In the morning after getting up, in the evening before going to sleep, on the go and at work. The smartphone is our constant companion – and it steals our time and attention.
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The popular appeal of the smartphone
Every day we access our smartphone 88 times and we unlock the device 53 times. Although the values are average figures, they are based on an evaluation of 60,000 smartphone users.
So the chances are high that your behavior is similar. The mere presence of the smartphone is enough to attract our attention – even if the device is switched off on the table in front of us. But why is this small device so attractive?
The psychological answer is that we hope that smartphones will lead to positive social interaction. This in turn sets in motion a mechanism in the reward system, and brain activity in the ventral striatum increases.
Sad but true: in anticipation of a nice message or a like, we reach for the cell phone almost intuitively.
Smartphones distract us
A typical situation: you are working on your PC, suddenly the mobile phone starts flashing on the desk. A new message? Since our brain can only concentrate fully on one thing at a time, every time we reach for the cell phone we tear us away from our actual activity.
As researchers have shown, even ultrashort interruptions of 2.8 seconds throw us off our feet. It takes a while before we can find our way back to our actual work after an interruption and continue working with concentration. As a result, the smartphone can even affect our performance.
Test subjects who kept their cell phones on the table during a test performed worse in terms of concentration than those who had the device in their pockets or in the next room. Every interruption caused by the smartphone ultimately costs us time and attention, which in turn reduces productivity.
Researchers still know little about the impact smartphones have on humans
We are slowly awakening from the first wave of enthusiasm for smartphone technology, and begin to look more carefully into the negative sides of smartphone use.
Initial studies suggest that frequent smartphone use could increase our stress levels or even cause changes in the brain. But one thing is certain: research in this area is still in its infancy.
There are no longitudinal studies that show the connections between smartphone use and physiological reactions in the body and brain.
At the moment, common symptoms from addiction research are also being discussed by scientists in the context of potential smartphone addiction.
Test subjects showed, for example, increased heartbeat and blood pressure when they were not allowed to pick up the flashing smartphone. However, “smartphone addiction” is not yet an official diagnosis.
Put your smartphone aside more often
Of course, the smartphone doesn’t make us unproductive per se, it always depends on the context. If we use it to write an important email on the go, it actually contributes to productivity.
But when it distracts us from tasks that require our full concentration, it slows our productivity down. In everyday life, the smartphone is of course only one of many disruptive factors: a colleague, a ringing phone or an email can also distract us from work.
With the small but subtle difference that we ourselves can influence whether the smartphone influences our attention or not.
Therefore our tip: set up smartphone-free zones at home, leave the mobile phone in your pocket at work and set specific times when it is used. In the end, you might gain time for other things in your life.