Cellphone addiction impacts the lives of college students

by Elizabeth Ortiz
photography by Daniel Torres

After my mother purchased her first smartphone, my sister and I were faced with the challenge of teaching her how to text and what the texting abbreviations meant. To our surprise, my mother learned fairly quick, and our text conversations were filled with “omg” and “lol,” and the abbreviations were always used in the proper context. I was proud of my mom, and the fact that she began to embrace this generation’s technology. She even downloaded games and apps onto her phone. I thought our generation and communication gap had been closed until she texted me one day, asking what “idk” meant.

 Jacqueline Pimental, a junior creative writing major, explains how she uses her smartphone throughout the day. Although she finds herself using her phone frequently, she makes sure to put it away when she spends time with her friends and family. / photo by Daniel Torres

Jacqueline Pimental, a junior creative writing major, explains how she uses her smartphone throughout the day. Although she finds herself using her phone frequently, she makes sure to put it away when she spends time with her friends and family. / photo by Daniel Torres

My phone buzzed, so I looked at it and noticed I had a text message from her. It read, “Hey, I was texting your sister, and she responded idk. What does that mean?” I was in a rush, so I quickly responded, “I don’t know.” She texted me back a few minutes later and said, “That’s okay. I’ll just ask her what she meant then.” Initially, I did not understand what she meant, but after rereading our exchange of messages, I texted her back and said, “No, no, no. Idk stands for I don’t know.” My mother called me, and we were both laughing at our communication error. From that incident, I realized smartphones are not always effective communication devices. They may create funny memories, but they can also be a distraction, and take us away from the present and into a realm of virtual communication.

Dalma Arteaga and Nicolle Longoria sit on a bench outside of Founders Hall at the University of La Verne. Every Tuesday after class, they spend time together, and although they mean well, they do not realize that as soon as they sit down, instead of beginning a conversation with each other, they pull out their phones and begin texting other people or scrolling through their social media accounts. They spend most of their time together in silence on their phones, chatting only briefly with each other.

Situations like these are becoming more common throughout college campuses nationwide. Baylor University released a study, displaying the trends of cellphone use among men and women college students. The study found that women spend an average of 10 hours per day on their cell phones while men spend an average of 8 hours per day using their cell phones. Baylor also discovered 60 percent of the students surveyed showed signs of cellphone addiction and would get frustrated when their phones were out of sight.

La Verne Magazine conducted an informal survey at the University of La Verne and asked students questions about their cellphone usage. The 15 out of the 20 students surveyed admit they spend a great amount of time on their phones. Women say they spend an average of six hours per day on their phone while men say they spend an average of four hours per day on their phone. “There’s just the need to be up-to-date on everything,” Amelia Parra, a senior biology major, says. “Things are constantly changing, and there’s this fear of missing out if you aren’t virtually connected. It’s become a social norm to be on your phone all the time, but it’s not okay.”

Students at the University of La Verne say they spend most of their time sending text messages, checking their social media accounts, playing games and sending emails. The results are similar to Baylor’s study. Baylor found that students spend most of their time texting, sending emails, browsing the Internet and listening to music. However, Baylor’s research found that students spend the least amount of time playing games. Both surveys also discovered that women spend more time on their phones than men. Baylor notes that this is contrary to the popular belief that men are more invested in technology. “There’s just a constant need to be entertained,” says Brianna Castellano, sophomore political science major at the University of La Verne. “It sounds bad, but when you’re in class, it can get kind of boring, so the easiest thing to do is just take out your phone and text or look through your Facebook feed.”

Sending text messages to friends and loved ones is the most popular phone activity among the students at the university. “You completely zone out and become enveloped in your own little world. It, at times, feels like you are actually having a face-to-face conversation with the person you are texting,” Mariah Portillo, sophomore psychology major, says. Fifteen out of the 20 surveyed said they spend the majority of the time texting.

