Smartphones have a very real impact on the way that you operate as a human being.
Do you remember what life was like before you bought your very first smart device? Few people do.
And now, as it’s been found that 25% of children have smartphones from the ages of 3 and 5 in the UK and that 64% of all adults in the US own a smartphone, there is a serious question that needs to be asked: What are the real psychological effects?
Let’s take a look.
Smartphones are rewiring your brain
It sounds like sensationalist nonsense, but professor of Psychiatry Dr Gary Small found that technology changes the way that your brain operates.
Using two groups: one which was computer savvy and another who were technovices, he performed brain scans as they read a book.
He found that those who were computer savvy presented “broad brain activity in the left-front part of the brain known as the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, while the novices showed little, if any, activity in this area.”
After only two weeks of computer training the novices began to show brain activity in this area, suggesting that the use of tech – smartphones included – downright rewires your brain function.
Smartphones are impacting your sleep
Sleep is important. With only a little bit you won’t function properly and without any you’ll hallucinate and eventually deteriorate massively.
The light shone by smartphone screens is bright blue: a colour that’s known to wake you up by suppressing the development of melatonin, a hormone that contributes greatly to sleep.
A study by the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute found that, in a sample of 13 people, those who used a tablet for two hours before they went to bed while wearing orange goggles had higher levels of the hormone than those who wore no goggles.
Smartphones are making you dumber
It doesn’t take a long visit on services such as Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr to see the truth in this study, but it’s actually in fact Google that’s modifying your intelligence for the worse.
Barr et al performed a study on 660 people assessing their verbal and literacy skills to find that those who performed better in the assessments were those who also used the search function on their phones the least.
Smartphones are making you selfish
Zaheer Hussain, psychology lecturer at the University of Derby has said that “A significant positive relationship was found between narcissism and addiction to the phones, suggesting that the more narcissistic a person is, the more likely they are to be addicted to their smartphone. When the participants were asked if they used their phone in banned areas, 35% answered yes.”
Narcissism is a characteristic applied to people who are obsessed with their physical image or who actively seek admiration of their talents. They’re also considered to be selfish people with little regard for others.
As a heavy Facebook user myself, this comes as no surprise; the number of selfies and compliment baiting on a day-to-day basis is ridiculously high, and many become so obsessed with their own vanity that they turn others away who refuse to “Like” or “Share” their content.
Smartphones are making you anxious & easily manipulated
A phenomenon known as the “fear of missing out” or “FoMO” is a real and well documented mental state in which individuals can feel panicked or extremely anxious if they’re unable to check social media to see if they’re missing out on anything important.
Advertisers, it’s been found, are well aware of this and use it to manipulate consumers with “can’t miss out” or “don’t be left behind” deals, while others such as Nescafé’s “wake up to life” campaign attempt to counter FoMO.
This is such a prominent state that American sitcom “How I Met Your Mother” featured an entire episode about FoMO, in which characters fall under “The Curse of the Blitz” making them extremely anxious to miss any part of an event or day. This fear ends up causing some of the characters to in fact miss out on the very things they’re afraid of missing, countering FoMO.
Smartphones are making you stressed
With heavy usage of smartphones comes an “always on” culture, says Dr Christine Grant of Coventry University, “The negative impacts of this ‘always on’ culture are that your mind is never resting, you’re not giving your body time to recover, so you’re always stressed.”
It is indeed true that, at any moment of any day your phone could buzz with meaningless advertising or spam mail, which is especially bad if you’re trying to get to sleep or trying to enjoy a moment.
Knowing that this is the case, however, tends to make a lot of people anxious and stressed to a point where life is no longer enjoyable, which is of course a very bad thing.
So what’s the solution?
Switch off for a while; go a week without a smart device in your pocket; perhaps turn away from the internet for a while altogether.
Chances are that a single week won’t have a huge impact if you’re already quite far gone, but it’ll freshen you up and remind you that there’s more to life than your screen, however fancy it may be.
We aren’t suggesting at all that you forgo all forms of smart-tech: we’re a smart-tech focused site, after all, but perhaps when purchasing your brand new device you make a deal with yourself that you won’t allow it to take over your life.