Student project explores dependency on phones


GVL / Marc Green

Autumn Pitchure, Staff Reporter

Cell phone usage is consuming an increasing amount of college students’ lives, and a group of students at Grand Valley State University is diving in to take a deeper look at the issue. Their “Act of Creativity” project examines statistics on cell phone usage and explores the impacts.

The “Act of Creativity” project began in a LIB 310 Creativity class where students had to look into issues on a college campus. Junior Ahren Sentert and his teammates Ryan Skoog, Evan Rogalla and Izak Ducharme decided to investigate cell phone usage and how it affects our generation daily. 

“We saw a lot of people on their phones and into their social media during class and not paying attention to professors,” Sentert said. “We saw the problem of how our generation is so drawn into their phones and kids nowadays are getting iPhones way younger than ever before — it is lowering their creativity.”

Not only does high cell phone usage effect paying attention in class, but it also impacts how well an individual can talk and interact with others face-to-face. 

“People now are more focused on the interactions through social media and how many likes they get,” Sentert said. “They are less focused on their future and their careers, which is scary.” 

For their project, the students conducted a simple random sample of 100 students at GVSU and surveyed them on how often they use their cell phones and how that usage affects them. For example, they found that 94 percent of students surveyed believed their phone constantly interrupts their schoolwork. The group also asked the sample of students if they felt stressed if their phone wasn’t in the room with them — 39 percent reported they did.

Along with the physical aspect of the phone being there, they also looked into the psychological: does your phone’s social media notifications and alerts stress you out? The results were split almost right down the middle. The group also learned that having your phone on you while receiving notifications can play tricks on the mind. 96 percent of students confirmed they check their pocket thinking they feel a vibration and there being no alert or notification. 

“They call these ‘phantom vibrations,’ and people are so used to having their phone vibrate or waiting for a text that they often check their phone and there was nothing at all,” Sentert said.

Sentert discussed how going into the project he never felt like his phone was holding him back. He spoke on how other outside factors were distracting him from his schoolwork and job. 

“Coming out of the project, I realized what a problem your phone can be and cause huge distractions,” Sentert said. “A majority of us feel our phone is getting in the way of our focus.”

The group wants to create awareness of this issue at GVSU and showcase to others that they can be so much more successful when they set their phone aside and focus on their career and goals. 

“One of the biggest ways to help if you struggle with looking at your phone is turning your phone off for 30 minutes,” Sentert said. “I find I get the most done actually by going to the library and leaving my phone in the car.”

Moving forward to help redirect students’ attention off their phones, the group is creating a snap chat filter that says “go back to studying,” where you can take pictures of other people on their phones with the filter on and send it to them as a reminder to focus. 

“Social media and our phones shouldn’t be the most important things in our lives,” Sentert said. “There are more important things and more important experiences we can have if we set our phones aside.”