Updated: Jan 19
Contribution by Rebecca Vizzi
Now more than ever, technology and responsibilities are pulling young people in a million different directions. Sometimes it can feel like there is no escape – no getting away from these pressures because they are constant.
Between all the social media platforms we are connected to, thousands of shows and movies at our disposal and the majority of schoolwork being online, it is so important to disconnect from technology, and reconnect with ourselves and we don't need to wait until March 3, 2023 for our "National Day of Unplugging" to think about the benefits. College students will improve the wellbeing of their minds, bodies, and communities that they live in and to do this, they should spend more time outdoors and pick up a new hobby or continue to develop a previous one.
College students have been receiving and completing their schoolwork online for a number of years. They have also been spending excessive leisure time on devices since years before that. These habits, old and new, are having a negative effect on their minds and bodies. Health risks include potential obesity, chronic neck and back pain, sleep problems, migraines, depression and anxiety. In Lucy Ki dwell's article, “Universities and the Screen Time Problem” she stated that there is a large and dangerous connection between mental health problems and too much time college students spend on their phones. “This is notable, as these higher instances of depression and anxiety–as well as tense relationships, eye strain, poor sleep, and physical health complications–are directly tied to excessive screen time. And of course, the more time students spend on screens, the less time they spend outdoors, directly impacting mental health, happiness, and cognition and our likelihood to protect the environment” (Kidwell). Reducing the hours that college students spend staring at screens and being influenced by the content on their phones, will help them be happier and more productive. Instead of staring at screens for hours at a time, young adults should be focusing on academic work without the distraction of technology, getting involved in groups and clubs in their school or community, and also simply hanging out with friends.
One way college students can disconnect from technology is by getting outside more. Too much of their time is being spent indoors, consumed by screens and they are missing out on what nature has to offer. Just being present around greenery can improve one’s mood and health. The article “The Wellness Benefits of the Great Outdoors” from the U.S Department of Agriculture by Andrew Avitt, a Public Affairs Specialist, discussed how being outside positively affects people. Avitt stated, “There are many mental wellness benefits associated with being outside in green spaces, such as lower risk of depression and faster psychological stress recovery. Studies have shown that being in nature can restore and strengthen our mental capacities, increasing focus and attention” (Avitt). The negative effects that technology has on our bodies can be counteracted with the benefits that the outdoors provide.
Academic assignments and studying online is inevitable for almost all students and that is where the break from these should be productive. Instead of taking a break from schoolwork by going on social media and watching shows, that time should be spent taking a walk around their campus or neighborhood - possibly meeting a few friends and going to the park or going on a hike with their family. Getting outside pushes people to get active as well, improving their overall physical health. There are also outdoor activities that can improve a community. Joining the town cleanup crew and picking up trash off the streets is not only good because it is outside, but also because it is helping the environment. People in communities also may need help with yard work or walking dogs. There are many activities that can benefit students aside from being on their phones.
Hobbies are another great way for young adults to distance themselves from technology. At this point in many people’s lives, the passion for a hobby or activity has most likely been found. Getting back into a sport that college students played in high school or even before that is so beneficial, even if it is just for fun. They may already have the equipment and experience making it inexpensive and easier to return to. Trying out a new hobby is exciting which makes them more willing to give up technology, to learn and practice instead. Roller skating, painting, baking, dancing, and fishing are all examples of these. Creating a club for a hobby would be helpful because other students at the college may share the same passion. It also may persuade students to adopt that hobby, as they are healthy for everyone to have.
In Dr. Venkat Narayanan Subramaniam, MD’s article, “Health Benefits of Hobbies” it reads, “Keeping yourself engaged during your leisure time lowers your stress levels. Research found that adults who took out time to practice art found the time they spent to be relaxing, enjoyable, and helpful… More importantly, the cortisol levels of the participants who took part in this study were measured before and after these sessions. The study found that there was a noticeable decrease in cortisol levels after the sessions. Cortisol is the human stress hormone, and your body’s stress response is linked to a spike in cortisol levels” (Subramaniam).
Unhealthy and excessive stress is bad for the mind and body and college students need ways to decrease the amount that they have. Hobbies help regulate this and make them feel better overall. As for the community, hobbies that could be beneficial include babysitting or volunteering at the local animal shelter. There are many more hobbies in reach for college students where they could disconnect from the virtual world.
Technology is everywhere for college students. Sometimes it is necessary but other times it can be avoided and replaced with something productive instead. There are countless benefits to getting away from phones and computers and all their content. Better physical health especially for the eyes, head, and heart are capable through not spending so much time on screens. The same goes for physical health because of an increase in movement and exercise. Alternatives to sitting for hours in front of a computer or phone include spending time outdoors, being surrounded by nature, and picking up a new hobby or continuing an old one. College students must find what works for them and those around them in order to live a happy, healthy, technology limited life.
My escape is running. The freedom and solitude that it provides is what appeals to me the most. During my runs sometimes I will get a “runner’s high” creating the sense of euphoria. I feel as though I could run forever and never stop. The good and bad moments of running make me feel like a person again instead of the school-technology robot I become. I will either run on back roads or in the woods which allows me to slow down my mind and take in the world around me. It lets me get away from college responsibilities on the computer and reconnect with myself.
Avitt, Andrew. “The Wellness Benefits of the Great Outdoors.” US Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, 24 Mar. 2021, https://www.fs.usda.gov/features/wellness-benefits-great-outdoors.
Kidwell, Lucy. “Universities and the Screen Time Problem - Screen-Free Week.” Screen, Fairplay, 6 Apr. 2022, https://www.screenfree.org/universities-and-the-screen-time-problem/.
Narayanan Subramaniam, Venkat. “Health Benefits of Hobbies.” WebMD, WebMD, 2022, https://www.webmd.com/balance/health-benefits-of-hobbies.