It doesn’t matter which major you’re in. At least one of your instructors has addressed one topic in the first week of classes: Portable technology—namely, cell phones.
Yet, despite cautions, prohibitions and desperate pleas, many students will continue their degenerate ways —sneaking a peek at a screen that often is the primary priority in our lives.
And why not? The habit is easy to justify, especially for those with significant others, demanding jobs, children or an active social life.
If those excuses sound weak, don’t fret. A study at Stanford University provides a more robust defense. It connects habitual tech use to the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter in the brain associated with pleasure and addictions. In essence, each time your phone alerts you to a message, your brain releases the signal of a positive or exciting event.
How about this for an excuse: “I’m sorry, professor! I can’t stop texting because I’m an addict!”
Yes, many of us are addicts. We fill our downtime and lulls in activity with a couple of minutes of playing “Angry Birds,” a quick check of Facebook notifications or a thorough purge of our e-mail inboxes.
According to a recent New York Times article, this lack of downtime and free moments are hurting us. The article states that we think more clearly when we allow our brain a few moments away from the daily barrage of information. We may feel more productive exercising at a gym where we can connect with TV and gadgets, but our brain is better off after taking a run outside.
Ideally, some of us would like to disconnect. Gadgets like the iPad (which recently passed the 3.27 million mark in sales) don’t really help matters. Not only do these tech toys provide us everything from our daily schedule to our video and reading library, they practically define who we are in society. People with iPads are smart, hip and interesting! How could such a tool be anything but beneficial?
Recently I returned from a weeklong trip to Nicaragua. Without a global cell phone, I detached from text messaging, mobile Internet and phone calls.
I’ll be honest—I missed it for the first few days. But by the middle of the week, I stopped wondering how many texts were in my inbox. I began to better engage in conversation and the work I was doing without a constant distraction in my pocket.
While the electronic devices paragraph on nearly every syllabus may seem more like a guideline than a rule, may I recommend the benefits of stowing your phone while in class? Your instructors, classmates and even your own brain will thank you.