Why Your Phone Is Bad for Your Brain and Wellbeing + What You Can Do
7 minute read
We all have cell phones; more specifically we all have smartphones. Our phones do more than just deliver calls and messages, we get directions, we get internet, we meet people, and we buy stuff all using our phones. As great as all this may seem, the reliance on our phones is causing some changes to our brains.
With our amazing little gadgets, we literally have the world at our fingertips. There is almost nothing that your phone cannot do. Because of this, we are in awe of our phones and a little obsessed.
Of course, you get a little, you give a little. With more research being published all the time, we are beginning to realize the bad side to this great technology.
The New Addiction
You can get addicted to drugs, alcohol, gambling, and technology. Addiction stems from the reward system in your brain, which means that anything that satisfies this system can become an addiction. This includes technology.
Dopamine is the key chemical in the reward system, and it seeks out new and pleasurable experiences. Evolutionarily speaking this is a good thing, as it drives us to seek food, water, and shelter.
In other ways, it can be a danger. When we finally experience the pleasure, the opioid system of the reward enter is activated and pleasure seeking is temporarily halted. This prompts the dopamine to seek out pleasure once again, and the cycle continues.
While this feedback loop may be easier to understand with regards to the seeking of pleasure and rewards of food or drugs, the same cycle is in play regarding technology. We seek new information, get it, and then seek out more.
The difference is that once we seek enough food we get full, which breaks the cycle. With technology, there is nothing to trigger a “full” feeling, so we continue to seek out more and more.
Are You an Addict?
The word “addict” never implies anything good, so you likely do not want to be classified as a technology or phone addict. There are a few signs that will let you know you are no longer in control of your phone.
The signs below indicate that you may be/are an addict, and your phone is very much in control of you. At the very least, if you have one or more of these symptoms, you may want to try going “cool turkey” on the technology or speak to a healthcare professional.
♦ A feeling of euphoria when using your phone or other device
♦ Constantly updating your social media accounts
♦ Repeatedly checking your messages, emails, and notifications
♦ Social withdrawal
♦ Restlessness when you are unable to use your phone
♦ Disinterest in anything that does not involve technology
How Your Phone Changes Your Brain
When you rely on your phone or technology to do everything, the less information you store in your memory. Information overload is a common side effect of always having your phone nearby.
Access to all the information in the world can overload your memory banks and makes it difficult to form long-term memories. You have to constantly make room for new information. However, with so much coming at you each day, there is no time to sort through the information and save the important data to long-term memory.
It may seem like our attention spans are shrinking, but it is more accurate to say that our ability to concentrate has been impacted by the dependence we have on our phones. The use of technology as well as the technology itself has been shown to impair concentration.
Our phones serve as a distraction. Even when we are not using it, our minds may be actively focused on not picking it up, which takes away from focusing on anything else.
Your phone may also cause mental health diseases such as anxiety. The compulsion of checking messages and updates combined with the fear of missing out on something is enough to cause panic and stress in anyone.
GABA is an anti-anxiety amino acid and levels have been found to correlate to addiction to cell phones. The more you use your phone, the less GABA is present in your brain. While this is not a causal relationship, there is an important link worth noting.
Your Brain and Social Media
Addiction to cell phones and technology has implications for you social life. While social media is one of the most commonly used applications of cell phones, your real social life is another story. Social media overload has been linked to narcissism and less empathy which can dramatically impact your ability to make and keep relationships.
In addition to this, we mistakenly feel as though social media keeps us in touch with the world. In reality, reliance on technology and social media overload is linked to more cases of depression and feeling isolated.
Socializing online is not the same as interacting face-to-face with people, and people are more isolated than they want to admit. That said, socializing and making friends online is still better than never socializing at all.
What You Can Do
Humans need real connections with other people to stay healthy and happy. Sadly, phones and technology can prevent that. While they were designed to promote communication and make staying in touch easier, we are gradually losing the ability to interact in real life, which will only lead to more loneliness and depression.
The key is finding a balance. While your phone is a valuable asset and resource, you need to use it within moderation. As with any addictive substance, it may be a challenge to cut back on phone time. Taking the occasional technology-free day or turning off notifications is a great way to reduce the temptation.
Schedule real time with your friends and family and set social media to the side.
The Bottom Line
As wonderful as technology is, it is changing your brain every day. Stay healthy, happy and truly connected by putting the phone down every once in a while.
Your reward system will be even happier when you catch up with old friends in person anyway. Plus, you may find that your brain is a muscle too, so exercising it will only make it stronger.