Doing vs. Having

American literature students who have read Thoreau generally remember two things about Walden: that Thoreau spent $28.125 building his cabin, and that he deemed the four necessaries of life to be food, fuel, shelter, and clothing.

Cell phones did not make the cut.

To students, a phone seems to be an absolute essential. They could, theoretically, use one to submit work on Canvas. They might use it as a small-screen textbook to avoid carrying a heavy anthology to class. They can go places in safety because their AI of choice can route them there. They carry the world in the palms of their hands.

Yet it seems smarter not to have a smart phone. First, calculate the actual cost of the devices. Assuming that you’re an average user who purchases a new phone every 32 months, you’ll spend about $12,500 on phones before your death. Once you add data and apps, you’ll have spent over $75,000 in 60 years as a phone user.

If you prefer to look for hidden costs, think of the money wasted by spending too much too early on phones. If you set aside $1000 a year from the age of eleven–the average age of a first-time cell user in America–until the ripe old age of sixteen, you could put the money in an annuity that could yield as much as $85,000 in thirty years. Other hidden costs involve a greater potential for accidents while using the phone, lower productivity, the increased likelihood that data miners will sell you things you don’t really need.

The greatest damage I see involves the emphasis on having rather than doing. Keep your nose in your phone long enough and it’ll own you. Instead, see the world. Do interesting things. Keep a journal. Read the room instead of reading your feed. Free yourself from your digital chains.

I suspect that many of you will reply to this post on your phones. Some of you will want to show that you can document the interesting things you on a phone more effectively than in any other way. We’ll have to visit during your 10-year reunion to discuss everything you gained when you put your phones down.

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18 Responses to Doing vs. Having

  1. Gordon Welch says:

    I think having a phone is not completely necessary, but it is useful if we used them in the right way. For example, if we only used them for maps, an alarm clock, a phone to simply call and text people when necessary, checking the weather before heading to work, and any other simple tasks and uses of a smartphone that are necessary and convenient. Then, smartphones would be considered a useful tool and not be considered a problem at all. Smartphones become a problem when we just use them to play games and check social media. Therefore, limiting screen time by only using your phone when necessary is a good place to start when trying to change the use of your phone.

  2. Everett “CJ” Mason, Jr. says:

    In today’s age, having a phone is not a necessity, but it is very important. Today’s digital age has a tight grip on the economy and forces everyone to have some form of connection to the Internet in order to stay updated. If you don’t have a source to stay rooted to the digital world, you can easily fall into obscurity. Sure, there are other ways to stay updated, but pulling up social media on a computer is much more of a complicated process; phones simply streamline the process and make your day-to-day life easier. However, if you don’t care about staying updated on pop culture or staying in contact with people through forms of social media, it is very easy to go without a phone. Without a phone, you can easily avoid the toxic social media community and maintain genuine connections with those who are closest to you. Also, you tend to appreciate the environment and people around you much more once you aren’t distracted by quick sources of dopamine.

  3. Bill Arnoldus says:

    Cell phones aren’t essential but they sure are great to have. My mom always makes me bring my phone everywhere so she can see where I am if she is worried. I checked my screen time on my phone. (it also includes all my other devices) Unfortunately the screen time data wipes every weekend and its Sunday, the beginning of the week, so theres only todays data, but it was enough to still make this point. 71% of the time spent on my phone was used for entertainment, if I checked on Saturday to include a whole week the percentage would be higher still. All of the qualify of life things a cell phone can offer dwarf in comparison to what I mainly use my cellphone for, and that is entertainment. May it be watching videos, playing mobile games or browsing mindlessly through social media, that is what I spend most of my screen time doing. If I didn’t have a cell phone then the only thing I would notice after a few days is I would be really bored. Maybe this free time would force me to socialize with people or do interesting things with my time, or maybe I would go and get into some trouble. Whatever it may be, my cell phone is a huge part of my day and I’m grateful I have the privilege to let it eat up my time.

  4. Harsika Dillibabu says:

    To put it frankly, humans are creatures of not only habit but also convenience. In this digital age, phones are essential, powerful tools that aid in operating in our day-to-day lives. Sure, with access to the entire world in the palm of our hands, there ought to be some form of abuse of our power in this right. All things have their unavoidable evils. However, these problems can be solved through the development and practice of healthy habits. Most ironically, casually scrolling through the right social media page on your phone in the middle of the day may fuel the motivation for bringing about change in your lifestyle in a positive way. It’s up to us to determine what type of influence and how much of an influence the power of technology has over us as individuals. In this day and age, rather than avoiding investment in phones, I believe transforming the way we use them instead will result in the improved advancement of humanity.

