What We Are Really Looking For In Our Phones

What We Are Really Looking For In Our Phones

Cell phone attachment might be the elephant in the room of the millennial generation.
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We have trained ourselves to never need to be bored. Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are all options for us to avoid being left alone with our own thoughts. The insurgence of cell phones into our society has become as deeply ingrained as Ford's first automobiles. When you experience something that convenient, it's hard to go back. We are living in a world where cyborgs exist and we are all one of them. I would define the projection of identities on to virtual social media accounts as being part cyborg. I started caring about social media when I was about thirteen. What a cruel joke to give a crisis-struck pre-teen unlimited platforms to be anxious about. Not to mention, the internet has a tendency to remember. Millennials find themselves not only preoccupied with navigating social concerns like, "what is my personal style?" but also, "what one line bio best captures my essence?" Furthermore, according to Common Sense Media, half of teens report feeling addicted to their phones.

So why don't those 50 percent of teens just stop? The Millennial generation is the first to live in a phone-dominated world where seemly infinite information is available anytime at the touch of our fingertips. While our phones can help us learn the roads of unfamiliar territory, can they teach us how to navigate the new phone-dominated social scene? Teenagers now not only have one person to manage, but virtual personalities as well. When someone messages your social media account, they feel like they are in that moment talking to you. However, you can't be more than one place at a time, so you could be sleeping or half way across the world. But in a way, you are still responsible for the upkeep of that person. We have an anxiety that is deeply rooted in this obligation to technology.

Don’t get me wrong, smart phones are an amazing tool that make our lives all sorts of convenient. I can virtually visit 20 different local restaurants with a few soft taps of my finger before actually committing to one. When asked why he uses Twitter, zero waste activist Alec Howard says, “I’m obsessed with the latest climate change news. It’s the most morbid thing, but I want to hear what people are saying as our planet is being destroyed.” Others have accounted their technology use to the satisfaction of boredom, the desire to stay updated, and of course not get lost. But what are we really searching for as we scroll through our phones?

I remember being at home as a kid during the summers and anxiously missing my friends and waiting to go back to school. Boredom is a part of excitement. Social media and technology often give us an easy solution to boredom so that we don't have to be bored. Yet when we are bored, we are in pursuit of entertainment. We wrestle in our seats and find ourselves outside of our comfort zone exploring. It motivates us to do new things, like maybe try painting for the first time or picking up surfing like we always wanted to. Developing methods of entertaining oneself can lead to the discovery of passions and joys.

When we are searching through our newsfeed, we are often times looking for entertainment, connection, validation or distraction. Some people like to use their social media to keep in touch with family and friends. They receive validation and recognition in the form of likes and comments. But of all the time that we spend scrolling through social feeds, how much of it do we really remember? There's too much useless information and not enough ways of filtering it. By scrolling through social media, we are inviting in endless information. This can result in feelings of over stimulation and anxiety.

I'm definitely a fan of photography, and that's definitely part of my attachment to my phone. I was on a backpacking trip in Asia, and countlessly thought about how little the photos I was taking would ever be able to tell the story. On the rickshaw to the airport, I had an image of my phone falling from my pocket and getting crushed by oncoming traffic. I thought at that moment, "my phone is the most valuable possession I own right now because of those photos." I was at a loss for words when I got to the airport and my phone was actually gone. I patted my pocket where it was probably 100 times. I unloaded & reloaded my backpack in the restroom three times before realizing. They're gone. Every photo I took, everything that I wanted to share, is gone. Except it's really not. The photos are gone, but that kind of makes it 100 times better. No one else will ever be able to validate my story, but me. It's my memory and adventure that is private. Sometimes that feels like a lost luxury in our day and age. It really made me question what my first days back in the U.S. would have been like. Would I have jumped right back into technology feet first and uploaded an album with 100 photos to Facebook? Probably, but instead I spent my first month back in the states without a cell phone and keeping up new mentalities and habits (like meditation!). I'm glad I learned that lesson, even if it was the hard way.

They say that a photo says a thousand words, but I disagree. Looking through my cell phone to find a photo wouldn't compare to me describing the elation I felt standing above all the rooftops, in a whirlwind of kites, with the sun setting, deep in the deserts of Rajasthan.

I can't say that I know what you are searching for on your phone, but I know for myself that a lot of the comfort I seek from it I will never find there. The important piece is that we ask ourselves this question, and possibly reallocate time away from phone usage if it's not meeting our needs. Ultimately, the search for entertainment, self-discovery and connection is waiting outside your pocket and outside your door.

