Monday, May 9, 2016

Checking constantly your smartphone damages the brain

smartphone brain

Smartphones are here to stay, so today the majority of people can not conceive life without this device. However, the mobile phone has not only changed the way we communicate, but also deeply affects the perception of information from the environment and can also affect the functioning of our brain, even if these changes occur so slowly as to not be aware of them.

Obviously, it is not the smartphone itself the problem, but the use we make of this device, especially when we develop the habit of being constantly hanging from messages, emails and incoming calls, interrupting what we are doing to answer this constant flow of stimuli.

How changes us being constantly hanging from our smartphone?


1. Our brain becomes accustomed to constant stimulation. The constant flow of information that comes through the mobile phone causes the brain to get used to the continuous stimulation. Therefore, when we are surrounded by peace and quiet, without the phone, we feel a sensation similar to the “withdrawal symptoms”. We feel nervous because our brain is lacking those stimuli. Then it is not surprising that a study conducted at the University of Isfahan found that people who make indiscriminate use of the phone also have a greater tendency to develop addiction and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

2. We become intolerant to loneliness. The phone allows us to stay connected, anywhere, so at the end loneliness becomes an uncomfortable companion that we want to avoid at all costs. We are depending so much from social networks, messages and e-mails that we hardly spend time with ourselves. As a result, we become intolerant to loneliness. But loneliness is not a synonym for emotional vacuum and is not always negative, but is the basis to promote introspection and allows us to grow as people.

3. We become hyper-reactive. Being constantly hanging from the smartphone generates a permanent state of alarm that ends up causing irritability. If the brain is forced to remain always vigilant, it should reallocate its resources and begin to assess the situations to which we are exposed banally, simply describing them as “dangerous” or “safe”. As a result, we normally react in an exaggerated manner with certain stimuli, and this will cause problems in interpersonal relationships. In fact, a study carried out at the Kent State University revealed that frequent use of the mobile phone is directly related to increased anxiety and a less satisfying life.

4. We stop thinking. If we’re not left alone with our thoughts we won’t have the opportunity to reflect and evaluate the pros and cons of decisions. As a result, we’ll end up act rashly and make decisions that we could repent of. Obviously, the fact we always have at hand an answer via the Internet does not help us develop the ability to solve problems. Today it is easier to find an answer online rather than groped to draw our own conclusions. In practice, more and more often we disconnect the prefrontal cortex of the brain, which is precisely responsibile of helping us to plan, solve problems and make decisions. Therefore, when we want to reactivate it may be too late.

5. Burns the energy the brain needs to recover. A study conducted at Michigan State University analyzed how people use their mobile phones after business hours and found that most of these persons remained hung to them almost until bedtime. These researchers observed that using the mobile phone four hours before going to sleep affects seriously the quality of sleep, leaving us with no energy for the next day. This is because the blue light emitted by these devices affects the circadian rhythm, which is particularly dangerous when you consider that lack of sleep affects our brains while we sleep, because then is when the brain is in charge of removing the waste products of metabolism.

What is the solution?


This does not mean we should stop using smartphones but rather limit the time spent in front of the screen. Beyond this small screen there is an intense and interesting life awaiting us, it makes no sense to reduce our world to this virtual universe.


Sources:
Babadi, Z. et. Al. (2014) The Relationship between Mental Health and Addiction to Mobile Phones among University Students of Shahrekord, Iran. Addict Health; 6(3-4): 93–99.
Lepp, A. et. Al. (2014) The relationship between cell phone use, academic performance, anxiety, and Satisfaction with Life in college students. Computers in Human Behavior; 31: 343–350.
Johnson, R. et. Al. (2014) Beginning the workday yet already depleted? Consequences of late-night smartphone use and sleep. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes; 124: 11-23.

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Jennifer Delgado Suárez

Psicologist by profession and passion, dedicated to to string words together. Discover my Books

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