  5. Whether or not a phone is necessary for a person’s life depends on the person. At MSMS a phone is not needed for survival per say, but it is needed to succeed. PowerSchool, canvas, and outlook are all apps that students use multiple times a day on their phone. Sure these can be easily accessed through a laptop or computer, but sometimes a computer is not easily accessible. Aside from this, parents expect students to be in constant communication with them because of the technology these “amazing” phones have to offer. Many teenagers are obsessed with their phones for reasons other than school, but you cannot speak for an entire age group because of what is common. Before coming to MSMS if I spent the more than a few hours on my phone I considered a sad day. Phones have become a necessity because of the people who created and mass produced them (not teenagers!) and the people who use them as main form of communication.

  6. Laya Karavadi says:

    Cell phones are not a necessity, but they are very important. For me, it is so important to keep in touch with my family, especially the ones across the world. Although my grandparents do not know how to use their cell phones well, they know how to click the call button so that they can talk with and look at the family that they wouldn’t be able to if they did not own phones. I understand that many students, nowadays, have lost much time on social media, watching an entire show in one day, or falling into the rabbit hole of YouTube videos, but this is a break from many of MSMS students’ busy studying. The problem here is not the cell phone itself, it is the lack of self-restraint many people have. The phrase “just five more minutes” has lead many students, including me, to submit assignments at that dreadful 11:59 mark. If we control ourselves and the time we spend on our phones, our phones won’t be the reason we push back our work to the last minute, but relief from many of our busy schedules.

  7. Geethika Polepalli says:

    Cell phones are definitely not required to live life during this time, however, it is very useful and nice to have. Cell phones can do many things now that would have seemed impossible before. I’m now able to keep in touch with my family across the sea, look up if unicorns are real, or apply to a job all right from my phone. Staying with the topic of jobs, many people in the professional workplace communicate by phone. If you do not have a phone, it is an inconvenience to you and to the people around you. Being away from home, my parents are always concerned about my safety. With my phone, they are able to track me and see where I am, and are able to stay in constant communication with me. While phones are useful, they are a very big distraction. For many students, we all say that we do not use our phones that much, but when you check your screen time, all of the minutes on your phone are racked up and the results are always shocking. For me, my average per day on my phone is about three hours. This is surprising to me because those three hours could have been spent studying for my upcoming tests or spending time with friends. Phones are useful, but self-restraint is an important trait to have when you have a cell phone in your hand.

  8. Phones play different roles in everybody’s lives. Some spend hours scrolling, and others use their phones for only the necessities, whatever that might include. I thankfully get a headache from too much screen time, allowing me to go outside sometimes. I am very aware, however, that phones are more of a tool, allowing you to live your life more, not less. They help direct you to that shady nature retreat in the middle of nowhere that you want to go hike at, or help bring you comfort that you can go on vacation without losing touch with family and friends. Phones should bring comfort and make life easier to live. They should not keep you bedridden at home, unable to pull away from Tik Tok. I have experienced it, and I will not say that spending my day on my phone makes me happy or sad, simply a day that went by scrolling on my phone. So I believe if you have the motivation to want to get out of bed and experience life as best you can, then a phone is very useful to help you do it.

  9. Jay De Ochoa says:

    I cannot survive without my phone. It is the best way to contact my family, access my money, and even wake up in the morning. Obviously, there are a ton of downsides to having a phone but then again there are downsides to everything. That said, I think having a phone at a very young age can be extremely dangerous. You have access to social media which is probably one of the easiest ways for predators to prey on young children and even older ones. I fear the dangers that my own child could be exposed to if they have a phone at the age of 11. I was lucky enough to have parents that did not give me a phone until they found it was absolutely necessary that I had one. I think I was in seventh grade when they gave me a phone. It was really the only way I had to contact them and I can’t imagine how I would have got to and from school without it. All in all, my phone has and will continue to provide me with a variety of applications that I can use to my advantage.

  10. Claire Ellison says:

    Phones are not essential to everyday life; however, they allow people to be more successful if utilized correctly. For example, I can contact peers about assignments if I miss class as well as complete assignments and check grades. Outside of school, I use my phone to contact my parents and keep updates on the world around me, such as the weather and news. This is especially important because your surroundings can change in an instant and being aware allows you to be safe and not waste your time.

  11. Christina Zhang says:

    As society progresses, so does the development of the mobile phone. We have become increasingly dependent on our cellphones not because of our innate lack of independence but rather society’s escalating connection with cellphones. We have now replaced a compass, clock, map, radio, television, mail, and notebook each with a cellphone. We have even gone so far to replicate real-life experiences with online simulators that catalyze the formation of parasocial relationships, leading to feelings of false fulfillment and happiness within oneself. This is problematic, but it is truly how the world has come to work. It is impossible to reverse this norm altogether, so it is unlikely that cellphone advancement will come to a halt.

