Unpopular Opinion: “It’s the Phone” Might be Valid

Jesse Harris, Contributing Writer

My friends often tell me the fact that my phone is always on low-battery is the singular thing that doesn’t make sense about me. They consider it a gap in my personality. To their point, I’d classify myself as a fairly organized person, and I usually am on top of things – arguably, even a borderline control-freak. Regardless, I see where they’re coming from. But my only rebuttal for why my battery percentage is invariably struggling to push 20% is simple and maybe a bit controversial: I just don’t really care about my phone enough to keep it charged.

I’d argue that it all traces back quite neatly to fifth grade. This was the year when all of my classmates began to get Instagram accounts, one by one and mostly without fault. But when it came my turn to ask my parents for their permission, I was taken aback to hear them say no. Not because I wasn’t used to hearing “no,” but because I didn’t see the problem with Instagram. Naturally, however, my response as a 10-year-old was something along the lines of: “Fine. I didn’t even want one anyway.” In the years to follow, I found myself repeating this mantra so often that I came to convince myself that I believed it. Now, a first-year in college, I’m grateful for my stubbornness. I’m thankful that when I got a little older and my parents did grant their permission for me to make an account, my mantra was so ingrained in me that my response remained the same.

The reason I don’t care much about my phone, though, is not just a defensive coping mechanism for feeling left out from Instagram, but rather is rooted in the implications that detachment from Instagram has had for me. I’ve realized with horror that individuals’ social media presence has increasingly become confused with their existence. “You’re nowhere to be found,” people will tell me, or “I didn’t know who you were until I met you,” as if that’s unusual. Granted, I do have a Snapchat and I was also on TikTok for a little while I’m not entirely living under a rock. Nonetheless, it feels like people who have not poured their hearts and souls into their Instagram profiles are disposable. Looked up your name and can’t find you? Forget it.

Despite having always had lower daily screen times as compared to my friends, my parents have definitely hopped on the trend of using my phone as an excuse for completely unrelated issues. Can’t sleep? It’s the phone. Bad grade on a test? That stupid phone again! So, to spare you all the trouble, I took this theory for a test drive two years ago, to see if living without my phone would actually improve my life as drastically as the older generation seems to think it would.

After getting my phone taken away in January of my junior year of high school (side note: my parents really aren’t as strict as this makes it seem … I promise you’d love them), I went through withdrawals for a few days. I was anxious about all of the texts and team group chat updates I was missing, Snapchat streaks I was losing and friends that were probably confused and maybe even mad that they were being ignored. But then I started to get used to not having a phone. I’d never admit it but I might have to side with my parents on this one: not having a phone was kind of refreshing. In fact, after the time was up, my parents returned my phone only to be met with the same stubbornness they witnessed six years earlier. “I don’t even want it anyway,” was the gist of it.

I ended up not having my phone for an entire two months. And here’s what I reluctantly gathered: Yes, I did have more in person conversations of higher quality. No, after a certain point I didn’t really feel like I was missing out on anything. Yes, my friends, teammates and boyfriend did resort to emailing me as a primary means of communication. No, I didn’t cheat by checking iMessages on my computer. Most importantly, what I concluded from this impromptu social experiment was that I don’t think anyone is really as addicted to their phone as they think they are. Undeniably, you would long for your phone the first few days, and undeniably, you would probably never even consider ditching it anyway, but trust me, from an 18-year-old perspective: our phones are overrated. If I can live without it for two months in the midst of my junior year of high school and function in college on incessant low-battery, I’m confident that we can all put our phones down for a few hours.

It’s way too easy to get caught up in the fast pace of the internet in college, especially this year. Everything we do is very momentary, and then we move on. Submitting an assignment, posting a picture or sending a text are all done with minimal brain effort. Even modern-day dating everything is immediate and over a screen. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still not a fan of parents blaming the occasional stomach ache or bad mood on excessive phone usage, but there is a chance that they might be onto something bigger.

I urge you to engage with your phone addiction and really challenge yourself. How long can you go in the morning without checking Snapchat stories? Can you spend a day dare I ask a week without TikTok? I think you can. After all, carelessly draining my phone battery because I know I can live with it dead is ultimately not that bad of a trait. I think I can deal with a minor personality gap.