My feet drag across the cement, slowly shuffling before abruptly stopping to avoid face planting into a purple backpack. I take a deep breath, trying to calm myself. It is a passive aggressive breath. My sigh is due to the girl in front of me who is focused on her phone, her frozen fingers moving across the screen faster than mine ever could, the boy in front of her has frozen fingers, too, and so on. As if slow walkers were not enough, I looked all around me, seeing the Diag as a sea of individuals who are there but somewhere else — phones with people attached, a line of robots trudging to class.

Yet, I am a hypocrite. I do it, too. Even in rooms with clocks, I sometimes take out my phone to check the time and end up doing something else without even realizing it. Maybe it is the distraction I like. I grew up in a very rural community and the area of the woods I lived in did not receive the Internet well. My addiction may not be as profound as others’, simply because my technological skills lack comparatively, but I have watched more pointless YouTube videos since coming to college than would ever be considered necessary.

Lately, the ever-growing addiction and reliance on technology has become overwhelming. Time and history have shown us we can survive without technology, but what can we do about it now? Of course technology is not just mindlessly used, it has become an integral part of academic life and post-graduate hopes. As students, there are innumerable professional goals to be achieved, and with many fields utilizing the technology that has been developed, how rational is avoiding this emerging dependence? From the current access to online class materials to reserching for and writing letters, from networking to searching for employment opportunities, all together staying away from technology does not seem either possible or beneficial.

Despite this, I cannot help but feel pathetic (in addition to agitated) when I see the slow lull of text-shuffling, endless narcissistic selfies, and my own Facebook history, where it seems I have searched every person I have ever known. These habits often can waste time, distract from schoolwork, cause people to become more sedentary and lead to other negative effects. Sometimes I walk into walls when I am texting, but technology addiction can be truly dangerous. Thirty-three percent of adults admit to texting and driving, causing about nine deaths every day from cellphone-related distracted driving. While we may not be able to completely detach, we should stop the compulsive behaviors that can be harmful.

Breaking habits is hard. I am 19 and still struggle with biting my nails when I am nervous, let alone conquering a fixation that seems to have overtaken our whole society. I always tell myself I’ll try to fix the problem starting tomorrow, always tomorrow. That’s just another way of technology sucking away our time. Luckily, some people find solutions where most do not. This May, I am participating in the New England Literature Program, a University of Michigan-sponsored program where students hike along the eastern coast, gaining nine English credits along the way, and which prohibits participants from using technology in order to encourage engagement with the tangible world around them. How great it must be to be given six weeks to form better, healthier habits.

With any luck, most of us will have at least six weeks to try something new. 

Payton Luokkala can be reached at payluokk@umich.edu.

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