Until a few years ago, millions of people around the world were worried about how their kids were turning into gadget junkies. They compared smartphone addiction to substance abuse and sought a cure. The same generation are now addicted to cell phone use themselves – constantly using smartphones and tablets is a common occurrence. Nearly everyone’s checking their phones as soon as they wake up, on their way to work, in meetings, at lunch, in the evening with their family, and at night before sleeping.
69% of adults and 78% of teens check their phones at least once in an hour. Smartphones are essentially miniature slot machines – unlocking them is gambling for a reward, like a text message or an update. Over time, people build tolerance to their devices, and need to use them more and more often. They even suffer withdrawal symptoms and mood fluctuations when deprived of them. Social media applications with endless news feeds aren’t helping with the problem either. Here are 7 gripping reasons to place limits on your screen time:
- Our brains are tiring out from processing too much information
It’s true. There’s a limit to the amount of information people can handle in a given time period. Our mind gets stressed when that limit is crossed. It’s calledInformation Fatigue Syndrome, a term coined by British doctor David Lewis. Think about this: Facebook users watch over 8 billion videos each day. Snapchat users exchange over 32 million images each hour. Many of these people also use Instagram and Twitter. Then come text messages, e-mails, news aggregators and app update notifications. The list is endless. Human brains will slow down when exposed to too many pieces of information in a short span of time – especially in the way smartphone apps present them.
- Attention spans are reducing, drastically
The attention span of a human beingfell by a third between 2000 and 2015, from 12 seconds to 8.25. That is quite literally less than the 9 second attention span of a goldfish! According to The Telegraph, this is mainly due to smartphone usage. As we keep trying to multitask more and more, switching between multiple windows, we pay less and less attention to each individual task we perform. Children are actually unable to read books because of the influence of the gadgets they’re constantly using.
- People are getting into more accidents because of their mobile devices
Nearly 1.3 million car accidents and 500,000 injuries were caused by cell phones distracting drivers in the US in 2013. This is muchworse than drunk driving (290,000 injuries). The number of cell phone-related crashes has steadily been increasing every year. Did you know that a driver is 23 times more likely to crash when texting while driving.
- RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury)
Once linked to using desktop computers, RSI is now called texting thumb syndrome. Constant texting is leading to inflammation of muscles, tendons and ligaments involved in hand movements. To top this, people suffer from neck and back pain because they text while contorting themselves into odd positions.The average adult head weighs 5 kilograms. However, tilting your head forward by 60 degrees to check your messages puts a 27kg load on your neck. Reading this article on a phone with your neck bent down? You might want to change that!
- Insomnia, anxiety and depression are getting pumped by social apps
A Harvard study found that specific wavelengths of light suppress the body’s production of melatonin, the chemical that helps us sleep. LEDs found in smartphone, TV and computer screens are especially problematic, said Professor Charles A. Czeisler of Harvard Medical School. We are now sleeping a lot later than we ideally should – but still waking up early. Perhaps this is why sleep-deprived drivers cause 100,000 car accidents every year in the US alone.
A study of 300 students at the University of Illinois revealed that students who described themselves as having a smartphone addiction scored much higher on depression and anxiety scales than those who didn’t. People are constantly checking their phones for likes and comments on their posts. They show depression-like symptoms when there aren’t any.
Some doctors point out that teens are attempting suicide because of social media related issues. While the exact reasons for increased teen suicides in recent times are not certain, several experts are guessing that it’s due to feeling left out, ignored or bullied on social media. Teens go into a downward spiral of depression when their social posts don’t do as well as those of their friends. Moreover, 43% of students reported being victims of cyberbullying in 2015. This is a dramatic rise from 9% in 2013. As more and more youngsters buy their own phones and join various social networks, this number will only increase.
- People aren’t having enough quality real-life conversations
While any common observer can tell that people are increasingly staring into their mobile phones instead of talking to other people, that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Multiple studies have shown that just having a smartphone within reach can lower the quality of in-person conversations, even if the phone isn’t being used. When there’s a device in your pocket that grants access to all the world’s knowledge and an endless stream of updates from people you know, there’s always the urge to unlock it and check for more. This lowers a person’s empathetic concern for what anyone else is saying, and they miss out on cues like minor facial expressions and changes in tone. Participants in conversations that had one or both participants’ phones present (on the table or in their pockets) were given poorer ratings than those without any phones within reach.
- Phones are hurting your work productivity, and hence your bonusEvery mobile device is loaded with apps that are supposed to increase your productivity – task managers, email clients, cloud-syncing calendars and more. The issue with these apps are that they’re installed in a gadget that distracts much more than it helps. As an employee, you might pick up your phone for work reasons, and end up watching viral videos or texting your spouse about dinner. This would hurt your productivity, and maybe you’d even have to stay back late to complete your work.
In a poll of over 5000 privately employed individuals, about 2/3 said that they use their smartphone several times a day at work. 65% of the total sample size sent personal texts at work, while 24% played games. Most respondents didn’t even receive work emails on their phones. Additionally, having a singular phone prevents separation of work and personal life.Employees tend to take their work life home, and bring their personal life to the office. They are often expected to answer work calls late into the night, which adds to stress and kills workplace productivity. When so many employees are stressed out, the company tends to be less productive as a whole. This could potentially affect your salary and even your bonus.
Doubtlessly, mobile addiction is like any other form of substance abuse. It can be sickening to walk into a café or take a stroll in the park, only to see nearly everyone absorbed in a glowing screen. We must take steps to cut down on our usage, like sticking to using a phone only once every few hours. Perhaps in good time, we can break our habit. Let’s start having worthy conversations in person rather than ceaselessly shooting off texts. Let’s enjoy life with our heads raised instead of staring down at a display.
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