The Truth About Smartphones

We know our smartphones are bad for us. Our teachers tell us, our parents tell us, and we see it in the media. So why can’t we force ourselves to put them down? Recent research that has come out in articles in The Globe and Mail and The New York Times show that having an addiction to your phone is a real thing. And that’s scary. This research has proven that smartphones are damaging both our minds and our relationships. They make us antisocial, hinder our brain power, reduce our attention spans and make us considerably more susceptible to anxiety.

Even the people who developed software are now seeing the repercussions and regretting ever bringing these technologies to the public. Last year, these former employees started becoming vocal about the dangers of smartphones and apps and have been deemed the ‘whistle-blowers’ of the technology industry. A man who helped develop the iPhone’s push notifications at Apple, Chris Marcellino, told The Guardian last fall that smartphones latch people on using the very same neural pathways as gambling and drugs. The former vice-president of user growth at Facebook, Chamath Palihapitiya said, “I feel tremendous guilt. “I think we all knew in the back of our minds… something bad could happen. The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops that we have created are destroying how society works. It is eroding the core foundations of how people behave.” The former president of Facebook, Sean Parker, recently confessed that the popular social media platform was specifically designed to make users addicted with shots of dopamine. He said, “You’re exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology. [The inventors] understood this, consciously, and we did it anyway.”

We spend three to five hours a day on our phones. Most people check their phones 150 times a day which is about every six minutes. This is about twice as often as they think they do. I know what you’re thinking. It can’t be that often, right? It actually is. This is how the websites and apps make their money. The majority of them don’t charge for access so the internet is kept going by eyeballs. The more often and the longer we spend staring at them, the more money they can charge advertisers.

No one wants to hear the truth because our smartphones have become such a significant part of our lives, but it’s time to hear it and to actually listen to it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very thankful to have a phone. It makes almost every aspect of my everyday life significantly easier and it almost seems that to be a contributing part of our society you have to have one. It is clear that now more than ever we need to be aware of the implications these devices have on us. I, for one, sincerely hope that this movement catches on. It saddens me to my core when I see families eating meals at restaurants and not speaking a word because they’re on their individual devices. Let’s be real for a second; what’s the worst thing that would happen if you put your phone down for a few hours and went for a walk? Or had a good conversation with someone? Your texts and Snapchats will still be there when you get back. Personally, I always feel happier when I’ve given myself a little phone detox.

To help in curbing your dependence on your phone, try these three tips from New York psychotherapist Nancy Colier:

  1. Start by recognizing how much digital use is really needed, say, for work or navigation or letting family members know you’re O.K., and what is merely a habit of responding, posting and self-distraction.
  2. Make little changes. Refrain from using your device while eating or spending time with friends, and add one thing a day that’s done without the phone.
  3. Become very conscious of what is important to you, what really nourishes you, and devote more time and attention to it.

If you’re interested in reading more about this subject, check out the articles from The Globe and Mail and The New York Times.