Anje Gasner: I'm not a captive of my phone -- I have harnessed it
There’s a reason scrolling through my feed doesn’t feel satisfying — complying with an algorithm is a mindless act. I believe we can all benefit by making a conscious effort to seek out information.
Growing up on the internet meant that technology had a significant role in my childhood. Being born in 2005, I’ve grown up alongside some of the most popular social media platforms, including Reddit and YouTube. Here’s what I’ve noticed: What started out as a realm of flash games and cat videos has now become a business. By the time I reached middle school, the internet was swarming with buzzwords like “influencer” and “algorithm.”
Much of the media we interact with is determined by algorithms. The ultimate tool in advertising, algorithms detect user preferences by analyzing what we interact with online — what we click, like, or comment on. This means that when we’re online, we often see what we want to see. This has approximately the same effect as holding one mirror up to another in order to create an “infinite mirror.”
These past few summers, I have made an effort to go on my phone as little as possible. I have a habit of periodically deleting my social media as well; as the weather gets nicer, I find myself outside more and online less.
This technology detox is refreshing, but in all honesty, short-lived. When September comes around, screens become unavoidable; I use my devices to complete homework, respond to emails, and schedule extracurricular activities. Technology has become a part of my everyday life, and like it or not, it is here to stay.
That’s why, a couple of months ago, I began to experiment with a new philosophy for using my phone: being mindful of what occupies my time and mental energy. In other words, not paying attention to screen time. I’ll be the first to admit — technology is addicting. Something as simple as a notification releases a jolt of dopamine and that cycle can be difficult to break. So, knowing this, I started using my phone every day. More importantly, I started using my phone to build habits every day.
Chances are, most people check their phone several times a day. Why not add one more step? Apps like Duolingo can make learning a language easier, simply by making it a daily habit. Other apps can help you develop an exercise routine, improve your vocabulary, or teach you skills like coding or sign language.
There’s a reason scrolling through my feed doesn’t feel satisfying — complying with an algorithm is a mindless act, and our brains aren’t meant to be inactive. I believe we can all benefit by making a conscious effort to seek out information and ideas; I don’t have to know what I’m looking for, exactly — but my goal is to learn something new in the process.
Anje Gasner is a junior at Century High School. Send comments on teen columns to Jeff Pieters, email@example.com .