Are smartphones our new addiction, or just a useful tool?

Cell phone colorIn a generation where technology is heavily relied on to provide information and entertainment, cell phones are a common means of communication. However, cell phones have also become an obstacle to communication and more of a distraction, at least in the view of some Norwich students.

In a recent poll online, 29 percent of American’s said that their phones are the first and last thing they look at every day. According to the poll, 44 percent of cell phone users said they have slept with their cell phone by their side so they won’t miss a notification.

Interviews with a range of Norwich students reveal different attitudes about when cell phones become an addiction, when their usage is rude and how much people should use them, as well as how they interfere with social interactions.

Some Norwich students, like Madison Gallagher, say that they would be lost without having their cell phone by their side throughout the day. “I’ve gone through three iPhone’s in the past four or five months and every time it breaks, I cry,” said Gallagher, 21, a sophomore accounting and business management major from Montreal, Quebec.

Gallagher explains her tears over her broken phone were due to her inability to text or have any way to communicate with others. However, she managed to find other ways to text and check social networking sites until she got a new phone.

“I stole my friend’s iPad and walked around with it so I was able to communicate with people. I brought it with me everywhere for about a week,” Gallagher said.

Adelle Murphy, 20, a freshman athletic training major from Roseau, Minn., admits she is sort of addicted to her phone. “I check my phone about every five minutes for texts, to go on Pinterest, to check notifications from Facebook, twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat.”

However, because Murphy is away from home, she says her cell phone is really the only way to stay in touch with family and friends, and to be updated on everything that is going on. Still, her constant use of it does get her in trouble at times.

“My friends and family tend to get mad at me sometimes because they say I am on my cell phone way too much,” Murphy said.

Though Murphy and Gallagher said they need to check their phone constantly, other NU students say they aren’t obsessed with their phones, but they do need it with them at all times.

Zachary Muse, 19, a freshman accounting major from Chicopee Mass., has a smartphone but doesn’t think he is completely addicted to it. “I wouldn’t say I am overly obsessed but I like to have it on me. I like to make sure nothing is going on, like texts from people, social networks, and anything like that,” he said.

Other students said they don’t see the need to always have their smartphones at hand.

“I could go without (my cell phone), but if it’s by me I’m going to use it,” said Brandon Stubbs, 21, a senior majoring in criminal justice from Dunstable, Mass.

Like Stubbs, Brittany Sharman, 21, a senior physical education major from Ayers Cliff, Quebec, doesn’t feel the need to use her phone throughout the day. “I believe it is better to interact with people socially rather than to be constantly texting,” she said.

“I don’t really use (my cell phone) during the school hours, and I don’t usually answer it because it’s not really a priority to me and it’s usually just in my bag,” Sharman said.

Other NU students also do not see answering their phone as a priority, especially when they are visiting with family.

“I’ll have my phone by me but I try to be respectful,” said Luis Delgado, 24, a senior engineering management major from Stone Ridge, N.Y. He added, “Obviously, I don’t have my phone out when I am at the dinner table. My parents, I don’t want to say are old-fashioned, but you want to respect them so you just don’t take your phone out at the dinner table.”

Delgado does use his cell phone throughout the regular school day, though. “Probably any time that I am awake, I check my phone at least once in that hour,” Delgado said. He added that, “I guess it could be classified as an obsession because of how much I use it, but I wouldn’t say that if I lost my phone my life would be over.”

Morgan Lamorey, 20, a junior nursing major from Northfield, Vt., also makes it a point to not take her cell phone out when she is at the table with family or friends. “If you are spending time with your family you should be spending time with them and not be wrapped up in your phone, and the same goes when you are with friends.”

“If we are out to dinner or something and I can’t have a conversation with you because your face is in your phone, then that’s annoying,” Lamorey said.

Gallagher also puts her phone away during family events – but not by choice. “Usually my mom will take my phone from me. She will see it on the table and will hide it,” Gallagher said.

Shay Pavlisko, 18, a freshman majoring in communications from Oshawa, Ontario, puts her phone away herself to avoid being rude when at dinner. “I think it’s disrespectful because you should be able to communicate without your cell phone in your hand,” Pavlisko said.

On the other hand, Pavlikso does find herself distracted by her cell phone throughout the day. “I’m more so distracted when I am doing homework and my phone goes off. It doesn’t help me concentrate,” Pavlisko said.

Gallagher finds herself sidetracked not by her own phone, but by other students’ cell phones. “If I don’t have my phone, or if I see a phone on the table I’ll touch it anyways,” Gallagher said. She added, “If you see a phone on the table a lot of peoples natural instinct is to just touch it.”

Some students admit the distraction of a cell phone can be a way to avoid social contact or doing work. “(I use my cell phone for) texting, games, and as a way to not do my homework,” said Stubbs.

Jake Ouellette, 19, a sophomore accounting major from Turner, Maine, has a different tack: He uses his phone as a “security blanket for awkward situations. Like if I’m in the elevator with a stranger I would pull out my cell phone to avoid interaction with them.”

Sharman, for one, is concerned that some students are too dependent on their phones.

“One day in the future (these students) are going to need to communicate with people face-to-face, and they are going to be in a work setting where they aren’t going to be able to use their cell phones constantly, and I believe they will go through withdrawals and it will affect them in the work place,” Sharman said.

Murphy agrees, saying she thinks face-to-face communication is important and she wants to be less engaged in her cell phone. “I want to be more social and interact with my family instead of just interacting with social media,” Murphy said.

On the other hand, Gallagher doesn’t feel the need to change. “Realistically, I will not fix this problem. I’m not too worried about it or concerned,” Gallagher said.

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