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OPINION: Smartphones, it's how you use them

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Going offline from social media is a common recommendation for any young person who’s struggling with a range of issues, from procrastination to self-love. Recently, I read an article by the MIT Technology Review titled “Teens are all obsessed with social media? Not so much.” The article consists of interviews with students who don’t use social media or, in some cases, the internet at all. 

The article’s tone is positive; this theme is consistent with older generation’s hopes for young people, who may find the concept of social media unnerving or who don’t understand it. I fully support any person’s decision to unplug and enjoy life as it happens, and I understand how easy it is to get caught up in people’s seemingly perfect internet lives and judge your own life too harshly. 

That being said, sometimes I get frustrated with the righteousness of some people who choose to stay offline. Though it may be a good idea for some people to unplug for a while or permanently from social media, or some people just have no interest in getting a computer whatsoever, that doesn’t make it okay to shame others who choose to continue to be online. The idea that social media is a toxic wasteland and any person who uses it is a selfie-snapping zombie is blatantly false and unfair to those who may enjoy using the internet. Social media can be used to educate, to advertise, to spread awareness, to support or to share cute and funny videos. It can be a very useful tool, and those who choose to utilize that tool should not feel bad about that decision.

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I would also like to address the fact that a couple of these young people interviewed don’t use or own computers or phones. As a college student, I have to spend a good portion of my time on my laptop, and most of that time is spent doing homework or studying for classes. All of my class tools are online and every teacher I have posts each week’s homework on their webpages, and it is my responsibility to look at it and complete my work. 

I know this is purely anecdotal, but I would guarantee a large portion of the University of Arizona’s student body is in a very similar, if not exact, situation. I’m not saying it’s bad to not have a computer, but it also isn’t bad to have one either, especially if you’re required to have one for your education.

On a smaller (and possibly much pettier) note, not having a phone is just downright silly. How do you call your mom when you’re away from home? How do you get a hold of your friends to make plans? What do you do if you break down on the side of the road on a lonely highway with no other cars in sight? If you don’t want a smartphone, you can go retro and get a flip phone (yes, I’m sure — my dad just bought a new one last month!), but you should have a phone, for safety and your mom’s sake.

I’m not trying to insult anyone for not having phones or not using social media. I just want to point out that in the 21st century. It’s unrealistic to expect many people to not be online, and just because someone is, it doesn’t mean they ignore everyone in real life or never take their eyes off of their phone. 

There’s a balance of device usage and offline time, and I absolutely agree that many of us who use devices struggle to find that balance sometimes — I know I do. But I also appreciate technology and the amazing things it can do, and I don’t think we should be looked down upon for using it. Everyone enjoys and needs something different, and that isn’t a bad thing. Community can coexist with technology and advance the human race while we keep ourselves human. 

Sorry, selfie-snapping zombies, not today.


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UA COVID-19 Test Tracker

Daily (1/26)
1,830 34 %
Total (8/4)
136,977 3,838 %
Includes tests since August 4, 2020
Data from https://covid19.arizona.edu/updates
Updated January 26, 2021