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Merely Looking At Your Smartphone Is Making You Dumb

Is It Time To Break Up With Your Phone?

There is no denying that smartphones have become ubiquitous necessity in our daily lives. We can hardly do anything without it, from waking up in the morning to reminding us to wish our loved ones a happy birthday. However, smartphone addiction is becoming a major social issue as technologies have been found to affect the same neurological pathways as gambling and drug use. One of the inventors of Apple’s patented notification connections and display icon badges, Chris Marcellino, says, “These [neurological pathways] are the same circuits that make people seek out food, comfort, heat, sex”. In fact, following the cardinal drug dealer rule never to get high on your own supply, Silicon Valley tech inventors are avidly disconnecting from the tech world and attention economy that they helped build. This seemingly bizarre phenomenon begs us to seriously re-evaluate our dependency on our array of tech gadgets and find out how our smartphone usage is affecting our brains. With this in mind, here are three major reasons why you should disconnecting from our phones and start connecting with reality.

It’s Changing The Way Our Memory Works And How We Process Information

The human mind used to be the pinnacle of information storage but these days, if we need an answer, instead of looking it up in the Encyclopaedia we ‘Google it’. According to Columbia University Psychologist, Betsy Sparrow, not only are we more likely to refer to the internet, but it has become the first impulse on our minds to do so, making very little attempt to work out the answer ourselves, even when the questions are relatively simple. Known as cognitive offloading, we are literally outsourcing our memory to the internet and the omniscient cloud storage. These technologies are turning into our brain’s external hard drive and we trust it to offload information rather than storing it internally.

As advances in technology continue to blur the lines between mind and machine, we may transcend some of the traditional limits on memory. However, Nicholas Carr, author of ‘What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains’, highlights that the downside to this is simple, He says; “ dozens of studies by psychologists, neurobiologists and educators point to the same conclusion: when we go online, we enter an environment that promotes cursory reading, hurried and distracted thinking, and superficial learning.”

We Are Becoming Easily Distracted

It has been well documented that our constant interaction with mobile phones is associated with greater distraction and poorer work performance. A study done by the University of Essex social psychologist, Andrew Przybylski, discovered that, “though short in duration, the action [of checking your smartphone] tends to prompt mind-wandering and task-irrelevant thoughts”. However, even if you do not check your phone, just having it within eyeshot and hearing the mere buzz of a phone notification alone significantly disrupts our attentiveness to a given task. Research has also indicated that use of mobile phones can reduce the quality of attention to real-world events such as operating motor vehicles. This resonates with the fact that texting while driving is the number one cause of traffic causalities in Singapore.

It’s Killing Conversation Quality

While the advancements in communication technology have enabled billions of people all over the world to connect over great distances, it is degrading the quality of the time that we spend interacting with those closest to us. Tech devices are commonly present in both professional and private settings, often as subtle background objects. However, studies have shown that the mere presence of a mobile phone prohibits people from engaging in fulfilling in-person conversations. With less eye contact, it is easier to miss out on subtle cues and harder to pick up on body language, hence affecting the quality of the connection and level of interaction we have with the person right across from us. This disconnection during face-to-face interaction is proving to be a contributing factor in the dissolution of marriages. Clinical psychologist and relationship therapist, Susan Heitley, attests that when a marriage hits a rocky patch, one or both partners tends to hide behind their phones using it as a distraction from their marital woes.

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