Cover Image Credit: Rachal Baran

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An Open Letter To The Meadville Medical Center And Its ER Staff

When did kindness become a deserved thing in the healthcare field; and only if you're not on drugs?
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Yes, that cover picture is me, coming off a ventilator...at Magee Women's Hospital in Pittsburgh, a two-hour drive from my house, not at Meadville Medical Center.

This is very difficult to write. We live in a small town, and you are the only hospital for over twenty miles. In fact, I live so close to you, that I can see your rooftop from my back garden. I can walk to you in about ten minutes if it’s not overly humid out. The Life Flights pass over my house as they arrive at and leave your facility, and my young daughter and I pray for every one of them.

My daughter had to call an ambulance on May 30th, as I had a sharp and horrible pain overtake me so suddenly, that I thought my neighbor (who I threatened to report for dealing drugs) had shot me through the dining room window at first. There was no blood to be seen, but the pain was so severe, that combined with the cold sweats and dizziness, I was genuinely afraid I was about to die.

I can’t express in words how proud I was of my girl as she explained to the 911 operator what was the matter and where we lived. She was brave and helpful as they took a blood sample, handled what I later learned was a seizure, and kindly got me into the ambulance from my difficult entryway. She called her Auntie and calmly told her to meet me at the ER. And while memories of the horrible experience I had in your ER twenty years ago still haunted me, the care and attention the ambulance drivers showed me encouraged me that I would be okay.

If only.

There were so many people, and I was half delirious with pain and inexplicable symptoms. Thank God my sister in law, Sheri, was there to help me fight for my life. For the sake of our small town and six degrees of separation, I will call them Nurse A, B, C, and D, and Doctor H. Your staff literally, unapologetically bullied me within an inch of my life.

When I arrived, it was apparently Nurse A who triumphantly announced to everyone involved in my care that I was on drugs, case closed. Despite Sheri and I repeatedly telling them that I hadn’t taken any narcotics, and I won’t take anything stronger than Motrin 800, they persisted in asking what I took. At one point I heard Sheri saying, “She does everything naturally, you're wasting time.” No one cared.

When Nurse A informed me that they needed a urine test, I told her to straight cath me, as I couldn’t stand up. It was Nurse A who told Doctor H that I faked two seizures on the way from my house (I am still amazed by her mystical powers that she could surmise this), and insisted again that I was faking everything. With utter disgust Doctor H said, “She can stand, get her up.” At Sheri’s protest, Nurse A reiterated, “If she can move her legs she can stand.” My legs, which were almost involuntarily moving to find relief from the pain in my abdomen, gave out on me when she insisted I put myself on the bedside commode. I passed out again and urinated on her.

When I woke up to Sheri frantically calling my name, I was greeted by an absolutely disgusted Nurse A, who complained that she needed to go change her clothes, and rolled her eyes at my faking another seizure. She informed everyone who came in next that I was faking these symptoms, and four attempts to straight cath me failed. In that moment, I was sure I was going to die.

Everything after that came in blurry and fragmented vignettes, like an awful out of body experience. There were Nurses B through D or more, all repeatedly asking me what drugs I took. Everyone scowled and frowned, passing on the information that I was faking everything. There were four of these nurses when I woke up on the way to a scan, and all but one asking me what drugs I took, and telling me to stop faking as I hysterically screamed that I could not breathe when I lay flat. I was terrified, confused, out of my mind, and unable to breathe when I lay flat, and they reported that “she hyperventilated herself” in the scan lab.

All the while, Sheri valiantly insisted they would find no drugs in the blood work, and that I probably hadn’t been to a family doctor in years. I lay in your ER cubicle and reconciled myself to God, convinced that I was going to die and be labeled a drug addict.

At some point, something shifted, and suddenly I received the blanket I had asked for hours before. Apparently, my temperature had dropped so low, their fancy thermometers couldn’t read anything. I remember a young man trying to find a vein and saying, “Oh my God, I’ve never seen anything like this. I’m not trying again.” My head was elevated, and the panic of not being able to breathe alleviated somewhat.

Suddenly Doctor H was almost kind, and I heard him telling Sheri something about “a mass” and “blood in her abdomen” and how some other hospital was better equipped to help me. She told me she okay-ed it, and I recall telling her, “I trust you. Just get me out of here.”

