How would you handle having to spend the day away from your phone? No calls or texts. No checking Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or the latest headlines from The New York Times.
Nearly 160 Furman students, faculty and staff got that experience when they agreed to participate in the university’s “Phone Fast,” which required them to stay off their phones from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on April 2.
Sponsored by the Cothran Center for Vocational Reflection and Furman’s Student Activities Board, the challenge was to “put away your phone for a day to focus on the people around you.” We asked four students to describe what it was like to abandon their phones for a day, and here’s what they had to say.
Bernie Chaney, senior, neuroscience major, Sunbury, Pennsylvania
The morning started a lot better than I anticipated. For as long as I can remember, my day starts by checking all my social media platforms. Although I really don’t care about them, I’ve just gotten in the habit of doing it and assumed it was helping me ease into the day. But I had the best experience without my phone in the morning. I felt like I had more energy. I don’t know if it was the fast or just that particular day, but I felt happier overall.
Since I had a test that day, staying off of my phone was particularly beneficial. But I kept finding myself reaching for my phone, and this became most frequent as I worked an office shift over the lunch break. With no one in the office and no phone, I turned to email. I wrote one to a friend that I text every minute of the day and felt like I was back in middle school. But I kind of loved it.
I knew the day would be hard, not because I’m particularly invested in the things on my phone, but just because it has become something that I habitually check. I wish this wasn’t the case, but I realize this is something our generation has learned to do.
The fast was inspirational in a way. It taught me that, yes, I may go to my phone more often than I need to, but I am capable of freeing myself from that. I plan to be more cognizant of my phone usage and keep it on “do not disturb” throughout the day.
Carson Kirby, freshman, health sciences major, Hendersonville, North Carolina
I really enjoyed the phone fast! Taking a day to step away from technology allowed me to feel grounded. I felt as though I had more intentional conversations throughout the day and was more mindful.
It was pretty challenging, however. It was crazy to see how much I rely on my phone for things. I use it as an alarm clock, calendar, camera and, of course, for communication. At one point during the day I was supposed to meet up with a friend. However, without a phone, it was hard to find each other and come up with a plan.
But, overall, being off my phone for a day made me realize how consuming technology can be. I probably spent the most time outside during the phone fast than any other day this semester. I developed a greater appreciation for this beautiful campus and the face-to-face conversations in between classes. I will certainly change my amount of screen time each day and start putting my phone away as I walk around campus. I am thankful the Cothran Center and FUSAB teamed up for this event, and I hope they do it again in the future!
Carson Staples, sophomore, psychology and religion major, Atlanta, Georgia
The phone fast was one of my most enjoyable days of spring semester this year at Furman. I became acutely aware of the constant temptation to check my notifications, respond to texts and even avoid awkward situations by engaging with my phone instead.
I am used to extended “fasting” from my phone because of going to summer camp every year, but not using my phone at Furman was much more difficult. Even though I can go five weeks without looking at my phone over the summer with ease, going nine hours at Furman without looking at it was quite difficult.
While taking the Koru Mindfulness course in February, we were challenged to walk between classes without looking at our phones and instead to take in all that we were sensing. The phone fast was a nice reminder about the impact this can have. When I don’t look at my phone, I notice more of Furman’s beautiful campus, I run into people I might have not noticed, and I am generally more at peace as I slow down and take in each moment rather than thinking about where I am headed or what I am doing next.
The phone fast was an effective way to dip my toes in the water of relying less on my phone and being more present during my time here. I will definitely put away my phone, continue to slow down and soak up everything Furman has to offer before the end of the semester.
Eli Titherington, freshman, public health and business major, Charlotte, North Carolina
The day without my phone was something I had experienced before but not at Furman. I realize that I’ve become attached and dependent on many of the features and amenities of this device. The constant flow of rapid information and stimuli that our cell phones provide becomes normal, and we grow apathetic to the control it has over us.
I found myself searching for it during a lull in the pace of my highly active day, and I realized how much I was missing socially by walking to class with my phone. This experience definitely changed the amount of time I’ll be using my phone in the future.