October 29, 2021 | OPINION | By Karly Hamilton | Illustration by Sierra Romero

Technology inevitably permeates everything we do. From accessing academic information online to looking up directions or scheduling a COVID-19 test, devices have a constant presence in the world we live in. However useful these tools may be, it is important to hit pause and decompress every once in a while. 

After going on a First-Year Outdoor Orientation Trip (FOOT) for my first block break, I was reacquainted with the idea of stepping back from technology. Spending time in nature, even just for a few days, helped me to clear my head and return to campus with a fresh mindset. Most of that was due to the lack of technology present on the trip. 

While the negative mental health effects of social media are not news, discussions about the ramifications of social media’s impact on teenagers have been a topic of conversation recently. When Instagram, TikTok, and other social mediaplatforms focus on catering content to users’ interests, they often suggest content that can be damaging to one’s mental health. 

Many of the expectations social media projects onto young people are unrealistic — and unhealthy. As conversations about these sites have deepened following the Facebook whistle-blower testimony, it was discovered that Instagram makes body-image issues worse for one out of every three girls. 

Our constant attachment to our phones and other technology is not helping this situation get any better. Instead of becoming more reliant on social media and technology, we should be spending more time outside. 

Psychological research has shown that there are many benefits to spending more time outside in the wilderness, ranging from increased empathy to lower stress levels. So why wouldn’t we want to spend more time outside?

Colorado College provides a plethora of opportunities for students to be outside, even if it just means doing class readings on the library patio. Between block breaks and Outdoor Education trips over the course of each block, there are a variety of ways to get outside, be active, and practice mood-boosting behaviors. 

Whether you choose to partake in school-related activities or not, it is still important to be intentional about how we live our lives. This can present itself in a variety of ways as the way people approach the world varies, but it is good for all of us to reflect on how dependent we are on technology. 

One of my favorite ways to decompress and separate myself from the stress and negativity technology can cause is by spending time outside in an environment that does not allow me to utilize my devices in the same way. 

Hiking, camping, or backpacking are all fun activities that often take place in areas with little to no cell service, making it easy to take a step back from social media and other digital platforms and notifications. 

A different way to be more intentional about my use of technology is how I access resources in class — or sometimes for my personal use. I love reading physical books for pleasure, and when it comes to textbooks, I often like having a physical rather than a digital copy. This forces me to put my computer and phone aside and truly focus on what I’m reading without the lure of notifications in the corner of my screen. 

As we start a new block, I encourage everyone to take a break from screens and find time to do something separate from technology that makes you happy. It’s important that we appreciate what we have in front of us and recognize that social media rarely depicts reality — it’s merely a highlight reel. So, live in the moment, do something fun, and look back on it with fond memories, not just pictures. 

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