Less Screen Time and More Face-to-Face Time

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A lot of students we see at PrepMatters are keen on attending college in or near a city. The reasons may seem obvious: coffee shops, bookstores, restaurants, concert venues, cultural activities, awesome stuff to buy, and social opportunities – all with more people and more diversity. Lights, camera, and action: the swirl of people and cultures creates buzz and stimulates crosscurrents that just may foster creative thoughts and, possibly, expression. It is hard to put your finger on the exact energy that constitutes the urban force, but you can feel the verve. Sometimes the motion is exhilarating, and yet, sometimes the experience is overwhelming and exhausting. But one thing is certain: it is rarely dull.

I’ve thought a lot about this energy swirl while reading numerous articles that related to helping all of us take time away from our phones, at least for short periods of time every day. Just today I saw the announcement by Apple that the newest iPhone will have increased controls so that parents can limit phone and tablet use by young children. In addition, the new device will have similar controls that enable teens and adults to limit their own use.

The idea of finding the right balance of engagement vs. non-engagement with one’s technology has become a real and personal issue. The statistics on smartphone use and mental health are both compelling and concerning. The time is right to consider your own personal needs and find the best way to stay connected – to both the demands of technology and the people around you.

Let me circle back to cities and the inherent draw we feel toward other people – people who are new to us and different from us. We’re excited by the creativity and excitement they offer. In other words, people are key, not our remote contact with them via social media. With summer here, you have the freedom to do whatever you want to do, and the one thing I’d caution against is hanging out with your phone at the expense of spending time with people.

Spending face-to-face time with people will enrich your life and may also have practical benefits. Summer is the time that many of you are formulating ideas for college essays. Great essays (storytelling) start with a reflection of your ideas/values/experiences, and a great way to develop your thoughts is to talk about the details with other people. Bouncing ideas off of others is a way of listening and refining your story in addition to gaining a second opinion. Shooting ideas back and forth with a friend, family member, coach, or boss provides cross currents that can inspire new ideas and, ultimately, a new form to your essay. The sparky stimulation is akin to the force we experience and love about cities.

So, while temperatures rise and the humidity takes you to the confines of an air conditioned room, resist the urge to blindly embrace the digital world that appears at your fingertips. Get out and see people this summer. Enjoy the beauty of Washington, D.C., New York, another city, or more rural travels, and be sure to get out and spend time with other humans. You’ll be glad you did!