Tech on the Brain

A recent study from Baylor University finds that college students spend a shocking amount of time in front of a screen. With an average of 10 hours for women and eight for men, phone addiction is becoming a generational problem. The study indicates that 60 percent of college students admit addiction to their cell phones and that they feel anxious when their cell is not in sight. Aside from the mental health challenges screen time poses, our close relationships with technology can also have social ramifications.

VALLEY spoke with Diana Weidner, a Penn State student and founder of Connect Unplugged. Weidner started the organization after she noticed a lack of genuine connection among her peer group.

My inspiration was seeing how much people crave connection and how further disconnected our generation is coming each year with new technology,” says Weidner. “We have become so obsessed and addicted to our phones when the only thing that’s real is what’s right in front of us.

Connect Unplugged organizes weekend retreats for college students to detach from the distractions of technology and create relationships face to face. Currently the organization runs programs out of Lock Haven, State College and Tucson and has plans to continue to grow.

Technology addiction can be difficult to combat for a college student. Universities encourage students to turn in assignments, receive announcements, communicate for group projects and even establish class attendance through technology. When a student’s means of education, communication and entertainment are dependent on a screen it is no surprise that social media has replaced fundamental aspects of human connection.

It’s really hard because technology is a great thing that helps us improve,” says Weidner. “But it’s really important to remember that face to face connections and real genuine in-person connection is unbeatable.

A 2018 UC Berkeley study found a strong correlation between social media addiction and mental illness. The study concludes that social media addiction is a vicious cycle among users. For instance, frequent use of social media leads to unhappiness, and unhappy people are more likely to use social media more often.

Social media has also encouraged college students to now have important conversations digitally, that were traditionally communicated in person.

It’s a defense mechanism,” says Weidner. “Social media has taken our lives and put us in an alternate reality.

In an effort to combat this phenomenon, college students must take intentional action to release from the captivity of their screens. First, a student should asses their current technology use by tracking their screen time and determining which apps or websites are doing more harm than good.

Next, it’s important to set intentions and goals. Changing old habits is extremely difficult, but when it comes to technology addiction, the old adage rings true — out of sight, out of mind. Keep your phone in your backpack when walking through campus, set time limits on your favorite apps and most important of all, don’t touch technology when having conversations.

“When you see an opportunity to put it away, put it away, that’s all it takes.” says Weidner. “If it’s off or in your bag or you leave it at home for a few hours. It shows you that you kind of forget about it when its not there and you’ll be happier for it.”

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