Junior chemistry major Bryan Okereke uses his cellphone between classes to keep himself busy, but also to keep in touch with his football teammates and coaches. / photo by Daniel Torres

Junior chemistry major Bryan Okereke uses his cellphone between classes to keep himself busy, but also to keep in touch with his football teammates and coaches. / photo by Daniel Torres

Scrolling through social media accounts is another popular phone activity. Students said that aside from texting they spend the majority of their time looking through their social media accounts. Thirteen out of 20 say they dedicate a few hours every day to reading social media posts. They also admit that they rarely ever post anything themselves, but they read others’ posts and use social media as a news source. “I constantly scroll through my social media. I’m always on Facebook, so I can catch up on things,” Christian Pena, a junior kinesiology major, says. According to a study by Pew Research Center, 91 percent of young adults use social networking on their phones.

Emailing is also a top phone activity. Eighty-eight percent of smartphone owners use their phone to send emails, according to the Pew Research Center. Eleven out of the 20 surveyed say that having access to their email through their phone is convenient.

Cell phones hinder academic performance

Although smartphone use seems to make the world more interconnected, Sharon Davis, professor of sociology at the University of La Verne, says students don’t realize using cell phones in class can negatively affect their grades. “We think we are so great at multitasking, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth,” Sharon says. If Sharon sees students on their phones in class, she says she will stop the lecture, walk over and stand by them. “It amazes me because sometimes I will stand over a student for 90 seconds before they realize I’ve stopped the lecture,” she says.

A study by Sage Journals found that increased cellphone use was associated with decreased academic performance. There is also a strong evidence that suggests there is a correlation between texting and Facebook and academic performance, according to a study by Lock Haven University. The study found that students who use Facebook or text during class or while studying, perform worse academically. However, the study notes that texting and use of Facebook are not causing the problem, but rather, a student’s distractibility causes poor academic performance.

Cell phones affect social interaction

“Technology is great, don’t get me wrong, but we need to control it, instead of it controlling us,” says Sharon. “Right now, it is controlling us and has the potential to ruin our social skills.” Sharon believes that when people communicate via text message or email, they are at the lowest form of communication. She says virtual communication limits people’s conversations and does not allow people to have in-depth, thought-provoking conversations.

Smartphones may limit conversations, but they are also used to avoid conversations, according to the Pew Research Center. Forty-seven percent of smartphone users between the ages of 18 and 29, used their phones to avoid interacting with people around them. “It takes away from our relationships with others. If we spend all our time communicating on our phones, we lose our opportunity to develop interpersonal skills. Our greatest gift is our voice, so why wouldn’t you want to use it?” Sharon says. If students continue to invest so much time in virtual interaction, they could ultimately lose their social skills.
Technology has advanced tremendously over the last few decades, even the last few years. People can connect with others in a matter of minutes thanks to text messages and emails. However, the advancements in technology have created distractions and have caused people, especially college students, to start living in a virtual reality. If people do not learn how to control technology, it could ultimately control them, and face-to-face interaction could become a concept of the past.

Phillip Parga, senior kinesiology major, tries not to use his phone while interacting with his friends, but he is unable to resist the urge and uses it anyways. He says that he uses his phone less than the average eight hours per day. / photo by Daniel Torres

Phillip Parga, senior kinesiology major, tries not to use his phone while interacting with his friends, but he is unable to resist the urge and uses it anyways. He says that he uses his phone less than the average eight hours per day. / photo by Daniel Torres

Put the phone away and play

La Verne and its surrounding communities offer a variety of fun and engaging activities. For those who suffer from nomophobia, put the phone down and explore the local area and its hidden treasures.

1. Enjoy the day at Bonelli Park in San Dimas
2. Watch a movie at Laemmle’s Claremont
3. See a concert at the Glass House in Pomona
4. Grab a bite at Wahfles in La Verne
5. Discover the Earth’s history at the Alf Museum of Paleontology in Claremont