The Real Questions, Part 1: How Does Your Phone Impact Your Life?

The Real Questions is an unconventional series by managing editor Ashley Kim, covering everything in the realm of teenager daily life. Part blog post, part advice column, and part news article, this series wants to answer, well, the real questions.


I know I’m on my phone all the time.


I wake up in the morning with notifications on my phone from GroupMe and Instagram. Wow, my friends were chatting it up at 3:48 AM! And someone requested to follow me! I quickly scroll through the chat and accept the follow request while taking my dog out on his morning walk. I meet the twenty-something with his Maltese and don’t bother to remember his dog’s name. My mom drops me off at school and I wave and make a heart sign with my hands. But should I tell her I love you? She’ll text it anyways.


At school, I walk to class with a friend per class. Conversations are a little harder now and I don’t really know why. On the way to third period band, I awkwardly bring up the freezing cold band rehearsal the other night and ridiculous band geek pick up lines.


“Hey, you know all the guys look good in uniform!”

Did she laugh? I’m not sure because both of us were on our phone.


Out of all my friends I walk with, I have one friend who doesn’t use her phone during passing period. From band to calculus, we actually talk. I get slightly claustrophobic in the mass of students heading up the stairs, but she makes me comfortable and I laugh. I pass a friend and subtly wave. He smiles back.


In calculus class, everyone is waiting for the bell to ring so they can go to lunch. The guy sitting next to me and I make small talk, but I’m seriously wondering about something. Why can’t anyone ever talk about deep things with me? How difficult is it to talk about something meaningful?


As the bell rings, everyone’s first response is to take their phone out. They gather up with friends and so do I. I text a group chat that I’m heading to the band room for lunch. As I walk the unbearably long distance to the band room, I check my Instagram and Snapchat. Well, now I know what my friends did Gael Period.


I wave to a friend blasting music on his headphones. He doesn’t wave back.


I talk with my friends at lunch, one of the only fulfilling moments of my day. A couple of sectionals are going on in the band room, and I hear the scattered sections of music they are practicing. It’s better than the electronic songs about parties and sex these days, I think to myself. I’d take Heroes and Villains any day.


I walk to AP Biology with my friend from the band room, and we talk. I forget what we talked about, distracted for a reason I can’t remember now. I linger by my friend’s desk for a couple of minutes before class, but we don’t talk. I’m checking Instagram, and she’s checking Snapchat.

After Biology, I walk to English with another friend, but we’re both on our phones. I trip on the way down the stairs, but she doesn’t notice. I don’t mention it to her. I see another friend on the way up the stairs to English, and he and I high five. The only human touch I’ve received all day, other than the get-out-of-my-way nudging on the stairs, I notice. I feel a little empty.


In Spanish, my last class of the day, my teacher tells us about what phones can do to our brains. All I do is glance at the time and at my cell phone at the caddy. I know others are doing the same. We’re all waiting for school to end so we can again become immersed in our virtual reality.


Does anyone else’s school day sound like this?


The Pew Research Center says that 78% of teens have a phone and that 81% of teens use some form of social media. That means that most teens are online, in some sort of way. They have a connection to the outside world through a device that can seemingly do everything. It can send messages, post the best moments of one’s life, and blast some awesome tunes.


According to numerous studies and my own personal experience, cell phones actually can limit how much face-to-face communication we have with each other. They have created a generation that doesn’t know how to read social and emotional cues.


Recently, my mom added this song to her Spotify playlist. It’s called “Virtual Insanity” by Jamiroquai. Although he croons us to 90’s beats, the song actually contains a chilling message in its lyrics that is so relevant today.


Futures made of virtual insanity now

Always seem to, be governed by this love we have

For useless, twisting, our new technology

Oh, now there is no sound for we all live underground


It leads me to wonder if we are that generation living in virtual insanity.


Our phones aren’t entirely bad– they help us communicate with others and through social media like Instagram, can help us document our best moments. But some have allowed it to take over their lives, to completely control their important social interactions between their friends and family.
So it’s time for us to reevaluate what really matters in our lives. Is it our little smartphones, or something much greater?