It’s the last thing you hold at night, and the first thing you grab in the morning. You can’t keep away from it during the day, even when other important things need to be done. What is it that sucks hours of your life away without you even noticing? It’s not your children or your partner–it’s your smartphone.
Don’t get me wrong–smartphones are brilliant uses of technology. How do you spell octogenarian? Give me one sec. Your sister needs a recipe? Easy as a photo and a quick text. Your toddler is asking incessantly why worms live in the ground? Siri is sure to know. We wonder how in the world several thousand years of Earth’s inhabitants even survived without these marvelous devices.
Despite all that is good about cellphones, however, they do have the potential to negatively affect our health.
Addicted! Who, Me?
Ok, maybe you’re not addicted. But there is strong evidence that many are. According to a 2014 study published in the Journal of Behavioral Addictions, female college students surveyed at Baylor University spent 10 hours a day on average on their cellphones, with male students spending about eight. In order of time spent, cellphone activities included texting, emails, Facebook, surfing the Internet, and listening to music. (1)
Most of us are not such heavy cellphone users, but if you are like 95% of American cellphone owners between 30 and 49, you are rarely without your phone. (2) Perhaps your cellphone vices are checking it too frequently, allowing it to interrupt face-to-face interactions, or even occasionally texting at stoplights. In any case, it is healthy to recognize the potential for cellphones to be addictive, and to discipline behavior to prevent addiction.
The Myth of Multitasking
Women are better at multitasking than men, according to a 2013 study published in BMC Psychology. We didn’t need research to tell us that–women have long cooked dinner while helping with homework or worked at the office while coordinating children’s schedules plus a home remodel. (3) Cellphones make multitasking easier. But is all this multitasking really good for us?
Professor Earl Miller at MIT thinks not. His research found that multitasking actually reduces our efficiency. The brain slows down when we try to complete two tasks at once instead of focusing on just one. Worse, multitasking often results in the release of stress hormones that could have been kept in check if we weren’t trying to do more than one thing at a time. Miller suggests that this creates a “vicious cycle” of multitasking and becoming stressed as we get less done; followed by more multitasking since time and responsibilities are pressing. (4)
But…I’ll be Bored!
So you’ve set the phone aside for an hour. Maybe you are a little bit bored. No worries, repeat after me: “Boredom is my friend!” Genevieve Bell, Ph.D., director of interaction and experience research at Intel, says, “Boredom is linked to creativity. You have your best thoughts in the shower, when driving, painting fences, and weeding the yard.” There is some evidence that heavy cellphone use impedes creativity, keeping us from having quiet moments of thought. (5
Today, take charge of your time and put the phone away for an hour or more. Allow yourself to focus. Give your brain a chance to run amok with creative thought. You’ll be glad you did.
Read here for more info on cellphone addiction:
Read more about the negative effects of multitasking:
Click here to find out why boredom is better for your creativity:
- “Cellphone Addiction is ‘an Increasingly Realistic Possibility,’ Baylor Study of College Students Reveals.” Baylor Media Communications. August 27, 2014. https://www.baylor.edu/mediacommunications/news.php?action=story&story=145864
- “Chapter 1: Always on Connectivity,” Pew Research Center. August 26, 2015. http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/08/26/chapter-1-always-on-connectivity/
- “Are women better than men at multi-tasking?” BMC Psychology. October 24, 2013. http://bmcpsychology.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/2050-7283-1-18
- “Is multi-tasking bad for your brain? Experts reveal the hidden perils of juggling too many jobs.” DailyMail.com. August 11, 2009. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-1205669/Is-multi-tasking-bad-brain-Experts-reveal-hidden-perils-juggling-jobs.html
- “How Mobile Devices Rob You of Creativity,” CBSNews.com, June 30, 2011. http://www.cbsnews.com/news/how-mobile-devices-rob-you-of-creativity/