Between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., starting Friday, Jan. 29, students, faculty and staff are being asked to leave their phones face down in Tucker Dining Hall. It is a step that has been endorsed by President’s Twenty, a group of students serving as liaisons between the president and the student body.
“It is vitally important to me, as your president … that we re-invigorate the art of talking to one another, face-to-face,” President Jahnae H. Barnett said in an email to the campus. “I appreciate your cooperation and your interest as we embark on this new (rather old) idea in our society.”
She quoted a recent New York Times article that stated, “A survey of Canadian media consumption by Microsoft concluded that the average attention span had fallen to eight seconds … We now have a shorter attention span than goldfish, the study found.”
Another study she found indicated that Americans aged 18-29 send an average of nearly 88 text messages a day, and psychologists worry social skills in young texters won’t develop.
“Phone Down Friday” is an attempt to reclaim the art of interpersonal communication “in a world of shrinking attention spans, habitual texting, screen checking, and well, hyper-paced dependency on cell phones, tablets, and other forms of hand held technology,” Barnett said.
Psychologist and addiction expert Dr. Lisa Merlo of the University of Florida claims people are becoming increasingly attached and even addicted to their smart phones.
“I am hopeful that eventually the pendulum will swing back the other direction, and people will rediscover the value of in-person interactions,” Merlo said.
By reinstituting direct communication, Barnett said she hopes to provide future William Woods graduates with an important interpersonal skill that will give them an advantage in the workplace and in life.
A list of possible conversation topics will be placed on the tables of Tucker Dining Hall on Fridays.
“You may choose to use these topics as discussion points, or you are free to select your own,” Barnett said. “You may simply want to talk about the day’s menu, but please talk.”
She also encouraged students to stop at her table “and talk to me face-to-face, with Phones Face Down.”