Over spring break, I had the opportunity to travel to Immokalee, Fla., on a Gannon Inspired Faculty Trip (GIFT). During GIFTs, students enroll in a course during the semester and then use the travel experience to enrich what they are learning in the classroom.
The class I am taking is about the application of Catholic Social Teaching to the injustices experienced by many migrant farm workers in the United States.
Because I am interested in working in community engagement and development for my future career, this trip was something I had been looking forward to for months.
On the first day of class, however, our professor, Dr. Jimmy Menkhaus, told us that we would not be permitted to use our phones while we were away and suddenly, I was much more afraid to go.
I don’t like to think of myself as someone who is addicted to using my phone, but I do rely on it for many tasks.
The first thing I do in the morning is check my email, and I’m also a fan of social media.
I call my parents at least a few times a week, text friends constantly and keep up with the news all using my phone.
Giving up my phone and computer for the week was one of the most intimidating parts of our experience in Florida, but now that I am back, I think it has quickly become one of my favorite aspects.
Not having my devices allowed me to truly connect to the individuals I was away with. I learned about their lives and experiences, and together we found new ways to entertain ourselves — dance parties in the kitchen with a built-in wall radio from the ‘70s, anyone?
Instead of waking up to an alarm clock, I often just woke up whenever my body felt it was time or whenever the cows started mooing. This is no joke — we stayed on a farm.
Even though I could not read the news, I had to put my faith in humanity that the world wouldn’t fall apart just because I wasn’t listening to CNN every day.
Although I am sad that I do not have many photos from the trip, I’ve been patiently waiting for our professor to send us the photos he gathered using his digital camera.
Being back to the real world where we are so interconnected has been hard to readjust to.
I know that it is unreasonable to completely give up all access to technology like we did last week for the rest of my life, especially given the expectations of modern college students. Regardless, I’m committed to find a balance between how I was living before this trip and how I want to live now.
I’m still going to obsessively check my email and Blackboard notifications, but I’m trying to limit how often I check social media to just once or twice a day.
With that extra time, I could be doing so much more — from reading a book to starting a conversation with someone new or going on a walk, all of these sound like much better options than just staring at a screen.
Sometimes people say “you don’t know what you have until it’s gone” but this experience has been the total opposite. Sorry, iPhone, but I think it’s time we take a break. It’s not me, it’s you.