  12. Nicolas Neal says:

    Many are quick to jump on the bandwagon to hate phones without much consideration, and consequently, they neglect the multitude of benefits that they can reap from their personal devices. On this page, I have read many criticisms in which phones are described to inhibit their users from participating in various activities, though I beg to differ. Cell phones do not prevent us from engaging in enjoyable affairs, instead, they afford us with an all-new medium through which we can enjoy them! Socialization has become accessible anywhere and with anyone (given that you have an internet connection). Errands have become much more manageable, the functional conveniences of phones are alone too much to disregard, and YOU, reader, possess a desire to use your phone that is so compelling, you often cannot resist! I dismiss any attempts at attaining uniqueness through the criticism of phones. If you honestly feel that phones are a detriment to your wellbeing, then I encourage you to throw yours on the ground and stomp on it.

  13. Oliver Higginbotham says:

    I do agree with your assessment that cell phones are not essential part of our lives, but (there is always a but) it is a great tool as it could be useful in times when you do need it. For example, when trying to find a place to eat or find a store that holds a certain item, and you don’t have a PC you can access at the moment, it can save time. If you need roadside assistance and your car doesn’t have OnStar or an equivalent, a cell phone is very helpful. It also has very convenient uses like clock, compass, text, call, location, Emergency Call, games (these are the best feature), and many more. Sadly, we will only become more dependent on these objects up to the point where we will Need a cell phone, we can only Hope that doesn’t happen.

  14. Dia Kher says:

    Cell phone usage improves the quality of life. Cell phones allow long-distance connections between users (if there is an internet connection). Not only do cell phones uphold relationships, the devices aid in everyday usage. The costs of buying a cell phone and a plan do not outweigh the benefits that come with the phones.

  15. Eddie Lai says:

    We can do so many things without our phones. For example, we can still communicate in person, communicate through letters, plan our day out with a planner, use a map to navigate the world, maybe snap a photo of the world with a camera, and so many more other things. Ironically enough, we can do all of this on one simple device, a phone. You can communicate with people halfway around the world with a touch of a screen. You can plan out your day without using any paper and use your phone instead. You can snap so many pictures at a moment’s notice. You can travel the world with something the size of your hand. What I’m trying to say is that phones make life much less tedious. Sure, you can free yourself from using the phone, but why do if you’re only using it for productive reasons. The case of phone usage varies from person to person. It might be beneficial to someone who only uses it for work and very harmful to someone who has a hard time focusing. Like many other topics, there is no 100% correct answer. In the case of phones, one must attain the perfect balance to maximize the benefits of phones while also minimizing the negatives. To end it off, why be like Thoreau when you could be Diogenes. Diogenes lived a perfectly content life with just a bowl of water before he also threw it away after seeing a boy use his hands instead. Thoreau abandoned his phone in the 1800s and Diogenes did so in 400 BCE, but maybe we should reconsider our options in the 21st century.

  16. Nora Courtney says:

    Listing the necessities of life like shelter, food, clothing, and fuel only shows the one thing it’s designed for, to show the necessities. Last time I checked, there are hardly any people in the world today who only live by or value the “necessities” of life. To many, life is not worth living unless it has quality to it. Cell phones add quality to life. Yes, they do have harmful affects on society, especially impressionable minds, but one could argue that everything has a harmful effect on society. Phones have made things easier for society to communicate better, whether it’s to make communication quicker, work around someone’s disability, or conquer a language barrier. These help advance society, making it more inclusive, diverse, and easier to thrive. It is important to not spend all day on a cellular device and to spend time with the people around you and with the world, but it would be wrong to assume that cell phones were completely useless and destroy society.

  17. Hong Zheng says:

    Although cell phones are not required to live a life, it is desirable and does improve your quality of life. Having access to entertainment, family, GPS, and memories are all benefits to having a phone. While phones have benefits, just like all positives, there exist negatives. Humans crave attention and loathe boredom. Cell phone addiction is a very real problem in today’s society. We dislike being bored, so we constantly entertain ourselves with our phones. We love attention, so we post on social media. Although seeming harmless, it can backfire and result in anxiety, depression, restlessness, and low self-esteem. Nevertheless, a phone can also bring so much joy. You get to communicate with your friends and family and entertain yourself with videos from your favorite YouTuber. As long as you are moderate about it, cell phones are incredible to have, and I am quite grateful for mine.

  18. Arika Gardner says:

    Having a phone is not a necessity given that we have new technology. After a while, our “cell phone” will be no more than a microchip implanted into our bodies. Cell phones offer a lot of accessibility that was not available. Technology now has features to accommodate people with disabilities. They are helpful and not completely useless. When it comes to how sociable we can be with our phones, then we start to notice problems. Social media has caused more harm than good. Children as young as 3 years old are getting phones. This leaves them vulnerable to the people who lurk on the web. I believe cellphones are nice to have but not a necessity. They are here to improve our lives and get rid of the mundane aspects of life.

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