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EDITORIAL: Cultivate a life offline

September 11, 2020

This piece represents the opinion of the Bowdoin Orient Editorial Board.

The average day in the life of a Bowdoin student has changed dramatically in the past few months. We have traded our award-winning dining halls for boxes of Annie’s mac and cheese. Our walks across campus have been replaced with a commute from our beds to our desks. Cute outfits have been abandoned in favor of comfy PJs. But perhaps the biggest shake-up to our routines is the amount of time we now spend looking at our screens.

With colleges all around the country transitioning to remote learning, we are expected to spend more hours of our lives than ever before on our computers, our phones and our iPads. While this is a necessary part of stopping the virus from further spreading, it also makes it far too easy to slip into a way of life that exists entirely online. Whether it be your afternoon class on Zoom, a virtual club meeting or maybe even a romantic FaceTime lunch date, our days now revolve around virtual connection.

Excessive screen time is a problem. Young people across America are reporting feeling more lonely, disconnected and depressed, with excessive screen time fueling this surge. Even before the pandemic, the average American spent 11 hours interacting with screens each day, and that number has only grown since the pandemic began cooping us up inside.

For many students, even in normal times, intense workloads and stressful social spaces make depression and anxiety an all-too-regular part of the college experience, and that’s only exacerbated by spending more hours glued to a screen. Even compared to a college culture of parties and library all-nighters, sleep quantity and quality can suffer greatly with extended exposure to the blue light of LED screens. And with the heightened stress, anxiety, grief and trauma associated with life changes caused by the pandemic, screen time is not the only factor in mental unwellness among students this semester.

As hard as it is not to feel constant pressure to be online at all times, and even though we are hundreds or thousands of miles from our friends and peers, it’s not all about staying connected. As important as it is to respond to emails or texts, it’s also important to set aside time for yourself.

To make it through the semester without becoming cyborgs, we need to learn how to cultivate a life offline. We need to think outside of our little Zoom boxes, to remember that a world exists beyond virtual classes and remote chatting. We challenge you, and ourselves, to get off screens, even if that means spending less time on calls with other members of the Bowdoin community. Remember, quality is more important than quantity, and it’s essential that we block out space in our schedules to spend meaningful time alone and with the people around us.

Free time may remain as elusive as ever, but now it is even more important to prioritize taking time away from work. Simply put, seek joy in whatever capacity you can find it. Our worlds may feel confined to a webcam, but life still remains outside our windows, in a newfound recipe or a beloved old book. And, while the weather stays warm, go out into your neighborhood and seek out new (socially-distanced) connections.

So, the next time you plug in your iPad, don’t forget to recharge yourself, too.

This editorial represents the majority view of the Orient’s Editorial Board, which is comprised of Julia Jennings, Diego Lasarte, Kate Lusignan, Nina McKay, Katherine Pady and Steven Xu.

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