Every sixth breath we take, we drain our brain
Breathe in, breathe out. Do that 6 times. Now, check your phone. Breathe in, breathe out. Do that again 6 times. Now, check your phone. We interact with our smartphones as often as every after 6 breaths we take. That is how coupled we are with our phones. That is the rhythm of human digital life.
We all know what breathing is for. But the siren call of the world at the press and swipe of your fingertips – that seductress digitalia- has become so entwined with the requirements of daily life that we are now registering our own rhythm to it. We succumb to it every sixth breath we take. We now crave for our smartphones quite closely as we need oxygen. So what is it doing to us?
First, what does it do to the chemicals in our brain that regulates our emotional balance?
Recent research has checked out two kinds of chemicals and their ratio to one another. One brain chemical is called GABA that slows down signals in the brain; while the other is Glx excites our brains. “Slowing down” or “exciting” signals means they may slow down the way the brain regulates certain functions, Previous data has apparently shown that too much GABA could cause anxiety which could be because it is too “slowed down”, it cannot mediate “anxiety.” And this is what they found in the brains of addicted smartphone users. They saw high levels of GABA in relation to Glx.
The addicted smartphone users who showed elevated GABA were the ones who had reported higher levels of depression, anxiety, impulsivity and sleep problems compared to those who were not addicted to their phones.
Second, what does it do to our attention span?
This one seems obvious. Most people I know and meet who grew up in the digital age themselves admit to having a significantly shorter attention span than the generation before them. According to research published last year, we have become so “attuned” with our phones that the sound from our phones elicits the same response from us as if we were hearing our own names. Even more disturbing is that the same research found that our phones have become so powerful in usurping our attention that the mere presence of our phones, even if they are not notifying you of anything, drains your brain’s attention to the task at hand. The “anticipation” is in a sense, making us dumb because we cannot pay full attention to what is at hand.
A shorter attention span prevents you from diving and soaking in a situation which could make you learn something so much better and even mastering it. If you cannot read, watch, and listen as a thought is carried to its end, it makes it harder for you to see the big picture of anything. You just see lots of caffeinated puzzle pieces.
Third, what does it do to your behavior?
There are a lot more but this research already found that heavy smartphone users are more impulsive, even more hyperactive and showed less social concern. Just what we need in these strange times, people who have no patience to understand enough, acting on impulse and caring less about the big picture because they think they already are the big picture.
If you think these brain-peering scientists who investigate what heavy smartphone use is doing to our minds are just too serious or party-poopers, read about Justin Rosenstein. He is the one whose iconic work made social media “explode” into mega-universes powered by, in his own words “bright dings of pseudo-pleasures” but who intentionally stepped on the brakes of his techno-genius in persuasive design in order to rethink.
Rosenstein is heralded as one of the major architects of the “like” icon. He said in that article that we ought to be more conscious of the perils of “persuasive design” and how it could hijack our best intentions into something hollow and even dangerous.
Cooking has changed the human brain in that it freed up more energy for other tasks. Eating cooked food required less energy once cooking has broken it down to more digestible forms. Language has also revolutionized our brains to grasp concepts, think in abstract terms. And smartphones? They have empowered us to extend ourselves into everything in a swipe. But for all its rewards and promises, maybe we should set our own limits because even the “like” architect himself is asking - “at what cost?”
How much are we paying with the currency of our own minds by being allowing ourselves to be powered by our smartphones? – Rappler.com