“The more time we spend interconnected via a myriad of devices, the less time we have left to develop true friendships in the real world.” – Alex Morritt
Of the 7 billion people on earth roughly 6 billion own a cell phone, which is pretty shocking giving that only 4.5 billion have access to a working toilet. So how are that popular gadget changing your body and brain? If you are looking down on your phone right now your spying angle is equivalent to that of an 8-year-old child sitting on your neck, which is fairly significant considering people spending an average of 4.7 hours a day looking at their phone.
This combined with the length of time spent in front of computers has led to increasing a prevalence of myopia also known as near-sightedness in north America. In the 1970’s about 1/4 of the population had myopia, where today nearly half do, and in some parts of Asia 80-90% of the population is now near-sighted.
It could be hard to put your phone down, take for example the game ‘’Candy Crush’’ as you play the game you achieve small goals causing your brain to be rewarded with a little burst of dopamine and eventually you were rewarded in the game with the new content. This novelty also gives the little burst of dopamine and together create what is known as ‘’compulsion loop’’ which just happens to be the same loop responsible for the behaviours associated with nicotine or cocaine.
Our brains are hardwired to make us novelty seeking, and this is why apps in our phones are designed to consistently provide us with new content making them hard to put down. As a result, 93% of young people aged 18-29 report using their smartphone as a tool to avoid boredom as oppose to other activities like reading a book or engaging other people around them. This has created a new term ‘’Nomophobia’’ (NoMobilePhone) – the fear or anxiety of being without your phone.
Heavy cell phone use can also alter our brain function. Alpha rhythms are commonly associated with “wakeful relaxation” like when our mind wanders off, whereas gamma waves are associated with conscious attentiveness. Experiments have shown that when a cell phone transmits signals, like, during a phone call, the power of these alpha waves significantly rises. This means phone transmissions can literally change the way our brains work.
Your smartphone can also disrupt your sleep. The screen emits a blue light which has been shown to alter circadian rhythms diminishing the time spent in deep sleep which is linked to the development of diabetes, cancer, and obesity. Studies have shown that people who read on their smartphone at night have a harder time falling asleep and produce less melatonin – the hormone responsible for the regulation of sleep-wake cycles. Harvard Medical School advice the last two to three hours before bed be technology free, so pick up a book before bed instead.
Of course smartphones also completely change our ability to access information, 7% of Americans are entirely depending on smartphones for they access the internet. 2014 studies found that the majority of smartphones owners use their phones for online banking, to look at medical information and searching for jobs, so well phones are no way exclusively bad and have been part of a positive change in the world, there is no denying they are changing us, Perhaps disconnecting from our smartphones can add to our longevity and overall health. Many successful people have now decided to take ‘’smartphone vacations’’ in order to increase productivity.