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The power of powering off

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“Alright everyone, this is a technology-free zone. If I see anyone on their phone, I will confiscate it.”

Almost immediately after loading the senior retreat bus, that is what I heard.

As I looked around the bus, I saw most of the students begin to perspire and grow anxious, and it wasn’t just because of the uncanny heat. These students, I realized, began to perspire because they couldn’t imagine the thought of not having a cellphone in their hand. They couldn’t imagine the thought of not being on their phone for a few hours. Earlier that morning, I had even heard complaints about whether or not there would be cell service at the camp. Now, I am not saying I’m innocent when it comes to the immense amount of time I spend on technology. I’m just as guilty as the person sitting next to me. But one thing that I believe separates me from the person next to me is that instead of perspiring with anxiety, I felt a surge of relief and excitement to put my phone away and enjoy some bonding experiences with my class.

When I glanced around my bus heading to the senior retreat, I was searching for the adult that had made the announcement about no technology. Much to my surprise, it was another student who had made the announcement. Although I’m sure he meant it as a joke, it made an impact on me, and because of that, I barely used my phone throughout the entire time at the camp.

By not using my phone, I personally feel like I had a better experience. I was forced to talk and communicate with people that I don’t usually associate with. Quite honestly, that is the whole point of the senior retreat. The point of the senior retreat is not to text with your friends, or to have glammed-up photoshoots, or even to post videos on a Snapchat story. The point of senior retreat is to enjoy time away from the stress of our everyday life and create lasting memories with new people. By not using my phone, I can 100% say that I did that.

A few summers ago, as most people know, I went on an 18-day trip to California. At the very beginning of the trip, we decided that we were only going to use our phones twenty minutes maximum per day. Again, that was one of the best decisions that I have ever made. Putting my phone in that glove compartment in the van, while galavanting across California, made my experience so much more worthwhile. I can look back on that experience, laugh, and feel nostalgic about all the memories I made. If I had my phone, I probably wouldn’t have done my famous “Pizza Dance” as many times, or I probably wouldn’t have hung out the window and sang all of my favorite songs while driving along the coast.

In today’s society, technology has a huge impact on our every decision, every hangout, every memory. I’m not saying that we should cut out technology in general, because as I said before, I am guilty of spending way too much time on Instagram or Snapchat. But in those moments where I powered off, I felt so much better about myself and made memories that I know will last a lifetime.

So to the student who made the announcement on my senior retreat bus, thank you. Thank you for reminding me how impactful not being on my phone is. If I hadn’t left my phone in my cabin all day, I probably wouldn’t have been able to see Aniya and Breezy dance battle it out on the basketball court. I probably wouldn’t have jumped in the freezing waters of Lake Michigan as many times. I probably wouldn’t have participated in as much, sang as much as I did at the bonfire, or even had as many meaningful conversations as I had. Powering off for that short period of time was eye-opening and helped make the time and memories from the senior retreat that much more special. 

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The power of powering off