Life on the Other Side of the Screen

As students living in the 21st century, we are forced to use technology every day. Using iPads during classroom guidance lessons, connecting students through a class Wiki, and incorporating “flipped learning” into our teaching are just a few examples of how School of Education students take advantage of the technology that we have at our fingertips. While my studies and internship experiences have benefitted immensely from these technologically advanced opportunities, I am also guilty of being unable to “unplug” from my devices. Checking multiple e-mail accounts, social media pages, and other networking sites quickly became a habit for me as so many forms of technology crept their way into our world. Checking Facebook and my e-mail were the first things I did in the morning and the last things I did before I fell asleep…as if checking those accounts almost hourly throughout the day was not enough. I was, in a sense, addicted to my technology. The emphasis, though, is on the past tense.

A class that many counseling students take, Substance Abuse and Society, requires us to participate in an experiential learning project where we abstain from something for the first six weeks of class. My abstention? Facebook. I deleted the app from my devices. My best friend changed my password so I could not log in. My co-workers and classmates took over organizations’ Facebook pages that I manage. My goal was to break away from my addiction slowly, but surely. Week 1 was tough. Week 2 was torture. Weeks 3 and 4, though, were surprisingly freeing. I found that the time I was saving by not scrolling through my Newsfeed could be spent in much more productive ways: reading, calling friends from home, or my all-time favorite, sleeping. The best part is that we are over four weeks into the project, and I don’t even miss Facebook. Sure, I feel out of the loop sometimes when my friends are talking about pictures someone posted that I have not seen yet, but when I think about everything I was able to see and do when I missed that post, I know that it is worth it.

I am starting to remember what my life was like before social media became such a huge part of my world, and I can feel that sense of freedom inching its way back into my life. I can go somewhere and not feel pressured to take pictures and upload them that very second. I am spending more quality time with the people I am around instead of being “connected” to “friends” that I am staring at through a screen. Though Facebook is only one of my many technology weaknesses, it is certainly a step in the right direction. While I am not quite ready to give up my smart phone just yet, I am able to say that yes, I can live without social media. When the sixth week is complete, I am sure I will log in, look at pictures, respond to messages, and see what I have missed. But then I will log off. I will do some homework, go for a run, and carry on with my life. So here is my challenge to you: “unplug” for a month, a week, or even just a day. You will be amazed at what could happen.