One weird trick to solve America’s loneliness crisis



One weird trick to solve America’s loneliness crisis

During the COVID-19 pandemic, we all spent less time with friends. Sure, many of us got to spend far more time with our family since we were not allowed to go outside the house. But apart from some carefully socially distanced driveway campfires, we didn’t really spend too much time with friends and neighbors.

Since the lockdowns have ended, the time people have spent with their friends has recovered slightly, according to the Census Bureau’s American Time Use Survey. But we remain far below where we were back in 2010, and when you look at the year-by-year data, it doesn’t look like COVID-19 is the real culprit here.

As economist Bryce Ward has recently noted, the real decline in time spent with friends started in 2014, which just happens to be the same year that smartphone market penetration passed 50%. It really does seem as though, collectively, we are all choosing to spend more time with our phones rather than with other people.

One boarding school in Massachusetts decided to put this theory to the test. The Wall Street Journal’s Julie Jargon reports that teachers at Buxton School in Williamston were tired of students looking at phones during class and that many of them would retreat to their rooms to scroll through social media instead of gathering in student lounges like they used to.

When these problems all got worse after COVID-19, administrators decided to do something. “We found our students had disengaged more and more from real life as their phones became their world,” Buxton’s Associate Head of School John Kalapos told Jargon.

So Buxton banned smartphones from campus this school year. Teachers and students are already noticing a difference. Students report they notice other classmates more now that they aren’t constantly staring at their phones, and life is less stressful now that they are not being bombarded by social media notifications.

Teachers are pleased since students are now more engaged in class.

“I’m a lot happier being on social media less,” Buxton senior Yamalia Marks told Jargon. “I think I’ve been a lot more self-aware. Will I ever go back to having a phone with me all the time? I don’t know, but I hope not.”

Maybe we’d all be better if more institutions, whether they be schools like Buxton or other workplaces, banned smartphones too.

© 2022 Washington Examiner

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