology, I really do.  And I can be just as guilty as the students I’m teaching sometimes.  However, I have created several rules for myself (some that I already follow and some new ones):

1. Never use my phone while driving.

2. Never walk around staring at my phone.  I might answer my phone and talk while walking somewhere, but when I look around at everyone on this campus and see them staring at their phone (every. single. student.) I just think “How stupid you look!”.  Nope, I’m not being a clone.

3. Don’t use my phone as a boredom cure.  I’m more likely to become even more bored looking at photos of cupcakes, and I have a tendency to pick up my phone any time I’m bored.  Guess what?  I’ve got a lot of other stuff to do.  So, when I get home from work, I’ll set my phone down and not have it always in front of me.  I can then use all those “bored” times to, oh I don’t know, read or put laundry away or walk on the treadmill.

4. Finally, don’t look at my phone when I’m out with friends unless I want to show them something important.  Yes, important.  When people are on their phones in front of me, I know they are not paying me any attention.  It is insulting, and I don’t want to do it to someone else.

This is brilliant:

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