|By Greg Bowler|
Challenge We spend a growing number of hours glued to our phones, which is reducing our brain power.
Solution Create healthy boundaries around your behavior with your phone. Treat it like a tool. Leave it somewhere else in your house or office when you’re not using it.
People love their phones. Walk into just about any public space where people are gathered, and you’ll likely be unsurprised to find that a sizable number of those people are staring at a phone. According to a report by comScore, a media analysis organization, the average American adult spends 2 hours and 51 minutes on their smartphone per day. That adds up to a lot of time every year. The math is frightening.
Studies have shown that smartphones do a lot of harm. From making young people’s lives subjectively worse, to distracting parents of children to the point that those children throw tantrums, our behaviors with smartphones are creating big problems.
Phones can be great — they connect us to the world, they provide entertainment, directions, keep us organized, and, with the right apps, can maybe even assist our productivity. We can choose how we use our phones, but most of us are bad at managing these choices.
In perhaps the most damning indictment of smartphones yet, research from the University of Texas at Austin suggests that the mere presence of a smartphone has the potential to diminish your cognitive capacity. That’s right, simply being near your phone could be making you dumb.
800 participants of a study were assessed on the basis of their performance at a series of cognitive tasks. While performing a given task, study participants were instructed to either keep their phone face down on the desk, in a bag or pocket, or in another room. The study participants who had their phones in a different room vastly outperformed subjects whose phones were either in their bag or pocket, or visible on a desk.
The study suggests that the impact of smartphones on the brain’s ability to function goes beyond merely being distracted by notifications, texts or emails. In the experiment, subjects could not see the screens of their phones at all. The results suggest that, unconsciously, the brain allocates a certain amount of available space for considering how it will use the phone when the phone returns.
Whether the phone was on or off did not change the results of the experiments. Simply keeping the phone nearby was enough to diminish performance.
As we become more and more attached to our phones, it is important to consider the effects they have on our performance and our relationships. If you want to give your performance a boost, consider treating your phone more like what it is — a phone, and less like a personal stimulation device, to be gazed at with every fleeting second of available time. And if you really want a boost, consider creating a geographical boundary between yourself and your phone. Leave it in another room.