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Sunday, Feb. 25, 2024
The Observer

What if someone gave up their phone for Lent?

This Viewpoint column really snuck up on me.

As I brainstormed ideas of what I could write about with so much going on in the global scene and scrolled through Twitter, I was reminded of my sacrifice for Lent. My goal was to reduce my screen time. Usually when I check my phone I am bored, and according to my iPhone’s statistics, I waste a significant amount of my time on entertainment and social networking. Approximately two hours to be exact. So that being said, my goal for Lent is to cut my screen time by at least two hours.

As I was chatting with my mother over lunch this weekend, we started talking about how technology has changed our society. This topic came up when she was complaining about how my dad entered Notre Dame’s 2020-21 football schedule on her Google calendar. He had not entered whether the games were home or away. I showed her how to sync his calendar with her calendar, but after the process asked for permission to access her calendar she said she “didn’t want big brother watching.”

Frankly, I can’t blame her. My mom’s life practically revolves around her Google calendar, so maybe it is for the best one less person knows what she is doing at all times. She recalled an incident a few weeks ago. We have all heard the exact same stories. My mom walked into a pet store to look at the dog food we purchase on Amazon to see if we were actually saving money. When she walked out of the store, Amazon sent her a notification asking if she needed to order some more dog food. Of course, Amazon knows from her purchase history that the dog food is a revolving purchase, but the fact it asked her if she needed any as she was leaving the pet store empty handed is suspicious.

Like I said, we have all heard these stories. Many of us have become so ingrained in this technological revolution we just don’t care how much the companies in charge of securing our privacy know about us.

So as I pondered trying to stay away from my phone, I thought of my sister. My sister Mary Kate practically gives up her phone during the summer months. Everyone in our family thinks it is absolutely absurd. She turns off her phone in the morning and checks in for a bit before going to bed at night. So if Mary Kate is out with friends and — God forbid — something happens to her or her car, she will have to use someone else’s phone. But is this really even that big of a problem? I’d guess 95% of people you see on a daily basis have a charged phone on them that they are willing to share with someone in trouble.

But what would it look like for someone to turn off electronics completely? I can say with certainty that Mary Kate is happier when she is not on her phone throughout the day, but she still checks in for some time at night. Would it even be possible for someone to give up their phone for Lent? What about technology as a whole? What kind of person would that take? I think that it would take a very unique person, but it can’t be ruled out. Maybe someone reading this column, in print of course, has taken on the challenge. I would love to hear more about it and the thought process. Unfortunately, I am not sure if The Observer accepts handwritten columns.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.