Mobile technology is going beyond interfering with personal relationships. They are more than just annoying gadgets someone can’t look up from to engage in a healthy conversation when among peers. They are also more than just interference when someone has to check a notification while in the middle of a conversation with you. Smartphones are addicting and are alarming scientists with their potential to have damaging, physiological effects on our brains.
Are Smartphones Making You Dumber?
Smartphones are a relatively new piece of technology. Scientists are still trying to estimate the neurological impact they may cause. Part of the difficulty with analyzing them, is they continue to evolve very quickly and studying them is somewhat challenging. They are beginning to piece together the data and see the big picture behind these gadgets.
A professor at Baylor University wrote one of the most prominent pieces that researched the phenomenon concerning smartphones. James Roberts, professor of marketing, specializes in the ‘dark side’ of customers behaviors. He called his research on the smartphone, ‘The Invisible Addiction’. He found smartphone addiction has a significant effect on the academic performance of students. He noted the reliance students are showing on their cell phones are moving from just being considered a habit to becoming an addiction. The mobile phone creates a pleasurable sensation for users and anything that can create this feeling has the potential of becoming addictive.
An addictive potential is present whenever a repeated behavior triggers reward effects through a biochemical process in your body. The biochemical effect is a transition from a psychological, behavioral addiction to a neurological impairment. Robert’s research shows applications such as; text messaging, emailing, and social media have the similar neural networks activated as those triggered by substance abuse.
It has been observed multiple times where people are sitting with a group, in any setting, and suddenly they pull out their smartphone just to check if they missed a message or call. It is as though they have crossed an invisible line that pulls them to their pocket or purse and look to see if that silent phone might just have a missed message for them. Some will merely look and if no message, they put the phone away. Others are compelled to run a quick internet search or make a quick social media visit no matter whom they are sitting with, or where they are sitting. This is an indicator of where society stands and what has scientists worried about the emotional and cognitive development of children using smartphones.
Changes in Human Interactions
When you pull your smartphone out as you’re spending time with family or friends, you are telling them there is someone out there that is more important to you than them. You tell them the possible text message you are checking for is more important than anything they have to say to you. The smartphone takes away the value of your current situation and those you are with to check on something going on somewhere else. Having the need to be constantly connected through your smartphone to the outside world is becoming a psychological illness known as a dissociative disorder. This theory breaks down to an ironic message that even though you may look connected to the world through your smartphone, it is actually promoting a lack of a genuine connection to the physical world around you.
Smartphones and Children
Our young are using smartphones more and more and for longer periods of time. In 2012, the San Francisco Medicine stated cell phones are like two-way microwave radios that send intermittent and destabilizing pulses. The microwave radiation from mobile phones cannot break the bonds directly that hold molecules together, but it will disrupt DNA and weaken your brain’s protective barrier. This break in the protective barrier releases highly reactive free radicals that are damaging. Children or young adults are now using mobile media to replace time spent engaging in direct human-to-human interaction. Along with the damage done with the weakening of the barrier, and the loss of human interactions, they are also hindering other developments in children. Scientists are seeing empathy development is hindered, as well as the ability to problem solve and social skills are affected as there are not enough unstructured face-to-face interactions.
Smartphones and Brain Functions
The smartphone has been theoretically proven to affect our brain functions and our ability for analytical thinking. The University of Waterloo published a report linking excessive smartphone use and lowered intelligence. Those who rely on instinctive thinking will pick up the smartphone and use the search engine to find answers. A person who relies on analytical thinking uses search engines far less and display cognitive and reasoning skills much stronger. One thing the smartphones is proving to do is make it easier for us not to have to exercise our own brains.
Data still has to be collected and analyzed before definite answers can be given on whether or not smartphones are actually making us dumber. When writing was developed, it was thought to be the end for people to need memory as everything could be written down. Smartphones are new technology, and there will always be a push-back against technology. There is definitely something going on with smartphones, but for right now science doesn’t know exactly what it is.