You’re in a queue. You stand there patiently waiting for the line to go down, but for what feels like minutes, has in fact been only mere seconds. This is painful. And so In a split second, you make the automatic decision to reach in to your pants and pull out your 5.5 Inches that everyone just can’t seem to get enough of – A smartphone. This you think, is time efficient – Why waste time just standing there when you could be replying to emails, messaging friends or like many of us do, scroll through social media, seeing what everybody else is doing with their irrelevant lives?
For you to play the game of life in today’s modern world of technology, having a phone is essential. But what are the effects of this long term? Why is it so many of report not being able to focus? That we are a generation of procrastinators? Society’s dependency on smart phones may prove to be a bigger unforeseen problem in the long run and not enough people seems to care.
Before delving in to the repercussions of societies heavy reliance on phones, it should be stated that phones themselves are not the direct issue; They’ve made today’s world a better place to live – An abundance of knowledge available, greater connectivity, and more opportunity. People even run entire businesses from their phones, and so the real underlining issue is more to do with our inability to govern the use of these addictive devices.
By the end of this article you will learn how to keep the benefits of using a smart phone whilst also mitigating the potential negatives. As the companies that design smartphones and their apps are not just silicon valley geeks. They have some of the smartest psychologists all devising ways in which to grab your attention. Attention in today’s world is the most sort after commodity, if you have someone’s attention, you have influence and influence is power.
I recently lost my phone whilst abroad and whilst having to wait for what felt like an eternity, in a weeks’ time my new one would arrive. But It was in this week that it dawned on me just how hopelessly chained we are to these devices. How our businesses, our sources of entertainment, our relationships, and even our sense of value are all in some way largely dependent on a series complex circuits that we call a phone. Just walk down a busy street and you’ll eventually see the disturbing amount of people with their head downs, not fully present, absorbed in to their screens.
A review of literature on cell phone addiction, published in Frontiers in Psychiatry found we can feel feeling irritable or uneasy if separated from your phone; or feeling anxiety or loneliness when you’re unable to send or receive an immediate message.
1. An Impediment To Your Potential
Humans like familiarity. We like it so much that we’ll subconsciously self-sabotage ourselves in order to remain the same. The only time we’re able to bypass this mechanism is when the pain of where we currently are becomes greater than the fear of the unknown.
But what does a smartphone have to do with self-sabotage?
The answer is this – Using phones as a form of escapism (Many of us unknowingly do) means we’re unable to change due to distracting us from the pain of the present moment. Instead of facing our reality head on, we watch Youtube; Instead of allowing ourselves to be bored, we scroll through social media, checking our notifications. Every time we do this, we’re not allowing ourselves to feel the pain needed to push us to change our life circumstances.
To further compound this effect, heavy use of social media can alter our moods, our sense of gratitude and blur our understanding of who we are and what we want – Are your goals really yours? Or have they been influenced by what’s trending on social media?
2. Prevents Deep Work
Every time you check your phone whilst attempting to do work that requires your full concentration, you constrict your creative powers – You prevent yourself from entering ‘flow state’. It’s this flow state that psychologists now understand as the ideal state for producing meaningful work – It’s when we’re operating at our best.
Flow State occur in the Alpha-Theta Border where you are in the middle of your conscious and subconscious mind.
It takes approximately 15-25 minutes of continuous focus on a single task for you to enter this flow like state, and if you’ve got notifications from your phone, you will never allow your creative energy to fully flow. The more you look at your notifications, the more you ingrain the dopaminergic response between you and your phone, making it harder to put your phone down.
3. Attention Span
If we’re not replying to messages, we’re scrolling through social media whilst having several tabs open at once, zipping from app to app, watching video after video, and as a result of this it’s now estimated our attentions have dropped to around 8 seconds. A lowered attention span means we’ll find it difficult to hold conversations, take in new information and life in general will be more of struggle. Even as I’m typing this, I can feel the insufferable itch to dispel the notification bar, to reveal the what if. Is it any wonder none of us can seem to enter a state of deep focus?
4. Anxiety & Depression
How many people do you follow on social media? How many times are you reminded of what others are doing with their lives and what you’re ‘missing out’ on. The feeling you have when you see others living the highlight of there is called FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). This FOMO robs us of what’s in front of us, it’s blinds us from what we DO have and Reminds us what we DON’T have.
A 2016 study titled ‘Fear of Missing out, need for touch, anxiety and depression are related to problematic smartphone use’, concluded those who overused their phones were more likely to score higher on the depression and anxiety scales. This may be due to the use of phones disrupting social activities, thereby reducing behavioural activation and subsequently increasing depression.’
What You Can Do
The fix for all the aforementioned consequences comes down to simply using your smartphone less. In practical terms, focus on the following:
1. Notifications off – Turn them off. Better yet, put your phone in another room when you want to dedicate all your brain power to a single task. Every time you switch from one task to another, you’re essentially resetting your brain’s computer system. Undisturbed work is where you will find your best work.
2. No phone first few hours and last few hours of the day – The morning should be used to prepare yourself for the day ahead. Going on your phone first thing in the morning robs your mind of it’s clarity. I personally don’t use my phone for at least the first 2hrs. The difference has been significant in my ability to get the hardest tasks done first.
3. Limit AM and PM phone use – As well as having phone limits in the morning, you should be limiting your phone use 2hrs before bed. Using your phone before bed will interrupt your circadian rhythm, making it tougher to fall asleep.
4. Mindfulness – Alongside meditation, daily mindfulness will help you become aware of what you’re doing at any given moment and notice it all. Try just standing there. Take in your surroundings, notice any particular feelings. You can do this in other menial day to day activities – Washing the dishes, going for a walk, or eating a meal.
We all know excessive use of smartphones isn’t good for you, but not many of us are aware of just how hopelessly reliant we’ve become. Learn to become more mindful when using your phone, use it for a purpose, not just a quick easy hit of dopamine. It won’t be easy, but if you want to gain back your attention span, be able to do deep work and ultimately become a better version of yourself, limit your phone and the next time you’re in a queue, don’t reach for your phone, see if you can resist.
Full library of images used can be found at boredpanda.com