The student body of the University of Dallas generally does not find it difficult to separate college life from the so-called “real world.” Yet there might still be a few of us whose hands slowly inch towards our phones during lectures and who spend an absurd amount of time trying to remember what page we were on after replying to the soft ding of a text. I do not think these issues are unique to UD. We are millennials, and Lady Bracknell from “The Importance of Being Ernest” might describe our connection addiction as simply an attempt to achieve “the proper average that statistics have laid down for our guidance.”
We have all heard the general benefits of letting go of the phone or disconnecting from the Internet, even turning off the stream of music. Perhaps these have swayed you, perhaps you, like me, were often left unmoved. However, as UD students, we need to consider the appropriate amount of distraction we allow into our lives.
I love original texts, but gaining a paper-worthy understanding of the material does not allow for many distractions. It takes me a few minutes, or hours, to really become engaged in a work, to speak the language of “Mansfield Park” or to roll my mental tongue around the Russian names in “Crime and Punishment.” A text, an email, a poor song choice by Spotify and my focus snaps. I find myself very much back in a cold building in Irving, and that focus needs to be reclaimed, having lost both the momentum and first glimmerings of an amazing essay thesis.
It isn’t just when we are absorbed in our books. When we are sitting in meetings, before class or even just in the Cap Bar, it is so easy to be interrupted and distracted, to try and multi-task or to plan Friday night plans while conversation swirls around us. Sometimes we do need to use every second, or we simply need to disconnect from the loving but occasionally overwhelming UD environment. Yet leaving a text unanswered for an hour doesn’t usually jeopardize friendships, and those real life conversations that go on are so much more memorable than any I’ve conducted virtually.
Not having constant access to one’s phone was one of the most surreal elements of my Rome semester. In retrospect it seems impossible—how does a class coordinate travel across Europe without access to unlimited texting? Yet, strangely, we worked it out. Word of mouth, lots of Starbucks and smart use of Internet access allowed us to coordinate many great adventures and not be distracted by the coordination once we got there.
For, at the end of the day, our phones and devices are really just tools. It is left to us to decide what we build with them.