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The Missing Ninth MAG
My history teacher spun around, portraying his dramatically gaping mouth to the entire class. “Four hours a day on your phone?” he yelled. “How do you people live?”
Honestly, I have no idea.
My classmate just laughed and turned obediently back to her phone.
Life goes on, and we’re a few months into school, right back in sophomore U.S. History. The glorious class that seems to be nothing more than a class to teach teens how to stealthily add to their Snapchat stories while the teacher is lecturing. A different girl sets a new record by casually mentioning that she spends 11 hours a day on her phone, thanks to the new Apple update that calculates your average time per day. My history teacher doesn’t freak out at this one; I don’t think he actually believes it. He asks her anyway, almost as if he were challenging her.
“What the heck do you do all day?”
She laughs like it’s a silly question. “I’m on FaceTime pretty much all throughout the school day,” she boasts to us. “And I’m on it non-stop from the time I get home to the time I go to bed.” She giggles. “I mean, if I go to bed.” She flips her long blonde hair over her shoulder and I almost expect to hear a whip crack.
How could this possibly happen?
I’m not sure I want to know the answer.
But I think back to several years ago. I was somewhere around eight years old. It was Elizabeth’s birthday party. She was a nice girl, but we hardly ever talked during school. Since we rarely talked, I didn’t know what gift to get her, so I grabbed a friendship bracelet kit from Five Below and hoped for the best. You know, the default option.
In the pile Elizabeth’s gifts was a small box neatly wrapped in pink and green striped paper. She picked it up, and to everyone’s surprise, it started ringing! She gasped, and unwrapped the gift quickly.
“A PHONE!” My third grade ears never knew someone could scream so loud.
Elizabeth loved her new phone, but I hated it. I thought it was stupid that an eight-year-old got a phone. Still, I couldn’t help but feel jealous. I never would have guessed, though, that in just seven years, she would be spending 11 hours a day on that stupid thing.
How do you live? I’m beginning to believe my history teacher hadn’t been acting so dramatically after all. More and more frequently I want to grab my peers by the shoulders and shake them until they answer this question. How do you go about your life with a screen in your face? How can you do your homework when Instagram needs updating or Snapchat is begging you to look at another picture of half of someone’s face and the ceiling, or FaceTime is whining with another call? How do you see your family, do the things you love, laugh, clean, cry, sleep, eat, or even think with this thing shoved in your face?
Introducing the new Apple Soul Harvester 87! Guaranteed to suck every last year of life out of you!
Why is it that when we find out we will spend a third of our lives sleeping, we feel like we are missing out on so much? Did you know we will spend one-ninth of our lives on our phones? Why do we so easily conform to wasting a ninth of our life when it’s something we can control?
Gradually, carelessly, that ninth is beginning to grow. “Candy Crush” replaces homework. Why talk to your friends at the beginning of class when you can see what Ariana Grande had for lunch instead? Read a book? Why would I do that?
The danger lies in the subtle difference that separates phones from laptops, tablets, and TVs. With their handy-dandy size, phones can deviously fit right into your pocket, ensuring that they’re always with you. Always the easier, comfortable option, promising a landing pad to fall back on during an awkward conversation, excruciatingly boring lunch, or those few minutes before class starts.
Time on our phones decreases our “memory income.” Children keep their memories third grade and birthday parties, but how much of our time spent on our phones do we remember? When we’re 78 and living in a nursing home, what memories are we going to look fondy back on? Updating our Instagram feed? Call me crazy, but I don’t think so.
Are we really living when everything we experience is on a screen? It may feel comfortable, but we miss out on so much behind the safety of our phones. We can watch every single “People are Awesome” video out there, but we will never truly experience what it’s like.
It hurts, almost. Knowing that you spent your life looking at things that you never actually experienced on your own.