Smartphones could be damaging your mind. That's a crazy claim, isn't it? I've been thinking a lot about this lately. I'm sure you've noticed how intensely focused we all are on our Smartphones. If it dings, buzzes or vibrates, or lights up; we stop what we're doing to see who it is.
Come on now. Be honest. You know you do it too, right? I confess that as much as I get upset when I see others doing dumb things with the phones, I'm guilty of it at times myself.
We know it's dangerous to us in many ways physically (texting and driving, texting and walking, etc.) but how about mentally? Is there evidence it damages us mentally?
That's what I want us to explore in this post. Hang on to your seat. It may be a rough ride.
The Physical Dangers
“In 2019, 3,142 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers…Texting is the most alarming distraction.” This data comes from the NTSB (National Traffic Safety Board.
That got my attention for sure. I've heard arguments and seen statistics saying that the number of injuries and deaths from texting is now higher than drunk driving, but that's hard to prove. Injuries and deaths from drunk driving are measurable by testing blood alcohol levels.
Unfortunately, there's no way to know for sure whether someone in an accident was distracted by texting or another means.
That being said, if you drive anywhere, you can easily observe how many people are on their cell phones. Being on your smartphone and driving endangers both yourself and other people.
Like with distracted driving, it's hard to pin down whether the cause was texting or other distractions. Many of the deaths were pedestrians hit by cars.
Was the person walking texting? Or was it the driver? It's hard to tell. It's kind of the chicken and egg argument. Regardless, does it matter which one came first? Does it matter whether the driver or pedestrian was texting?
Either way, using smartphones on the road is causing problems.
Smartphones and Attention
Do smartphones affect our brains and concentration? Here's a quote from an AARP article that spells it out for us.
“Yes, your suspicions have been confirmed by science: A growing fixation on video screens large and small, and the constantly changing images and messages these screens provide, may be altering how our brains work.”
Distracted people (all of us) think they are good at multitasking. There's one major problem with that premise – it's scientifically proven to be inaccurate. So, why do we believe we can?
A study by researchers at the University of Utah says that people don't multitask because they're good at it. They do it, “because they are more distracted. They have trouble inhibiting the impulse to do another activity.”
Ouch. As the quote says, it's because we can't focus on the task at hand. The really troublesome thing is that, as shown above, the more we use smartphones, the lower our attention span, and the lower our attention span, the more likely we are to use smartphones. This creates a sort of malevolent cycle that’s very addictive and tough to break out of.
Smartphones and Relationships
Have you ever noticed what those seated around you in a restaurant are doing? Are they having conversations with one another face to face? Or are their heads buried in their phones? More times than not, most people's eyes are on their phone screens.
I've noticed that when people talk to each other in that environment, they're talking about what they're reading on their phones. Do you think this behavior has an impact on our relationship with one another?
Of course it does. Focusing more on your smartphone than your partner is one sure-fire way to create problems within your relationship.
One study showed that over time, the main problems people have in relationships have evolved from topics like money, kids, and sex to issues involving phones, computers, and other electronic devices.
What can we do?
Here are three things to consider:
- Dedicated talk time – If you're in a relationship with someone, set aside a time every day to talk. That means the phones get turned off or at least removed from your pockets, purses and the table where you're sitting. It's just you and the other person. Do whatever works for you.
- Personal quiet time – Carve out your own quiet time every day. Whether you spend it meditating, praying, reading, or just sitting quietly, take time for yourself. My time is first thing in the morning. That's when I have my time alone with myself in meditation. You can find your version of this. You may have to start with ten or fifteen minutes. That's fine. Start slow, and it gets easier. It's important to shut down and take time to be quiet.
- Eating out – One of my favorite places for breakfast near us has a sign on the wall that I love: We don't have WiFi. Talk to somebody! Commit that when you, your spouse, significant other, your friends, or even coworkers go out, you'll stay off your phones. Seriously. You can do it. You might learn something about each other you never knew. Wouldn't that be fun?
Do these seem unrealistic or do they make you uncomfortable? If so, you probably need them more than you think. Start with the one that seems easiest first. Add the other two one at a time.
These are small things. But if you're not taking time to do something that gets you away from your electronics, you're increasing your stress levels and may be creating problems for yourself and your loved ones.
Lest you think I'm preaching to you in this post, I'm not. I'm speaking as much, if not more, to myself as any of you reading this. I love what smartphones have brought us. We have a world of information at our fingertips. And we can connect with people from around the globe every day for pennies.
Appropriately used, these electronics are fantastic. Like a lot of things, though, too much of a good thing can be harmful. When I look around, I see too many people putting themselves in danger with their phones, both physically and mentally. Whether you’re a student or retired already, smartphones could be damaging your mind. No one in this day and age should be talking on the phone in the car using their hands or texting while driving.
I hope you'll consider some of what I've offered here. Like many things in life, balance is essential. With cell phones, it's more than just a good thing to do. It could save your relationship, your friendships, even your life (no texting and driving!).
Now it's your turn. How is your smartphone used? Do you use it wisely? Are you, like me, guilty of doing some of the things listed? Are you willing to try and moderate your usage? Let us know in the comments below!
Author Bio: Jeff is a Harvard 2025 student who is passionate about learning, living, and sharing all things personal finance-related. He has experience working in the financial industry and enjoys the pursuit of financial freedom. Outside of blogging, he loves to cook, read, and golf in his spare time.
Michael launched Wealth of Geeks to make personal finance fun. He has worked in personal finance for over 20 years, helping families reduce taxes, increase their income, and save for retirement. Michael is passionate about personal finance, side hustles, and all things geeky.