By Lea Shores
Staff reporter

Do me a favor. For the next few minutes that it takes you to read this, please reach down and turn off your phone.

Now, how many text messages do you send a day? How many times do you realize that you’ve been so caught up in your phone that you don’t realize what your friend was just saying to you? Our campus has a problem: We are connected. We are so connected that we are out of touch.

Not too long ago one of my best friends told me how much it bothered him that I was always focused on texting other people when we were spending time together. He was right. I was having better conversations with people I was texting than I was with my friend just feet away from me. My priorities have been completely backward. How many people have I been ignoring all this time? How much have I been missing out on?

We are all guilty. Our cell phones are always strapped to our bodies and we have wireless Internet everywhere on campus. We text each other in class, while driving, at work, even from in the same room. The world knows everything about our lives as soon as we are able to update our profiles or send a mass text message. No wonder my friends and I can sit in a room for hours together without speaking, our thoughts are being condensed down to fit in 150 characters or less. We stare at a blank computer screen for hours unable to write an eight page paper because that huge amount of blank space seems too daunting. However, while staring at that blank screen I just sent a handful of text messages, mostly about how I’m unable to write that paper.

How many people do you see on MSN or texting during class? How often is that person you? Some classes are boring, even I will admit it, but are we really not able to be unavailable to our friends for an hour? I am usually very good at not texting during class, but even having my phone vibrate in my pocket distracts me from what is going on in the classroom. I want to know who is texting me immediately. After class, before I have even left the room, my phone is out and I have half of a reply typed out. And by the way, the sender had also been sitting in class.

Our phones have become an escape for us having to connect with the world immediately around us. We pull out our phones so that we don’t have to interact with the person we’re about to meet on the sidewalk or to disengage ourselves from an awkward situation. Those people we try to distance ourselves from by hiding behind our phones are just as real as the people receiving that text message. And it takes a lot less effort to smile and say “hi” than it does to type that message, even if you do use T9.

Now, am I about to completely give up my cell phone and all of its wonderful features? Of course not. There are times when text messages are a very efficient form of communication but it really is a bit ridiculous to have entire conversations via text. Especially if that is the only way you ever communicate. There are times that I forget my phone can actually be used to call someone. Think of how good you would feel if an old friend called you to catch up for 20 minutes instead of sending you a text message.

We all need to show more respect for one another, our parents taught us better. When one of my friends is talking to me, instead of continuing to mindlessly browse Facebook, I should shut my computer and leave my phone alone for 15 minutes. I would want my friend to pay the same kind of attention to me.

Seek out more face to face time with your friends. Call your old buddy from high school on his or her birthday. Say “hi” to that person you pass on the sidewalk. If we would spend more quality time with one another then maybe we wouldn’t need to spend all day on our phones and we would feel more in touch with our friends, no matter where in the world they might be.

Oh, and you can turn your phone back on now.

Lea Shores is a junior majoring in English. You may e-mail her at lea.shores@sckans.edu