According to a 2016 study by Flurry Mobile, the average person spends a total of 5 hours a day on their smartphone. Considering many of us work or attend school for a large portion of the day already, this is a significant (and alarming) amount of time.
Surprisingly concerned by this rising trend are some of tech's top executives of the last two decades, like Sean Parker, Facebook’s founding president, who recently warned that social media and technology have been inherently designed to be addictive, and Apple CEO, Tim Cook, who recently announced that he wouldn't let a child use social media.
Our Marshmallow Test
In an infamous study by Stanford researchers known as the Marshmallow Test, children were offered the option to eat a marshmallow immediately or to wait 15 minutes to be presented with a different, potentially better, reward.
The study uncovered that children who delayed gratification by not eating the marshmallow right away wound up leading more happy and successful lives than those who couldn't resist the tasty treat. The findings from this decades-long study could explain why Sean Parker and so many others are sounding the alarm around the potential dangers of not resisting our metaphorical marshmallow — the smartphone.
With that in mind, here are four reasons why you should assess your phone use, and strongly consider shedding some screen time this year.
1. We’ve Developed Significant FOMO-Related Anxiety
One of the biggest concerns with our overuse of technology is its impairment on our mental health. According to a study in The Journal of Computer-Medicated Communication, The Extended iSelf: The Impact of iPhone Separation on Cognition, Emotion, and Physiology, 40 iPhone users showed symptoms of anxiety when they were put into a situation where they could not use their phone.
In the study, participants were given crossword puzzles to complete and could hear their phone ring but couldn't answer it. Researchers found that this caused the participant's blood pressure and heart rate to increase, in addition to other symptoms related to anxiety. If you've ever felt a buzz but not been able to check your phone right away, you know the feeling.
2. Our Ability to Learn and Pay Attention has Taken a Serious Hit
Another concern posed by our devices is the ability to be fully present in a classroom or meeting. A 2015 study by the Centre for Economic Performance at the London School of Economics found that after banning cell phones from a school, students achieved higher test scores than in previous years. Arguably, the study illustrated that the presence of cell phones in a learning environment was impeding on students’ ability to learn effectively.
But smartphones aren't the only culprit: Professor Susan Dynarski illustrated in her essay for the New York Times that taking notes on a laptop is not an effective way to learn when compared to handwritten notes. She argued that taking notes by hand improves our ability to retain information, because we're forced away from copying down information verbatim.
Professor and brain-science expert, Dr. Brynn Winegard, agrees in her article about why she chooses not to use technology in her classroom. "The human brain has evolved over 200 million years," Dr. Brynn says. "Smartphones have been around for ten."
3. Our Instinctual Behaviors are Getting Interrupted
Texting and driving has been a growing problem over recent years, but pedestrians have become the latest target in distraction-related concerns. Now, in some cities, you can be fined for looking down at your phone rather than in front of you when crossing the street. For example, according to the Toronto Star, pedestrians in Ontario could face fines of up to $125 for crossing the street while distracted by their device.
Considering that looking both ways before crossing has been an instinctual reaction instilled in us since childhood, it’s undeniable that smartphones are influencing and changing even our most formative behavior. And not only is this dangerous, your wallet could soon take a hit for your unintended negligence, too.
4. We Have Developed Increasing Health Concerns
According to a recent study by the Pew Research Centre, 46% of Americans could be diagnosed as being clinically addicted to the internet. Behaviors identified included depression, insomnia, and impulsiveness, all related to a higher frequency of internet and social media usage.
Additionally, according to Harvard Health, using your phone right before sleep (which most of us do) has been found to be harmful for a good night's rest, putting us in danger of health problems such as increased blood pressure and heart disease.
How To Balance Screentime and Get Healthy
Reducing screen time begins by postponing gratification. Similar to the Marshmallow Test, waiting for something you're looking forward to could prove to be better for your physical and mental health in the long run.
Consider a more meaningful approach around your tech use — such as intentionally not checking your phone during certain hours of the day, or locking yourself out while you study or work with tools like Flipd. Make an effort to engage in face-to-face conversation when it's available to you, instead of burying your nose in your smartphone. Heed the warnings and be a responsible citizen by looking up — because, in the words of Sean Parker, "God only knows what it's doing to our brains."
Learn more about using Flipd to manage and reduce screen time.