These days wherever people go, they have a smartphone with them. Most adults spend part of their day looking at or tapping away on their phones, whether it’s texting, tweeting, or watching funny animal videos. Smartphones have become a constant accessory in our everyday lives.
At least one parent needs to be accessible at all times. For instance, if your child gets ill, the school needs to reach you immediately. The best way to make sure you receive a potential call is to keep your phone on you during school hours, even though most days, they don’t call.
But, does this trend to always be reachable have a downside?
Whether you’re running errands, working at home, at the office, or the park with your children, we have our phones with us all the time.
Access to our smartphones can be helpful. We can quickly Google the answer to any question our kids ask us. We can take pictures of them achieving firsts on the playground or photos of nature they find fascinating. We can call someone if an emergency arises like a car that won’t start. We can quickly check what our family and friends are doing on social media while waiting at an appointment.
But, are there negative consequences to always having our smartphones with us?
While smartphones can help increase our productivity, these devices can also interfere with our day-to-day activities both at work and at home. We get distracted when a notification ding’s and we feel the need to check it even when we are in the middle of a task.
We might end up feeling more distracted in our everyday life as we try to balance our tasks while still staying up-to-date with family and friends.
Lastly, it’s hard to truly have a break from everything if you’re expected to always have your phone with all its capabilities on you. You can’t ever really have time to yourself without the potential of being interrupted.
It feels like every few weeks, some news or media outlet is discussing how smartphones are destroying our attention. But is this true?
To date, science doesn’t have a firm answer. Research on smartphones has to rely on quasi-experimental, correlational, and self-report methods for the most part. These types of research can only show correlation and not causality.
However, as more studies are conducted, research will be able to draw more specific conclusions with time.
At present, there is some suggestion that smartphones may impact aspects of our attention, including focused attention and sustained attention. Focused attention is our ability to attend to one source of information and ignore everything else. Sustained attention is our ability to keep that focused attention going over a period of time.
There may be a correlation between interrupted focused and sustained attention and smartphone use. Stothart and colleagues found that smartphone notifications interfered with participant’s performance on tasks demanding attention, even if they didn’t look at the notification. Thornton and colleagues found that the simple presence of a smartphone was enough to disrupt people’s attention, especially on more demanding tasks.
A review of the literature by Wilmer and colleagues explored the two main ways to date smartphones may interrupt our attention and productivity—endogenous and exogenous interruptions.
Endogenous interruptions are occasions when our thoughts drift to smartphone-related activity. For instance, you’re working on a task at work or paying bills. Suddenly, instead of focusing on that task, you’re wondering if friends have posted anything fun on Facebook. In this case, our phone didn’t do anything to distract us; our internal thoughts simply drifted to fun phone activities.
Exogenous interruptions, however, are those times when an external event or cue interrupts us and captures our attention. You might receive a ding that a new text message arrived or a beep that someone posted something on Facebook. These types of interruptions still impact your flow and attention, even if you don’t pick up your phone to look at the notification.
What does this imply for our everyday lives, especially if we need to have our phones with us?
Being available overall is an advantage. We have access to help at all times. But overuse of our smartphones and never getting a break from technology can also be wearing.
There is a way to find a balance between having all the benefits of your smartphone while minimizing the negatives.
The key is to develop smart habits and set boundaries for your smartphone use.
What these habits and boundaries look like will depend on each person’s unique situation. Fortunately, there’s no right or wrong.
First, identify how you use your phone. Ideally, you’ll want to record how often you use your phone, what you use it for (work, text, games, social media, etc.), and when you use it. Smartphones, both iPhones and Androids, come with a Screen Time function that will track how you are using your phone, which can help you in this phase.
During this phase, don’t judge yourself. Record your usage honestly, whether you’re reaching for your phone because you’re bored, stressed, or procrastinating. Maybe you use it to reward yourself for completing a tough task.
After recording how you use your phone over several days (a week would be ideal), identify how you feel about your use. Do you use it more than you expected? Do you feel it’s interfering with your daily life? Be honest. This information is to help you. You don’t have to share it.
If you found your phone did distract you at times, identify whether it was due to your mind wandering towards thoughts of your phone versus notifications interrupting you. This information will help you identify strategies so you can minimize being distracted by your phone.
Not all of these strategies will help everyone, and that’s okay. Find what works for you and ignore the ones that don’t help you. As you begin to incorporate new techniques, remember you’re establishing new habits and setting boundaries. This process takes time. With practice, your new habits will become easier.
Remove unnecessary apps.
Smartphones provide us with many benefits. However, sometimes, these tools can also contribute to distracting us or reducing our productivity.
We can find a balance, even if we need to be accessible most of the time. To find the balance that works for us, we need to learn how our use of smartphones helps us and be honest about our overuse. This will allow us to use the proper strategies so we get the most out of our phones without the negative consequences.
The story of the Smartphone is so amazing and interesting it would be hard to make this entire narrative up. It is so intricately entwined in the ingenuity of humanity and the necessity to continue to discover and grow as a species. There is always hope!
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The ultimate mission of cellular data has always been to be on par with Wi-Fi. 4G has come close in many ways, but let’s be honest; we know there are things we can do at home on our computers or tablets that we cannot do on our cell phones. When we are at home, we think nothing of streaming.
Depending on your internet provider and plan, if you have modern Wi-Fi, you may have no data allowance or cap, so some can go to town and binge as many Netflix shows as we like.
However, this abundance of data has not yet crossed over into our mobile lives. Many of us are on data plans, and it is always possible to use up all of our data before we know it. Streaming through our phones is one way we risk doing this, which is why most people are still relatively conservative in their mobile streaming habits, but this is becoming harder to do.
Before the holidays, we wrote a blog post called “How Can You Hear Something That’s Not In Your Ear?” The blog's title was inspired by my father-in-law asking me that very same question while we were on a family holiday. As a prolific writer and self-confessed workaholic, I was busy writing my latest article while listening to the Killer's latest album through my Bone Conduction headphones.
Due to Bone Conduction headphones sending the music directly into my inner ear, I was able to enjoy it while I concentrated on my work, but without shutting out my surroundings. I was on a family vacation; after all, one which included dogs and small children all running around together.
It was sensible to keep an eye (and both ears) on them just in case I was needed to do a spot of parenting. Fortunately for me, my Bone Conduction headphones allow this due to their design. Other headphones may have blocked out the sound entirely.
I live in remote Alaska where there is barley 3G and don’t see us getting to 4G, let alone 5G anytime soon. For most of my life, I lived in a large city with cutting edge technology and the benefits of living with 4G.
The 5G promise is very exciting for many reasons we list below but do we need a 5G Phone in rural Alaska? The answer is no because there is no connection and if you live in a rural area the answer is more than likely the same for you.
Nome Alaska is 143 miles from the Arctic Circle and you can see Russia on a clear day from Wales which is in the Nome census area and Nort of Nome. If you measure on Google Maps Lavrentiya Russia is 179 miles from Nome Alaska.