Affording the costs of technology

Despite the average student’s debt rising to nearly 20,000 dollars, students all over campus can be found sporting the latest technologies from iPhones, androids and BlackBerries, to iPods and even tablets. But now entering the busy month of November, our connectivity may be costing students more than dollars.

“Now that I have a new phone, the android phone, and it’s got everything on it… I cannot put the thing down, even in class, it’s like an ultimate distracter,” explained third-year political science and psychology student Anne Marshall.

“I’m on Facebook probably every ten minutes,” fourth-year BBA student Calvin Chen told The Cord, also sharing that he reads on his iPad every night before bed.

CBC reports that unplugging from technology, even for one day, causes distress for young adults, specifically students, comparing their symptoms to that of an addict.

In a project called “The World Unplugged”, CBC reports “A clear majority of almost 1,000 university students in 10 countries… were unable to voluntarily stay away from computers, televisions cell phones and MP3 players for 24 hours.”

With a similar attachment to technology presented amongst our sample of Wilfrid Laurier University students, it is understandable that when the time of midterms call for focus, students may opt to distance themselves from their devices.

Third-year geography major Kate Friesen has taken steps to disconnect and estimates to have already deactivated Facebook three separate times this semester to focus on school.

“For like I month I didn’t have it, then I got it back because I feel like I wanted to creep someone,” Friesen explained it was difficult to remain disconnected for social reasons.

Marshall revealed that being constantly connected has consequences on school life, “When midterms roll around, I’m kind of thinking, oh god, I wish I didn’t have my phone on me and actually would have paid attention,” she explained.

Chen attributes technology-related stress that some people feel to a lack of self control, “I mean yeah, there’s a couple of games that came out recently and I’ve elected not to buy them at the moment until my work is done.”

Marshall agrees with Chen that the biggest barrier with technology is a lack of discipline. “I lack self-disciplined and if I was a more disciplined person…it wouldn’t be as big of a source of stress,” she said.

But it may be more than a lack of control as students participating in “The World Unplugged” project experienced feelings of a real addict in withdrawal: panic, anxiety and even heart palpitations when disconnecting within 24 hours. One researcher noted, “Students around the world said that media ⎯ and their phones, especially ⎯ were both emotionally and even physically comforting.”

“I’m dying a little on the inside right now, I want to go get [the video game] Uncharted so bad, but I’m like no, I’m not going to get any work done,” Chen continued.

“I feel like if I miss a day on checking the news or I miss a day on Facebook, I could have missed god knows what and everybody could be talking about it,” Marshall explained the attachment to social media.

However, Marshall also confessed she has difficulty disconnecting even while studying, “I’ll start to feel myself getting tired or getting bored, so I’ll tell myself, ok I’ll go on Facebook and I’ll get re-interested, it’ll keep me awake.”

Although the degree to which they are technologically attached is bound to differ, Marshall, Friesen and Chen all agree that disconnecting for long would not be possible.

“My girlfriend does go to school in a different city, we text throughout the day generally and then talk on the phone at night,” shared Chen.

Friesen stayed away from her phone for four hours in an attempt to focus on homework, but a friend became concerned at Friesen’s technological absence.

“She sent me one [text] at 12, one 10 minutes later, and then one an hour and a half later and then one a few hours later saying ‘I’m worried why you’re not responding,’” explained Friesen.

“I think it would actually be nice to disconnect for a while. I would like to do it, but I don’t think during the school year it’s really feasible for a student especially when most of them have part-time jobs or volunteer jobs… they kind of need to be in contact with other people,” Marshall said.

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