In fact, knowing someone else would care for me gave me such peace, that I literally lay completely still as an older man inserted an IV line into my neck with no anesthesia.

We assume the blood work came back and the scan verified what we desperately tried to tell everyone from the beginning; I wasn’t on or seeking drugs. But there was no apology from Nurse A, her fellow nurses, or Doctor H. I may be corrected, but I spent five or six hours in your ER defending myself to the same people who should have been fighting for my life.

As I lay there, talking to Yeshuale, three people in what looked like tactical suits came alongside my bed. The first was a woman who looked like she was speaking into a walkie talkie. Behind her two men. I thought to myself “Oh, state cops. I guess I’m just going to die in prison.” I was so out of it, confused and weary of being asked what drugs I took, I believed your ER staff had called the police and they had come to take me away. All I could think of was what would become of my young daughter.

Thank God, I was mistaken. The blonde woman wasn’t a police officer, but part of the helicopter team, on the phone with Magee in Pittsburgh so she could begin administering blood to me. Blood. Something your staff considered less important than accusing me of using and seeking some weird drugs. Behind her, a tall, blonde man smiled at me and explained that he was taking me in a helicopter and I would be fine. It was like hearing from an angel, and I remember saying, “Todah, Yeshuale!” repeatedly in my head and in a whisper. “Thank You, Jesus!”

Four blocks away, my daughter and the friend she was staying with waved as we flew over my house.

To my surprise, I woke up two days later, attached to a ventilator, one of my sister friends sitting beside my bed. I learned that I’d had two masses in my uterus, which tore itself open and bled into my abdomen. I’d lost four liters of blood and had a transfusion in the Life Flight. When they took the vent out, (my friend took the picture above) I made a joke about being a tough Jersey girl as I signed to the ICU nurse, but inside I was an emotional wreck. Still, as the days went on, I determined to treat everyone with kindness, and was treated the same way at every turn.

Kindness. The one thing I never received from your staff.

What was so special about me that your staff felt interrogating me about my apparent drug use was more important than helping me? My address? Because for some reason all the drug dealers in town seem to want to take over my block? So, we’re all on drugs, then? Do you realize that half my neighbors brag about going to your ER to get pain pills, and how easy it is? I never asked for anything but a Tylenol, and that was on the Life Flight. So, again I ask, what made me so unique?

And, I must say, it’s not even that your staff didn’t believe me. They were mean, hateful even. Rolling their eyes, talking about me like I wasn’t there, saying everything I did was a ruse to get drugs. When did it become okay to treat anyone like that? How was it alright for your nurse to walk in and determine that I was on drugs? How was it alright for her to set the tone of disbelief, unkindness, and abuse? How was it alright for the doctor to allow this and roll with it?

Yes, I said abuse. When someone is screaming that they can’t breathe and you tell them to stop faking, that is abuse. When you berate someone, and accuse them of something to the point where they believe they’re being taken to jail to die, that’s abuse. When you refuse to give someone a blanket, hold them down to the point where they’re bruised, that’s abuse. When you waste time to the point where an ambulance won’t get to the next hospital fast enough… that’s abuse. Your staff verbally, emotionally, and physically abused me.

Not only were they abusive, but they were comfortable with it. Your staff was comfortable with it, and didn’t care what it would cost me or my family. All but one nurse, who Sheri now tells me insisted that there was something wrong with me and took me for the scan. That nurse saved my life. People are comfortable with abuse because they get away with it. Abusers get smug, arrogant and even careless, because those they abuse say nothing. Your staff was smug, rude and uncaring to the point that they displayed a sick sort of disgust for me that was completely obvious. My sister in law later confirmed to me that it wasn’t all in my head.

At what point did this behavior become acceptable? Is it because you’re the only hospital for a 30-minute drive?

And, so what if I had been seeking drugs or high on some unknown concoction? Would that have made it okay for your staff to treat me thusly? Would Nurse A have been justified in declaring my altered state and treating me like garbage? Would Doctor H have been justified in how he treated me? When did nursing and healing give anyone that sort of power? When did people cease to be worthy of kindness, quality health care and gentleness based upon their drug use, or the address they live at?

When did you decide who deserves to be treated with dignity and respect and who does not? When did your medical staff earn that right to decide also?

