Sarah Pohlman

Last week, during a night out in downtown Raleigh, I made the unfortunate mistake of not keeping track of my belongings and later found out that someone had stolen my iPhone. And as trivial and pathetic as it may sound, I was devastated when I realized that I had no chance of getting my phone back.

During the rest of my unplugged weekend, I became aware of how dependent I was on my phone. I couldn’t listen to music at the gym, use Google Maps in my car, or even call my parents to let them know what happened. I would even instinctively reach for my purse when I heard a vibration or a notification ding from someone else’s phone. I started to see that I was not only dependent on my phone — I was addicted.

Smartphones have become so prevalent in our society that we include them in every aspect of our lives. We use them to take photos when we travel, find our way around an unfamiliar area, update and check our social media, and we even use them in the classroom.

At NC State, smartphones can be used as an alternative to clickers, to play Kahoot! in class and to access in-class activities on Moodle. However, the constant use and integration of cell phones in the classroom not only prevents students from learning properly but also increases the potential of cell phone addiction.

There is constant debate on the pros and cons of having technology in the classroom, since many NC State professors have policies listed in their syllabus that forbid the use of cell phones and laptops during class to minimize distractions. Although this debate continues, research is still siding with the notion that phones should be kept away during class time.

According to a study of college students found in Communication Education, “Students who were not using their mobile phones wrote down 62 percent more information in their notes, took more detailed notes, were able to recall more detailed information from the lecture, and scored a full letter grade and a half higher on a multiple-choice test than those students who were actively using their mobile phones.”

We are probably all at fault for texting or looking at Instagram during class, but cell phones are forcing our attention to be divided between what’s being taught in class and what’s happening on your social media feed.

Although distracted students may not seem like a big problem, the growing prevalence of phone addiction is. According to Forbes, Google searches for “phone addiction” and “social media addiction” have risen steadily in the past five years, and there is a correlation between phone addiction and poor mental health.

According to a study in the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, “negative psychological and physiological outcomes are associated with iPhone separation and the inability to answer one's ringing iPhone during cognitive tasks.” The participants in this study also felt a sense of loss when separated from their phones.

Although I spent only two days without a phone before replacing it, I felt like I was missing out on what my friends and family were doing. I felt so separated from my social circle that I grew tense and aggravated.

However, the feeling of loss is not the only troubling consequence of phone addiction. According to Forbes, “about 48 percent of those who spent five or more hours a day on their phones had thought about suicide or made plans for it, vs. 28 percent of those who spent only one hour per day on their phones.”

Of course, abandoning your phone is not a practical option, but we should be aware of the potential consequences of overusing our phones. Even the smallest changes can be implemented to minimize potential phone addiction. Instead of using my phone right before bed, I’m reading a chapter in a book, and I disabled unnecessary push notifications to keep them from cluttering my homepage. Keeping your phone on “do not disturb” mode will help you focus more during class or throughout your day, according to GQ.

Although I have a smartphone again, I am taking these small steps to lower the chances of phone addiction, and I am already seeing slight improvements. I now acknowledge how I am dependent on my phone, but because I’ve been made aware, I am going to make it a new goal of mine to use it reasonably.