I'm probably one of the strangest college students out there, and I'll let you in on the little secret as to why: I only got my first smartphone last year, when I started at Kennesaw State University. I lived my whole life up until that point without one, and while finally buying it did make my life easier in some ways, it also complicates other things.
Whether or not it's one of the best things I've gotten (which is really up in the air), the fact that I lived so many years without a phone makes me strangely unattached to it. It does drive my sister crazy when I don't pick up her call because I set it down on the table… on silence… and got so engrossed in real conversation that I forget to check it… But I can't say I entirely regret those moments in the end! Instead, I'm grateful because it means I have such amazing conversations with amazing people - in person - and actually give them my attention along with my time, instead of always checking my phone to see who texted.
High School without a phone meant that talking to people was always in person, so "hang up and hang out" wasn't a motto, but what my friends and I actually did. I have to say, my phone might very well do a better job of capturing our real moments with pictures than it does of enabling conversations over call or text.
Now, that's not to say it doesn't do its fair share of keeping me in touch with loved ones for the better, too; now I can just type a message in ten seconds and my cousins, who live far away, know I'm thinking of them. Or, when my battery dies and ends a call with a friend I hadn't seen in months, I realize that we'd been talking for three hours and it felt like three minutes. Yes, I am glad that I can better connect with people I can't always talk to face-to-face; but I don't regret waiting so long first. It taught me to appreciate people's time and presence more than I would if I were used to instant messages and video chats from the beginning.
I realize it's rare to have made it for so long without a phone, and I also see that, more and more, there are huge benefits to being able to connect with people quickly and from a distance. I'm certainly grateful for that, and will make good use of it to maintain friendships if I ever move away! But every now and then, a few hours – or a day – without checking a screen helps remind me to be genuinely present with people who make time for me, and I think that's something we all would benefit from. So the next time you're tempted to have a side conversation on your phone while having one face-to-face with a friend… maybe ask yourself if it can wait and if you can dedicate more attention to the present moment. It just might be worth it.