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Please put your phones away

| Tuesday, November 6, 2018

In addition to my job at The Observer, I give tours for the University admissions office. On a recent tour, as I paused to explain the bells and whistles of the Duncan Student Center, I noted with dismay that I was talking to myself. That is, no one was listening to me.

Every single person on the tour, parent and student alike, was texting.

Perhaps they were all taking notes about my scintillating views on Campus Crossroads. But I still felt slighted. I was taking time to introduce these people to the school, and they were giving me the impression that they’d rather be anywhere else.

Cell phones are pervasive everywhere on campus. Particularly, Notre Dame students have a bad habit of texting while sitting in class. It’s not subtle — some people actually leave their phones out on their desk, so they can respond to any incoming messages.

Now I don’t mean to moralize. Unless you walk too slowly for no good reason, I like to think of my Inside Columns as no-judgement-zones. But here at Notre Dame we have a cell phone problem.

There are a number of reasons why you shouldn’t text in class. For starters, it is incredibly rude. Professors take time and effort to plan their classes. Public speaking isn’t fun for everyone. If you whip out your phone and openly text, you’re giving off the impression that you are the most important person in the room. In a room where everyone is a perpetually exhausted college student, that is not the case.

Second, college is for learning. Maybe I’m just the type of person who really needs to concentrate to learn something, but I cannot begin to fathom how people learn material when they’re texting away (similarly, I can’t understand how people flippantly blow off class, but that’s another column). Theoretically, the point of college is to leave with more knowledge than you came in with, not to have incredibly agile thumbs.

Finally, I think texting in class speaks to a larger societal problem. Modern technology makes people feel like they need to be in perpetual contact with each other. I worry that there’s an attitude that if someone doesn’t respond immediately, it signals they don’t care. As a result, important priorities, like class, take a back seat to texting. Take it from someone who is frequently described as a “bad texter.” Friends have complained since I got my first cell phone that I’m hard to stay in touch with because I don’t respond immediately. It’s not that I don’t care — I care deeply. I just think it’s important to give people some space. If someone doesn’t respond within a snap-second of getting a message, it’s not indicative of apathy. It probably means they have something else going on. For example, they could be in a class studiously be taking notes.

Obviously, I’m not perfect. Have I fired off a quick text message or two in class? Absolutely. Do I occasionally slip my phone out of my pocket if it has been buzzing consistently? Yes. These are bad habits that I need to break. So, in your next class, I encourage you to put your phone in your pocket and leave it there. Your friends and family will still be there an hour and 15 minutes later. No one will love you any less for paying attention in class.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Tom Naatz

Tom is a senior at University of Notre Dame. He is majoring in Political Science and Spanish and is originally from Rockville, Maryland. Formerly The Observer's Notre Dame News Editor, he's now a proud columnist for the paper.

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