Just like one of my other sudden realizations (which seem to be happening too often now), I had a Shakespearean -esque epiphany about what my smartphone is doing to me. You may not realize it, but your mobile phone is having a detrimental effect on your mental health and memory. Yes, they have tons of advantages, but it’s important to stop and consider all the negative effects mobile usage is having on your brain.
The First Sign
Reading one of the shortest books ever – The Great Gatsby – took me 10 days to complete. Why? As an English Literature graduate, novels are my thing. I used to read 2-3 books a week for my degree – with one of them being ‘fun reading’. Before university, I read books to relax – before sleeping, after school, at the bus stop or in my room – anywhere was good to read a book. Then why on earth did it take me 10 days – 240 hours – to read a book that is barely over 100 pages?
The answer was simple and clear: Smartphone.
A device that is applauded for it’s ability to connect us with millions worldwide and ensure that everything is available at the touch of fingertips, was actually hindering my reading process. While I was reading, I was checking my phone continuously because even though I was not talking on it physically, I was simply connected with everyone. The pattern was this: read 2 paragraphs – check whatsapp – reach 2 more lines – email notification got a comment on blog, reply to comment – read 1 more paragraph – Facebook photo comment, check and reply – read another 3 lines – 2 Tweets .
This pattern is not only disturbing to realize, but I was downright disgusted by it. Why couldn’t I simply put my phone and read chapter upon chapter like I used to be able to?
The Second Sign
Reading an Influencers article on one of my favorite social networks – LinkedIn – when one of my colleagues asks me what I’m reading about. For a good 30 seconds, I was completely blank, just staring at his face. What was I reading exactly? I just couldn’t remember. After a minute, I blinked at his face twice and the subject finally came to me.
Checking my mobile phone while reading something is second nature and I don’t even give it a thought – so somewhere along the line I started reading passively. This not only shocked me to no end, but I have been working hard on correcting this! Do you ever have to re-read sentences or paragraphs just because your brain can’t actively understand it the first time?
The Final Sign
The last straw was when I was finishing The Great Gastby. The book was getting boring with Gatsby and his obsession with Daisy, so I voluntarily kept checking my phone for some sort of distraction instead of actually finishing the book. My attention span had been shortened to the point where I was knowingly putting active reading aside for a notification from social media.
And that’s when it all came tumbling down. I am not one to stand aside and allow my mind to become passive. I have the ability to read a book in one sitting, to research for hours and learn new things within minutes – skills that I have gained pride in over the years. I am not going to let a little device that sits in my hand control my future to an extent where I am enslaved by it. Feel the same way? Welcome to my boat – enjoy the ride!
Don’t Let your Phone Be Your Boss
A study by Kleiner Perkins showed some shocking results yet not-so-surprising results about how we use social media in today’s day and age. One thing I found particularly interesting about this study were the statistics about how many times a day we reach for our mobile phones:
150 times – that number is huge and it’s just an average. The fact is that most of us, especially from generation Y, use our phones much more than older generations. Has it really become necessary to check our phones so many times a day to just stay connected? Personally, I believe that this has a negative effect on our concentration span and memory. What would be the point of multi-tasking to the extent that it becomes completely passive? There is little or no use of a passive memory, and that is why we need to put a stop to this. Here’s how:
1. Step Away from your Phone
Make it a point to leave your phone in the other room. You are not truly having ‘me’ time or ‘alone’ time if you have your phone with you. If you are taking a long, relaxing bath and have your phone on you, then it is like you are in the bath tub with your entire Facebook friend list. Think of it like that and you won’t ever take the phone with you!
2. React Slower
Yes – our whole lives we are told that you are only productive if you are fast. I’m calling it – it’s not the only way. If you can delay your responses even a tiny bit, you will still get by. Next time you get an email notification, give yourself some time before you jump to check and reply to it. There is no harm in waiting for 5 minutes (unless you are a doctor – then I would not recommend this rule)
3. Notice Your Behavior
Mobile over-usage is a problem. To understand whether or not it is effecting you, and to what extent, you should monitor your behavior. Every time you reach for your phone, make a note of the time. If you are checking your phone every 10-15 minutes for no good reason (i.e. no notification), then you do indeed have an attachment issue with your phone. This works in the same way that dieting works – if you watch what you eat, you’re less likely to overeat – so notice your own mobile usage behavior to help decrease it.
Here’s to a better and healthier lifestyle. Mobile phones are here to stay and there is no going back now – so it’s important to develop the right habits before its too late. It’s our responsibility to help ourselves – after all – each to their own!