Cellphones as a Mechanism for Control

As I walked from the Preserve to Worner in an attempt to locate my lost notebook, I dropped my phone in the snow. Going back to find it was difficult because, unfortunately, I didn’t know the exact spot I had dropped it and it was quite dark outside. So I was left searching in the snow, at night, for two hours. My phone was not located that evening. While I was upset thinking about the price of a new phone, ultimately, I was more upset by the fact that I did not have a phone at all, because my phone is an essential tool for my daily life. For many college students, phones act as a mechanism of control.

Illustration by Charlotte Wall

In connecting with friends, phones serve as the supreme device. We bring them everywhere. Phones are used to communicate study plans and social plans. First-year Walter Brose said, if he were to lose his phone he would, “…feel a sense of disconnection, in the way that I couldn’t text my friends to make plans.” While parents or grandparents may argue that we are perfectly capable of simply knocking on the door of a friend’s room, that is no longer the most efficient means of communication. Students at Colorado College are often deeply involved with extracurricular activities, and, as such, it is rare to find a friend in their room at a random time during the day. Without my phone for a mere 60 hours, I felt highly isolated from my social circles. Most college students are used to constantly being able to access a phone and text or call a friend—being deprived of that felt unnatural.

On a larger scale, phones provide ways for students to interact with the world outside of the CC campus. While it is possible to communicate with parents, friends from home, and use social media platforms with a computer, computers are not constantly in our pockets. If a student is walking outside alone, they often use that time to call parents or friends, or explore other people’s lives on social networks. These are activities embedded in the daily routine of many people. Social media is, essentially, a form of personal advertisement. Without social media, “it almost feels as if you lose the ability to shape how outsiders view your life,” said junior Rebecca Williams.

Phones dominate as instruments that allow college students to live in their own worlds. “I had an iPhone for a while, but I realized it was taking away from my life more than contributing, as well as detracting from my ability to remain in the present,” said senior Char Cadow. “So, I switched to a flip phone, and now I pretty much keep it on silent all the time.” While she clearly does not feel the same distress as I did without a phone, Cadow’s words support the idea that when a student has a smartphone, the phone acts as an all-consuming device that removes a person from reality. While this is often viewed as a negative, being able to detach from reality can actually be quite necessary sometimes. While it can be done by taking a hike or engaging in solitary meditation, sometimes students just want to watch television and take BuzzFeed quizzes. The ability to detach is especially useful on campus while living in extremely close quarters with 2,000 other students.

While there is such a phenomenon as excessive phone usage, smartphones are undeniably useful. Unless a student is willing to give up access to their smartphone, it is impossible to detach from the phone because of the control it provides. While this may seem like an unfortunate circumstance, this is not the case. Students may have a tendency to depend too much on phones, but it is typically in order to control connections with peers, family, and the larger world, and there is nothing wrong with that.

Caroline Williams

Caroline Williams

Caroline Williams

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