Be honest. Is your mobile device taking over your life? Are you constantly connected to the online world? Psychology consultant Dr Nicola Davies looks at ways you can reclaim your time.
So what if you check your email first thing in the morning? How can you avoid it when your smartphone is your alarm clock? So what if you send a quick reply while gulping down your morning coffee?
Your life revolves around your phone
You need to get a jump start on the busy day ahead. So what if you sneak a peek at your inbox while driving? You know this particular red light takes forever. All of this has happened before you even get to work and start your day.
After work is no better and you find yourself unable to resist the siren call of the new mail alert pinging from your phone. Maybe it’s the answer you’ve been waiting for from the proposal you sent your boss – has your project finally been approved? Okay, so you may chide your children when they bring their phones to the table, but when yours rings, that’s different – it’s work; you can’t just ignore it.
None of this is a problem though as when you absolutely need to relax, you pull out your iPad for a couple of turns on ‘Words with Friends.’ Your opponent plays ‘candidly,’ which reminds you that you’ve been meaning to research ways to take better candid photos with your Smartphone. You tap your browser and start searching and before you know it midnight has arrived and you’re feeling wired – far too wired to sleep – even though you know you’ll be exhausted when your alarm goes off in the morning.
Anyway, why is putting down your iPhone is so important?
Why is switching off so hard?
How many times have you picked up your phone ‘just to check an email’ and found yourself on a random website an hour later? A study by Dr Antti Oulasvirta, Senior Researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Informatics in Germany, demonstrated how ‘prompts’ within technology are making it more difficult for us to resist the call of the online world. For example, while the email alert sound prompts us to check email, according to Dr Oulasvirta, this alert can act as a ‘gateway’ to other applications, leading to other actions being taken with the device.
Based on the content that is accessed, the habit may lead to a diverse variety of ‘next actions.’ In other words, the very ease of use that’s built into Smartphones simply sucks us in and makes it convenient for us to move seamlessly from one application to the next. You may even have a regular routine that you engage in whenever you pick up your phone – check email, check Facebook, check Twitter, Google some information, and so on.
Why is switching off so important?
In spite of the lure of the world contained within your Smartphone, it’s important to keep yourself grounded within the reality of the external world. In 2008, Gary Small, the Head of UCLA’s Memory and Aging Research Centre, documented actual physiological changes in the brain after moderate Internet use. This led to more studies, all of which disturbingly demonstrate that while you may think you are choosing to use your Smartphone, you’re actually following a classic addiction pattern.
It is the lure of the dopamine reward (the chemical in the brain that controls pleasure) that comes from answering the call of the phone that has led Peter Whybrow of the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behaviour at UCLA to refer to the Internet as “electronic cocaine.” The risk of addiction is not your only area of concern. In addition to changes within the brain, excessive Smartphone use has also been linked to higher stress levels, physical symptoms, weight gain, and higher blood pressure. Like any addiction, Smartphone dependence can literally take over your life if you let it.
So now that you’ve read this you can put your phone down for awhile!
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