How to make peace with your phone (and other screens)

Amy Crouch ’22 doesn’t believe that we need to throw our devices out the window or abide by a long list of rules to limit our screen time. But she does think everyone – and particularly her fellow young adults  – should take a look at the ways tech influences their life. And perhaps take steps to fight back.

Crouch, a linguistics major in the College of Arts & Sciences, recently released her first book “My Tech-Wise Life: Growing Up and Making Choices in a World of Devices,” written in partnership with her dad, author Andy Crouch '89.

“A lot of the work out there directed at teens and young adults is coming from well-meaning adults who don’t see what it’s like to be young and have the virtual world be your real world,” Crouch said. “There wasn’t someone out there speaking honestly about what it’s like to be a young person today, someone who wasn’t condemning tech unilaterally but was being honest about the challenges we face. That was something that I could do.”

Before undertaking the book project, Crouch worked with the Barna Research Group to survey 13-21 year-olds about their thoughts on the influence of tech in their lives.

“A large number of teens say they choose to place limits on their use of tech, that tech makes them distracted, disconnected and, surprisingly, bored,” Crouch said. “The data really shows that my generation is looking for a healthy way forward, and I hope that my book can start a conversation in which more and more people think of creative ways to use their tech to enrich their lives.”

Crouch’s chapters each bear titles beginning with “We don’t have to …” and ending with “compare ourselves,” “be distracted,” “be disconnected,” “avoid boredom” and four others.

After each chapter, there’s a letter from her father, responding to her thoughts. Her father is an author, musician and public speaker who has written about similar topics.

“We are 3D people living 3D lives. We are meant to live in community with other people,” she said. “If our devices help us to live our 3D lives, that’s great, but all too often, they prevent us from paying attention and doing what we want to do.”

Crouch points to study after study showing how tech companies create devices and software to become addictive and monetize our attention.

“We know that tech can accomplish amazing things, but we need to be mindful that the most important things in our lives are not online.”

Crouch hopes her book starts a conversation, but she’s quick to point out that her own relationship with tech isn’t without problems.

“I strive to be deeply intentional about my use of tech, but I will never do that perfectly,” she said. “ However, small changes make a big difference and I do believe that those intentions can change our lives fundamentally.”

Read the story in the Cornell Chronicle.

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Amy Crouch, right, and her dad Andy, relax on Libe Slope
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