Forfeit the Phone, For Your Brain's Sake


Where are you reading this blog post from?  Your laptop?  iPod?  iPhone? iPad?  A better question for the sake of getting my point across is "how many of these items are within arm's reach at the moment?"  We are constantly surrounded by not just one but multiple electronic devices, as the New York Times article Digital Devices Deprive Brain of Needed Downtime explains by detailing the experience of 40 year-old Diane Bates, as "she listens to a few songs on her iPod, then taps out a quick e-mail on her iPhone and turns her attention to the high-definition television" all while at the gym.

Forfeit the Phone.jpg

This behavior is very typical of frequent gym-goers and is also popular amongst the general public, as we have all witnessed and experienced.  But have we become too invested in our electronic screens?  Phones, which have essentially become miniature computers, are used for a lot of functional purposes.  Simultaneously, they are becoming relied on to replace every moment of boredom that we experience in our lives.  We rely on our cell phones to "relieve the tedium of exercising, the grocery store line, stoplights or lulls in the dinner conversation."

The problem is that while we might not be "bored" anymore, we aren't giving ourselves any mental alone time because we are "forfeiting downtime that could allow them to better learn and remember information, or come up with new ideas."  As an individual growing more and more dependent on her phone for entertainment (but also as someone who greatly values deep-thinking) I was alarmed when I thought about the way I have been compromising my thought development for meaningless conversations, pointless games, or monotonous scrolling through social networking sites.

So where is the science in this?  Well, I'm getting there.  The article addresses research from the University of California, San Francisco as well as from the University of Michigan.  In California, a study about experience and brain activity was conducted on rats.  The experiment showed that "when rats have a new experience, like exploring an unfamiliar area, their brains show new patterns of activity. But only when the rats take a break from their exploration do they process those patterns in a way that seems to create a persistent memory of the experience."  With the assumption that our minds develop memories similarly, the study communicates the importance of taking a "mental break" from our lives so that our brain can process our experiences and develop them into long term memories.  So could our phones really be preventing us from getting the most out of life experiences?

The University of Michigan study examined the effects of walking in nature versus walking in an urban environment.  The study found that the urban environment overwhelmed individuals by all of the information needing to be processed while walking in nature allowed them to think clearly.  People are actually fatiguing their minds by being constantly in tuned with electronics, according to the article.

I have to say that this article has honestly made me consider my dependence on my phone for a constant source of entertainment.  I am definitely going to maintain my phone usage for functional purposes, but I am going to strive to avoid doing insignificant activities just to entertain myself when I could otherwise be thinking.  A perfect example of this is walking around campus.  There's no reason not to put my phone away and focus on the landscape and architecture instead of what my friends are tweeting.


Very interesting article. I happen to like writing screenplays, I've written 7 screenplays just for fun and now I'm starting a new sitcom for PSNTV, but I've found, that I've come up with almost every idea for a movie or show while daydreaming in class. When my brain just can't concentrate anymore and I start daydreaming and not listening to anything, and not using electronic devices because your not allowed in class, that's when I come up with ideas. Also I can never write anything or even do homework while listening to music on my ipod, I don't know how people can do that. But I totally agree with everything here, because the best information comes from a quiet place. The boring classroom is the best example because you can't pay attention, but you can't just leave because that would be weird, you're just forced to sit and think without technology to distract you.

I did some research on the effect of a more natural environment on the brain. According to an article by ScienceDaily, exposing oneself to a more natural environment allows brain waves to "connect" while man-made environments such as highways and cities disrupt these brain waves. So maybe for the sake of our minds, we need to spend more time in more relaxing environments. You are absolutely right! We need to ditch the phones and simply enjoy the world!

Here's a link to the article I read:

I've been trying to tell my friends to put down their phones for such a long time! It really is true that we are addicted to them. When my friends and I go to dinner, there are some nights when barely anyone even speaks because we're so wrapped up in our technology. It would be hypocritical of me to complain about people who are on their phones 24/7 because I'm definitely one of those. Even when I sleep, I keep my phone within an arms reach distance. However, there is one time of day that I turn off my phone- when I go to the gym. To me, this is my hour of "Carolyn Time" where no one can reach me with their drama or requests or whatever they need. I think if more people engaged in "me-time hours" they would be able to take a deep breath and relax. As Daniel said, we really need to ditch the phones and enjoy the world.

I really enjoyed this post. I am completely obsessed with my electronics and always tell myself I spend too much time on them but never do anything about it. I would always tell my friends how it seems so sad that we spend so much time with an inanimate object instead of talking to people face to face, but I still do it anyways. I know I shouldn't use electronics when I don't have to but for some reason I do anyways. I find it sad that we rely so much on technology and have realized that some of my biggest problems are when my phone or computer are broken. I think that we need to enjoy nature and other people more than our phones. I disagree with Carolyn though about turning your phone off at the gym. I love listening to music and talking to people at the gym! Thats the one time I don't feel bad for being completely wrapped up in technology.

This post was so interesting! It really made me think about how much time I spend on my computer, watching TV, listening to my iPod, and especially on my phone. But I have never felt guilty about it because everyone is doing it. I always wonder how my parents weren't bored all the time growing up. From an article I read and posted below, "Roughly one in five adults admits to poor mobile etiquette but continues the behavior because everyone else is doing it." This totally makes sense to me. I feel like everyone knows they shouldn't be so plugged in to technology, but it's just so hard to tear yourself away! The same article talks about a father who realized his family was way too into their technology and decided to do something about it. He made a house rule that limited technology from sundown on Friday to sunrise on Monday. He reflects on this experience in the article.. One thing that really stuck out to me was when he said, "We also had to relearn the art of sustained conversation with eye contact.” Eye contact is another thing technology takes away from us. I know it's unrealistic for everyone to take away technology from Friday to Monday, but we all definitely can learn a lesson from this article and cut back!

Thanks for posting about this. In our society we have become so wrapped up in our technology. One of my pet peeves is when I am having a face to face conversation with someone and then they just stop talking mid sentence, look at their phone and type a text message before looking up and saying "what was I just saying?". I make a point not to do this but I have to admit that sometimes I get caught up in it.
Anyway the technology problem doesn't stop with our cell phones. Like you mentioned it goes beyond to our laptops, i-pods i-pads, t.v.s ect...
According to an article in the Washington Post, 'Not While You Study!' multi-tasking (i.e. watching t.v.,chatting on fb, texting a friend, listening to music) causes us to learn less efficiently.
Here is the link for further reading :

I usually study and listen to music but it does seem that I get easily distracted doing that so I'm going to test out just studying without the music

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