Did you know the average American spends 3 hours and 15 minutes a day on their phone.
That is about a quarter of their entire day, spent on a mobile device.
The statistic that was even more shocking was that, on average American’s checks their phones 344 times a day. That means every 4 minutes a person is checking their phone.
Our friends across the pond are of no difference either.
The average UK citizen spends on average 5 hours a day on their smartphone.
The regulator’s annual Communications Market Report also found one-fifth of British adults now spend more than 40 hours a week ( a full-time job) online and most say they are dependent on their digital devices.
American cell phone usage and habits
According to reviews.org, 74% of Americans feel uneasy leaving their phone at home, and 71% of Americans say they check their phones within the first ten minutes of waking up.
Changes in attention
Social media has the ability to both capture and scatter your attention. With a simple “refresh,” constant new information is at your fingertips. Through a process called “variable-ratio reinforcement,” you are constantly excited and rewarded to see fresh new posts.
Studies show the ability our cellphones have to capture our attention, which has an adverse effect on our brain.
Two and a half hours of social media is about the same amount of time it would take me to drive from Toledo to Detriot (round trip).
Our friends across the pond, with the five hour usage time on social media, that is about the same amount of time it would take to fly across country.
A non-stop flight from New York to Seattle is five hours and five minutes.
The cognative function decline?
Heavy social media users perform worse on cognitive tests, especially those that examine their attention and ability to multitask.
Compared to moderate to light social media users, heavy users need to exert more effort to remain focused in the face of distraction.
Researchers hypothesize that since social media is easily accessible and competes for your attention with the promise of perpetual new content, heavy social media users become less able to ignore distraction in general.
Not only does this lead to poorer cognitive performance, but it shrinks parts of the brain associated with maintaining attention.
This ability of the brain to change is called neuroplasticity, and it has a big effect on your attention and cognitive function.
Brain anatomy alterations associated with Social Networking Site (SNS) addiction – PMC (nih.gov)
Looking for a fix?
Have you ever asked yourself why you pick up your phone and open an app just to communicate with a friend or loved one?
Really! How absurd does that sound? We open an app to communicate! Instead of picking up our phone and directly calling or texting a friend or loved one.
Furthermore, while lowering your ability to maintain your attention on any specific topic, social media makes you addicted to your screens.
It provides immediate rewards in the form of a dopamine release (the happy hormone) every time you post or get a notification from the app. This constant barrage of shallow rewards rewires your brain to want more of what caused that dopamine release, which leads to the social media addiction and checking your phone 300 times a day.
You are now in addict mode.
Studies show that the brain scans of heavy social media users look very similar to those addicted to drugs or gambling. Which you can read more on here.
Changes in memory storage?
Research also shows that heavy social media use is linked with memory deficits, especially in your transactive memory. This kind of memory involves deciding what information is important enough to store in your brain and what information can be outsourced.
Social media’s central feature, the sharing and storing of your experiences, may actually be altering which memories you keep and which ones you don’t.
In one study, the participants were asked to record an experience using their notes or social media, and other groups were asked to simply experience the event without recording it.
At the end of the study, those who had recorded or shared the event performed worse and showed more of a memory deficit than those who experienced the event without recording it.
Externalizing an experience worsened participants’ memory because their brain received the message that it didn’t need to hold onto information that was stored elsewhere.
Consequently, not only did the individuals lose some memory of their original experience, but they may also experience longer-term deficits in the size and function of their brains.
The shrinking brain
Forty-one subjects with a history of excessive Internet gaming and 78 gaming-naive subjects were enrolled in the present study.
To determine effects of Internet gaming on brain structure, gaming-naive subjects were randomly assigned to 6 weeks of daily Internet gaming (training group) or a non-gaming condition (training control group).
At study inclusion, excessive Internet gamers demonstrated lower right orbitofrontal gray matter volume compared with Internet gaming-naive subjects.
Within the Internet gamers, a lower gray matter volume in this region was associated with higher online video gaming addiction severity.
Longitudinal analysis revealed initial evidence that left orbitofrontal gray matter volume decreased during the training period in the training group as well as in the group of excessive gamers.
Together, the present findings suggest an important role of the orbitofrontal cortex in the development of Internet addiction with a direct association between excessive engagement in online gaming and structural deficits in this brain region.
Orbitofrontal gray matter deficits as marker of Internet gaming disorder: converging evidence from a cross-sectional and prospective longitudinal design – PubMed (nih.gov)
Structural brain changes in young males addicted to video-gaming – PubMed (nih.gov)
Association of Extensive Video Gaming and Cognitive Function Changes in Brain-Imaging Studies of Pro Gamers and Individuals With Gaming Disorder: Systematic Literature Review – PubMed (nih.gov)
How to fix the problem?
Having conscious awareness of your screen time is the first step.
I remember the first time my phone sent me a notification, regarding my screen time. It was extremely embarrassing! I fought it for over a year, defending my screen time. Mostly chaulking it up to the same excuse everyone else uses; “I work on my phone.”
Flash forward to December 2022 and I was ready to make the change, but one of my breaking points was witnessing an “herbalist” pose naked in a field of flowers in the name of “female empowerment”.
While the instant gradification may temporarily boost your dopamine, while temporarily and artifically boosting your feelings of self worth, it is damaging our rationality, creativity, empathy and self respect….
And at a serious cost, our brain.
On December 1st 2022 I took the challenge to detox from social media for the entire month of December.
MY ONE TIP?
GIVE YOURSELF GRACE!
Because this task is no joke. The first 8 days I found myself grabbing for my phone, to open it and just “check it.”
I cant even tell you what I was checking for, I believe this is the habit we subconsciously adopt by using smart phones.
Most likely that reaction was my brain craving the artifically induced dopamine rush, triggered by, what I gave up…. social media notifications.
That ding, from your favorite person, or friend, it’s artifically inducing a dopamine rush on your brain.
Its re-programming your brain into what you believe is a reward.
Notfications are breadcrumbs, reality is superior.
When I saw that I had spent 8 hours of my day on my phone, I got frustrated because, I was ashamed.
I wanted to defend my screen time.
Here’s a couple things I remember saying to myself, my friends and even my family, still trying to defend my screen time.
“Yeah, but 5 and a half hours were just streaming music, I wasnt on social media.” (Music is life in my home, folks. And the fact that I am streaming music instead of putting on a vinyl record is disturbing to me.)
“Well, sending imessages is recorded under social media screen time, but I was imessaging, not on instagram.”
I do use my phone for work, and to communicate with clients, but 8 hours a day with my phone open is absolutely absurd. Regardless, if I was streaming music or not.
When will I go back to social media?
After my 41 day detox from social media.
Notifications are breadcrumbs. Reality is superior.
I would like to personally thank Sarah, Emily, Kristen, Sabrina and Stephanie for chosing to be apart of my reality and not just my metaverse. The support and encouragement I have and continue to recieve from all of you is a blessing.
The fact that you all consciously chose to be apart of my reality through text messaging and phones calls, while I detox from social media; made me feel loved.
Thank you for your support and your infinite warm love.
None of these statements are meant to diagnose, cure, prevent or treat. They are for informational purposes only.