Me, My Cell, and I

By Erin Broomell | Copy Editor

Cell phones have become a universal remote control for operating our modern lives. Their usefulness has transformed them into a necessity. However, the line separating normal cell phone usage and addiction is shrinking, and college students continue to toe it.

The most draining relationship some college students have may be their relationship with their cellular phone. A recent study performed by the Department of Psychology at California State University Dominguez Hills determined technology usage contributes to sleep problems through several potential mechanisms. This study comes two years after the University of Kent published findings that cell phone usage in college students had a negative relationship with both GPA and general satisfaction with life. 

These studies aren’t the first foray into deciphering our attachment issues with our mobile devices. Cell phone and technology usage is a frequently studied subject, and while studies have disproven the rumor cell phone cause cancer, they have proven to be teeming with bacteria. For all the findings produced, it seems a consensus can’t be reached; is the technology most keep at arm’s length helping or harming? Are we addicted to cell phones or are they a necessary component of our modern lives?

The Crow’s Nest polled College of Coastal Georgia students to find out how they felt about the subject of these two studies. Out of 157 student respondents, majority of students were moderately or extremely satisfied with their personal cell phone usage. 

Sophomore Julia Palmer says awareness is key and her strategy for moderating her own cell phone usage. It came from her experiences working in customer service.

“I don’t think people are aware when there is a problem because technology is such an integral part of our lives,” Palmer says. “(Working as a waitress) I’ve seen tables where everyone is on their cell phone. When I try to talk to them, they’re so transfixed on their cell phones. You see your flaws in other people. I decided I needed to fix this on my level.”

Majority of respondents believe that studies such as Dominguez Hills’s and Kent’s do carry some weight; 87 percent believe it’s possible to be addicted to your cell phone. Seventy-four percent believe that cell phone usage could affect a student’s GPA. However, 65 percent of those respondents believe it is unlikely that has affected their own. 

Savanna Beverly, Junior, has a plain and simple answer for that.

“I use my cell phone for a lot of different things, sometimes when I have things to do I find myself on Snapchat or Facebook,” Beverly says. “It’s a distraction. But I feel like it doesn’t have a negative effect on my GPA because I get it done. I may procrastinate, but if I need to do it, I’m going to do it.”

Palmer offered a solution for those that aren’t so sure of the affect their cell phone usage habits have on their GPA. 

“At one point I think it was affecting my GPA, but I but I realized I needed to stop being on my phone so much and, when I was, make it related to school,” She says. “I’m a science major, so I use it to check apps related to news and what’s going on in the world instead of what’s happening with my friends.”

Although Dominguez Hills’s study correlated technology use with sleeping problems, many college students may not be convinced. Eighty percent of our respondents said they sleep with their cell phone in the same room with them. However, 31 percent said it rarely interferes with their sleep and another 28 percent said it never interferes with their sleep.  Perhaps further research is needed; quite possibly, college students in general aren’t spending a lot of time sleeping. 

Whether helpful or harmful, college life exacerbates the need and usefulness of a cell phone. Staying connecting to school, work and long-distance loved ones are important aspects of that life. 

“For me, my cell phone enhances family life,” says Beverly. “I can see pictures of my niece as she is growing up. I can look back see time lapses of her development. They’re like a database for our memories. And now there’s ‘Time Hop’ and I get to see everyday what was going on four or five years ago in my life.”

“I’m involved with a lot of clubs,” says Palmer. “I can email people really quick if I just take out my phone. I don’t have to go to my room or lug around my laptop. I can do it really quick when I’m waiting for class to start.”

Although questioned, the data that studies present correlating cell phones with ill effects have helped to spread awareness; the overwhelming majority of respondents believe cell phone addiction is real. 

However, the survey data presented a paradox. While 71 percent of respondents said they have more than one friend who is likely addicted to their cell phone and another 21 percent said they had at least one, just 46 percent of respondents felt it likely that they were addicted. This data suggest that perhaps, self-awareness, not just awareness is the key to resisting cell phone addiction. For this, Palmer offers a test.

“I set my cell phone down. If I notice the urge to check it again in a few minutes, I know it’s time to start watching my habits,” Palmer says. 

Check your student email for an opportunity to participate in future surveys from The Crow’s Nest. Please email all questions and comments to crowsnest@ccga.edu.