If we’re completely honest, most of the people I know who abuse pills go to your ER at least once bimonthly to get refills. Your ER physicians pass out opioid scripts like candy and then mistreat the people they’re supplying? Thanks to you, I must hide the pain medication I loathe to take now, because someone will surely break in to my home and steal them if they know I have them. You, and other hospitals like you, are feeding addicts and creating innocent bystander victims like me, but that’s another conversation.

This is difficult to write, because you have your hooks in all over this town. This is difficult to write, because the trauma of that night is still fresh in my mind, and I often cry when I think about it. This is difficult to write, because the reality that I have had to now teach my child to ask any ambulance we ever need to call again to take us to Erie shouldn’t be necessary. This is difficult to write, but it needs to be said, especially since I’ve been finding out that I’m not the only person this has happened to.

You need to address these issues. You need to stop handing out scripts like promotional coupons, and perhaps you won’t have nurses and doctors assuming everyone’s on drugs or seeking them. You need to discourage the abusive and toxic behavior of your staff, and hold them accountable when patients complain. Let me put this into perspective for you: I’m pretty sure Nurse A is the same age as my oldest daughter, and my child would eat mud before she treated anyone like that. Why? Because my kids were never allowed to behave that way in the first place, but to stay on topic, she grew up with consequences, and as an adult still recognizes their severity.

As the events of that night become clearer to me, and I continue my peaceful, miraculous recovery at home, I am determined not to hold on to bitterness about what happened to me at your ER. I am determined to make the most of the second chance at life I’ve been given, and leave your abusive staff in the past. I’ll probably pass some of them in the super market, or sit behind them in church, our town is so small. And while you and your toxic staff will cease to haunt my future, I will surely haunt yours. Nurse A, Doctor H, and Nurses B through whatever… will never forget the night the woman with the blue hair nearly died because they were too busy wrongly judging to actually care.

I am determined to walk out the rest of my life in kindness, the very discussion I had in a blackout with God while your nurse accused me of faking a seizure. I will pray, hoping with all hope that kindness will once again be requisite for employment in your ER and every area of your corporation. Believe me, it’s possible and good for profits. The entire time I spent in Pittsburgh at Magee I never encountered a single unkind staff member from the surgeons to the housekeepers.

I know you can do it.

Cover Image Credit: Heidi Owens

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Smartphones Have Become Our Generation's Most-Loved Distraction

It's time to address your scrolling habits.

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When was the last time you truly connected with someone, face to face, with no distractions? How often do you find yourself grabbing your phone and mindlessly checking all of your social platforms? In a society overwhelmed with media and concerns about our online presence, it is hard for us to break away and spend more time in reality.

We depend on our phones. They get us through traffic, boring bus rides, and long walks to class. This dependence could possibly be decreasing our ability to form true social connections. I believe media and technology can strengthen connections in a broader sense, but they can also cause us to fail at interacting with the people and the issues around us.

Our phones can cause us to miss out on life. Before smartphones, casual conversation was tolerated. As a kid, I would spend endless hours running around outside with friends, creating our own entertainment. Changes in technology lead to changes in society, so it makes sense that the way we interact with one another has also changed.

According to a study completed in 2014, the development of cell phones has actually ruined our social skills. We are likely to mind our own business, stay within our social bubble, and follow up with our areas of interest on our little devices. This dependency, in a way, creates isolation. Instead of smiling at strangers or getting to know our classmates, we pour our attention into our screens. Are our communication devices creating an anti-social environment?

Smartphones prove to be distractions in everyday life. It is easy to fall into the trap of constant scrolling, avoiding real-life responsibilities and opportunities. We repeatedly check our phones within a given hour. It is hard to study with a phone just sitting out on a desk because our eyes and brains have become conditioned to crave our smartphones. The more time you spend scrolling through feed, the harder it is to go without it. There is always that small urge to catch up on the latest news or posts.

Media's influence on our minds can be draining as well. What you fill your head with has a tremendous impact on your mood and wellbeing. Think of all the comparison felt upon looking at Instagram posts. How do you mentally feel after sitting on your phone for an hour? Everything from the images we see to the tweets we read filter through our brain. If checking your phone is the first thing you do in the morning, then you have already started your day by filling it with negativity and countless amounts of images, possibly influencing your mood and thoughts.

However, not everything on the internet and social media are negative. They are both resourceful tools. Without a doubt, our phones serve as an outlet to communication and creativity, linking us to the outside world. But when we let it infiltrate our reality or become our obsession, we are directed away from forming deeper, meaningful relationships with the people around us.

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