Published on: 2/14/2018

The Brain Drain: Your Smartphone Is Killing Your Cognitive Abilities, Even When you’re Not Using It

User Image Web Editor Last updated on: 2/14/2018, Permalink

We know, we know, you’ve heard this a thousand times already: Facebook pokes, Instagram likes and Tinder swipes do no good to your ability to focus on the task at hand. The smartphone consumes so much of your attention that using it as you drive was admitted to be six times more dangerous than driving drunk.

The ever-growing stream of notifications is causing the smartphone owners to experience symptoms similar to those of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Most of us find it harder and harder to focus on the current tasks for more than a few minutes without feeling an urge to move on to something else.

But here’s something you probably didn’t know yet:

You can’t put an end to distractions by simply turning the “do not disturb” mode on, putting your phone down, and getting to work. 

The latest study has shown that even the mere presence of your smartphone is reducing your cognitive capacity.

Here is What Science Has to Say About This

Smartphone Addicted Person Holding His Phone

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The presence of your phone absorbs what the scientists call your automatic attention. This is an involuntary attention system that helps us to filter out all the relevant, potentially meaningful information from all the information that we get exposed to. 

Even when you are not actually checking your phone, involuntarily and subconsciously you continue to pay some attention to your phone because you assume there might be something new and exciting going on in there that you’re missing out on. It even happens to the people who are over-involved with their phones to hear phantom ringing or vibrations – they just expect those signals so much! 

Our brains have a limited capacity. A little part of your mind involved in keeping automatic attention on your phone means fewer cognitive resources available for other tasks.

The bottom line?

Even when you successfully control your urge to check your phone, it still eats up some of your attentional resources, and your ability to function in the world off-screen suffers.

How can You Put an End to This?

Like with all addictions, take it one day at a time. The habits are hard to break, and our brain gets really, really used to being constantly stimulated with likes, messages and notifications delivered by our smartphones; it receives a little burst of dopamine every time you receive like, comment, or follow… and it begins to expect the next hit. That’s why when you break the chain, you can get real, physical withdrawal symptoms along with the strong urge to check your phone and even hearing phantom beeps, pings, and buzzes. 

To get rid of your smartphone addiction (and later on, the smartphone itself), try these simple steps:

  • Disable notifications. Even when your phone is with you, keep the “do-not-disturb” mode activated to minimize the interruptions of buzzes, pings and alerts. Check your new messages, Instagram likes, Facebook comments, app updates and whatnot all at once, instead of letting them pour in during the day, competing for your attention.
  • Get rid of unnecessary apps. It’s rarely our smartphone itself that creates the addiction, but rather the online worlds it keeps us in touch with. As crazy as it sounds, some of the social media apps can be removed without the world coming to an end (or even you missing out on something that’s actually important).
  • Use an application to limit your phone usage. The irony of this is not lost on us, but there are actually applications designed to help you limit your usage of other applications (of your choice). If you don’t have the guts to remove Facebook app from your phone altogether, RescueTime or similar app will at least ensure you don’t spend countless hours scrolling through it.
  • Have some smartphone-detox time regularly. We don’t dare to suggest that you leave it at home for all week right away like this journalist did, but try to do it sometimes just to keep your possibly developing nomophobia at bay. Try to incorporate some phoneless activities into your daily life – for instance, make it a rule to never have your phone around as you eat (even if you’re eating by yourself).

What Will Change Once You’re Off the Hook?

Establishing a healthy relationship with technology can bring huge changes to your everyday life. 

You will get more productive. You will be using all of your attention for whatever is in front of you instead of it being pulled away by your phone – or your phone’s presence. 

You will feel energized. All-day multitasking is exhausting! The time and energy which would previously be devoted to your phone can now be spent on living more of your own life. 

You will experience some moments of pure presence. Most of us forgot the very feeling of looking at something beautiful with no attempt to take photos of it, share it, discuss it with others almost right away. Having no smartphone at hand will leave you no choice but to actually experience it fully, right there, right then.

2/14/2018 | 885 | Permalink