Cell Phones: Dumbing You Down One Day At A Time
Quick! What’s the first thing you do when you wake up? It’s probably not taking a shower. It’s probably not brushing your teeth. It’s probably not even getting out of your bed. I could bet you $50 it’s probably turning on your side and checking Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and any other social media on your phone. You’re there for maybe a few minutes, maybe a few hours—it depends on how you’re feeling—and then you move on about your day, all the while still checking your phone countless times. I mean, come on. It’s basically a fact that we’re all addicted to our phones: you can be addicted to any and everything. And sure, our phones have great information. Social media has, in fact, provided greater access to a great deal of things, including more information, more connectedness, and more truth (more lies to but that’s another story for another day). But when you unpack our obsessions with our phones, it can’t be denied that the relationship we have with our smartphones is an unhealthy one.
So, I know some of my naysayers are rolling their eyes right now, but it’s true! Smartphones not only distract us, they take a great deal of our cognitive resources that we could be putting elsewhere. The Wall Street Journal reported a research study of 520 undergraduate students who took a test either with their phone visibly near them, in a bag, or in another room. The results, while eye-opening, were not very shocking. Individuals who had a phone within eyesight performed the worst even if their phone was off and individuals with phones in a different room did the best. If that’s not convincing, here’s something that will get you: some psychologists are suggesting that our urge to be connected to others via our smartphones is actually disconnecting us from each other. We’ve become so engrossed in other people’s realities as a way to escape our own. While we may be virtually connected with countless other people, we can actually be disconnected from the people in our actual vicinity. Take, for example, going out to eat with your friends. Of course, we’re usually invested in each other, right? Next time you go out, take a look around you—at the people who are more heavily invested in their phone than the people around them. I bet it’s more than you thought.
I know you might be feeling attacked right now. I am too. But it can’t be denied that many of us need a break from our phones. We need a breather. Some time away from the pressures of it all would probably be really beneficial for us all—yes, I know the memes are hilarious, but, feeling attached to your phone can also be a bit draining. For me personally, I know I’m too engaged in my phone, yet I haven’t made the move to stop. If there was a “True Life: I’m Addicted to my Phone” episode, we’d probably all be relating to the people in the show in some way! And it’s neurological, too! Getting those notifications activates our dopamine systems, just as relieving boredom by scrolling through our feeds does. When that dopamine decreases, we want more and more so we check and check; we are literally psychologically getting addicted to our cellphones! For many of us, we remember a time that wasn’t completely dominated by smartphones, but for children, this is quite a new phenomenon. There is even research to suggest that these phones can be damaging to cognitive development in young children. It really makes you wonder how the world will look in a few deacades.
We really freaking love our phones and that’s okay! But all love must have some boundaries, and our love for our phones should be no different. We need to treat our relationship with our Instas, Twitters, and Snapchats just as we treat our relationships in real life—with personal boundaries and rules. Otherwise, who knows what’s going to happen to us 50 years from now? How are our brains going to be wired?