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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7 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.

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