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We asked students whether their phone stresses them out

Do phones give us options or just stress us out?

These days, it can seem pretty rare to find somebody who doesn’t have a smartphone, and if you do a quick sweep of campus, you’re bound to find that most people have them in hand.

This opens up opportunities for connectivity on what can sometimes feel like an overwhelming scale – with access to social media, messaging, games, news, and whatever else you could hope to access constantly at our fingertips (if eduroam is playing ball, that is).

The Leeds Tab decided to investigate whether on not having unrestricted access to your phone is a good thing, or, is it all a little bit too much?

Elijah, Nursing, first year

"While I don't like the stress of having lots of messages, especially from people I don't know that well because it can be quite overwhelming. I love that I'm able to talk to the people closest to me and interact with things that I love on such a regular basis, and phones make that possible".

But, while the positives are for sure a pretty wonderful thing, Elijah's concerns are very real as well. In having everything you need so readily available all of the time, smartphone culture has become something that can often feel like less of an opportunity for connection, and more of an obligation to always be connected.

Fiona, History of Art, fourth year

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"Staying connected via a phone is a great thing. It means I can quickly send something funny to a friend if it makes me think of them, or ask them a quick question. But at the same time, I do feel a certain stress with it, and I always feel like I have to be responsive. Especially on Facebook and Instagram, where if it says I was active two minutes ago and then I don’t reply, that has the ability to stress me out. Or, if a friend doesn’t reply when it says they’re active, it can make me think that they don’t want to make time for me, when in reality, we all just need to slow down a bit and respond when we can."

By being central to a culture in which availability is everything, smartphones (and, let’s be honest, those of us who use them) put this sort of pressure on individuals to be as ever-accessible as our favourite apps. There seem to be unwritten rules set out for us on things like how long it should take someone to reply, and whether it’s okay to be seen online on one app when you haven’t responded to a message on another or to leave someone on “read”.

This can be damaging, with the constant pressure making people feel as though they have to stay online and up-to-date, and in a way that piles on the stress. It can stop people from even wanting to engage in the first place. And, with an ever-mounting stack of messages coming through, trying to reconnect when you feel most able becomes a mammoth task. This can even make people more antisocial, leading some to procrastinate on a task that should be enjoyable.

Fin, Philosophy, second year

"Smartphone culture makes me feel like I have an obligation to be checking my phone constantly, because people seem to have an expectation that you reply within a certain amount of time. If I leave it too long and end up with lots of social media and news and messages to catch up on, it becomes overwhelming".

Someone not replying instantly isn’t necessarily an indication of how they feel towards you, and may have more to do with the fact that some people need free time that is, in fact, free.

In spite of the anxiety some of us may feel, there is a lot to celebrate on our phones that has little to do with social pressure. In having our phones with us all the time, we have the option to stay plugged-in to the things that interest us the most. And, if I’m being honest, my phone does account for an awful lot of my functionality. With my shocking sense of direction and the almost as shocking lack of sign-postage around campus, I’m sure I’d still be trying to find my way to the Conference Auditorium for my first ever first year lecture without the help of the internet. And, without my reminders feature, I’m not sure there’s much that I would remember to do.

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Obviously, smartphones are amazing things. They allow us access to a whole world of content which we can tailor to our liking and can enter into 24/7. We just have to stop expecting that same level of access from people whose favourite smartphone features are absolutely not the messaging apps.