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23/03/2019 Communication Science news and articles

Attention: You’re addicted

In the fast-paced society we live in, your attention is one of your most valuable assets. Therefore, your smartphone was designed to be addictive.


We hate to break it to you, but you’re probably addicted. So are we. When you wake up, what’s the first thing you tend to do? Studies have found that 89% of smartphone users check their phone within an hour of waking up, while 46% of American users reach for their phone before even getting out of bed. On average, we check our phones 47 times a day, balancing out to every 19 minutes of our conscious lives. This results in a daily average of five hours spent staring at a rectangular space of light.

Ask yourself these questions: How much time do you spend on your phone daily? How do you live your life? Through a screen, or reality? The truth is that your phone has blatantly been designed to be addictive. Every aspect of your beloved iPhone’s interface has been carefully thought out by engineers. In an attempt to keep you hooked, they have spent years researching everything, down to the tiniest pixel on your screen. They have done so to capture the scarcest and most valuable commodity of today’s fast-paced society: your attention.

Image: Andi_Graf/Pixabay

Control?
The ironic thing is that you think that you are in control of your device. But to what extent does your device control you? The digital age that we live in, has been irreversibly infiltrated by technology. Without a second thought, smart devices such as iPhones and iPads are lavishly distributed amongst children who are barely old enough to walk and talk. Working, playing, and interacting through a touch screen interface has become second nature to the current generation. Soon, we will no longer remember what it is like to live without the devices that are manipulating the very essence of our waking hours.

The ironic thing is that you think that you are in control of your device

Consequences
Do we think about the consequences of smart devices? Slowly, people are starting to realize the impact of their rampant usage. A study conducted by the American Psychological Association found that 65% of Americans believe that periodically ‘unplugging’ from the virtual world would benefit their mental health. Terms such as ‘media detox’ are becoming increasingly run-of-the-mill, unabashedly millennial turns of phrase.

Not only do smart devices occupy one’s free time, but they also encroach upon hours that should be reserved for rest, growth, and productivity. It is not uncommon to hear of friends that lie wide awake into the wee hours of the night, scrolling on an Instagram feed that never ends. It should be taken into account that using a phone at night severely detracts from quality of sleep, as the blue light interferes with circadian rhythms and suppresses levels of melatonin, a crucial hormone needed to induce and regulate sleep.

Just having your phone in the same room as you can make you dumb. A 2017 University of Texas study found that the mere presence of our smartphones in the same room reduces our brain power and our ability to perform basic cognitive functions. This rule applies even when the phone is face down and powered off. Interestingly, a part of our brains is actively dedicated to the effort needed in the willful act of not using the phone.

Take back control
Do you want to limit being controlled by the media? Take matters into your own hands to become the master of your handheld devices, and not the slave. To make your iPhone less addictive visually, you can change your smartphone settings to a black and white display. This will reduce the stimuli that causes your brain to be triggered. Additionally, you can download the application Moment, specifically designed to track and reduce your daily phone usage, and even to record which apps take up most of your time. Lastly, leave your phone as far away from you as possible when you’re sleeping

Remember, you only have 24 hours in a day. Approximately six to eight of those hours are reserved for sleep. That leaves you with about 16 to 18 hours to live your life. As the average user, you allot about a third of those remaining hours to tapping away on your phone. This will undoubtedly stack up over the days, months, and years. Ultimately, this time may make or break how you invest your lifetime. The question remains: How do you want to spend your waking hours?

Cover: Rawpixel/Pixabay / Final editor: Iris Ausems

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