How to make your smartphone dependency useful

Our ability to process data, retain memory, and overall emotional intelligence is all boosted when we aren’t on the phone.

It’s sometimes frustrating that the generation that invented bell-bottoms and Charles Manson are always moaning about how much cell phones are ruining millennial lives. Even if they’re not completely wrong.

Unfortunately, researchers tend to side with your grandparents more than they don’t. A study published not too long ago determined that our ability to process data, retain memory, and overall emotional intelligence is all significantly boosted when we’re not nursing our shiny-tiny information squares every waking second. More broadly, the technology of convenience has undoubtedly impaired our ability to adapt to an increasingly vertiginous job market.


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But smartphones aren’t evil wholesale. Of course, they aren’t.  It’s all about moderation and a proper understanding of their contribution to society.

Helpers not solvers

My phone has made every aspect of my life much easier. It has become a nearly impossible challenge to mitigate my shameful dependency of it. Who hasn’t spent countless hours at bars, feigning authority about metaphysics after reading Emmanual Kant’s Wikipedia page?

The extent of information available to us through our smartphones belies the impression that true intuitive knowledge is and or should be easily obtainable.  The internet can be a great objective resource for information as long as we understand that asking yahoo answers how to tap dance won’t make us Fred Astaire. Digital databases should be more like launching pads as far as obtaining information is concerned. You have to embrace the nitty-gritty of research to actually fund expertise efficiently. 

Back in 2017, Top Hat had a chat with the assistant professor of history at Delta State University.

Andrew Wegman began to become frustrated by his students’ over-reliance on Wikipedia. Instead of rebuking the internet as an evil of modern science, he extracted all the things that make younger generations respond so profoundly to it and then used them to his advantage. He got the idea to accompany his lessons with an interactive, digital textbook effectively bridging the gap between convenience and healthy research habits. Interactive learning is a wonderful way to ensure information has an optimal impact. In this regard, electronic content can be even more beneficial than traditional textbooks. Wegman says:

“Realize that you have the power of technology at your disposal. If you can imagine it, it can happen. Have fun and think about what you can do to make the process of learning easier and enduring for others. Education is not something time and technology should leave in its wake.”

Distractions and Mindfulness

An average smartphone user checks their device  110 times a day,  The Pew Research center reports that roughly 50% of Americans say they simply can’t live without their phones. This number is composed of checking work emails,  looking up symptoms, keeping up with all the latest scandals, and all the incognito tabs in between; in short things intrinsically designed to distract us from some of the most important things and people in our lives.

However, just like the role phones play in our acquiring of information, the burden it places on social interaction has a pretty compelling flip side. A review paper in the journal of Perspectives On Psychological Science proposes that our addiction to our phones partly owes itself to an evolutionary desire to make connections and bonds with other people. Psychology professor and one of the authors of the study, David Sbarra, says, “The draw or pull of a smartphone is connected to very old modules in the brain that were critical to our survival, and central to the ways we connect with others are self-disclosure and responsiveness.”

The same tools that fuel online enmity can surely have the opposite effect. If you wanted to talk to a farmer from China you could– in seconds. You can pick the brains of people with perspectives radically different than your own, anytime you want. Smartphones can have a nice way of promoting social connectivity.

The other side of the demented horrifying coin that is the internet comment section, is the way it forces us to exercise our empathy muscles.  The power to call a guy a misguided moron with zero physical consequences comes with a specific responsibility – forethought.

Additionally, Ladders recently reported on a new mindfulness app, that saw users experience a 22% decrease in feelings of loneliness, and an increase of social activity by two interactions a day.


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CW Headley|is a reporter for Ladders and can be reached at cheadley@theladders.com.