We are flooded with alerts and interruptions from gadgets and devices, especially our smartphone throughout the day. And it all starts even when we have not stepped out from our bed in morning. The alarm in our smartphone wakes us up, our email account filled with emails, notifications on Facebook and Instagram, messages from our colleagues and friends and “virtual assistants” chime in with their not so melodious voices.
Our mind views such interruptions very much logical as we want to make our life easy and even entertaining with the use of technology. However, our body doesn’t view or embrace these things in this way. Well, such frequent alerts push our stress hormone into action, increase our heartbeats, tighten our breath, ignites our flight response, resulting in the opening of our sweat glands and contraction of our muscles. This kind of response is intended to escape danger, not replying to a text or call from a friend or a boss.
We all have that strong need for security and social interaction but the irony is that the apps are taking advantage of this need of ours- that is what the researchers have to say. For sure it is quite awful for us. More than 80% college students say that they feel that illusion of phone vibrations, imagining their phone is asking for their attention when it hasn’t buzzed in reality.
Another surprising report is that around 86 % of Americans report that they “constantly” check their social media accounts and email and it makes them stressed.
According to endocrinologist Robert Lustig such constant notifications or alerts from our phones are training our brains to be in stress and fear by building a stress-fear memory path. This, in turn, affects the normal functioning of prefrontal cortex, the part of our brain that facilitates some of our most important cognitive functions. Lustig says, as a result, “You end up doing stupid things. And those stupid things tend to get you in trouble.”
We all have this myth that humans can easily multitask. However, scientists say that about 97.5% of humans can’t really multitask successfully and only 2.5 % people are endowed with such freakish ability to multitask and they are called supertaskers. So most of us when pause or halt to reply to a phone call or a text message or get a notification from a different app on our smartphone, we get interrupted and we pay a price for this interruption. The price of this is called “switch cost”. And remember when we switch from one task to another, it doesn’t just cost a few seconds. The switch cost can greatly impact us by making us error-prone in a day of tossing between ideas, making transactions on phone or laptop etc. Psychologist David Meyer says “the shifting between tasks can use up as much as 40% of our otherwise productive brain time”.
While switching tasks our body produces the stress hormone called cortisol and causes our thoughtful, reasoning prefrontal cortex to sleep resulting in the increase in dopamine, our brain’s addition chemical. It means it creates a craving in us for more interruptions.
The more phone we use, the lazier our brains become. Some pieces of evidence show that delegating thinking tasks to our phones and other devices makes our brain lazy. The researchers have found that sharp analytical thinkers are less active on their phones and other devices in comparison to other people. Well, that doesn’t mean you will become dumb if you use your phone for searching causes but don’t get too addicted to it.
New research also states that staring at our phone screens could be the reason for making our brains and hands stressed out. Also, it has been found that the more tapping, scrolling, clicking and social media posting one does, the “noisier” one’s brain signals become. Isn’t it surprising and alarming too?
So don’t let your brain go crazy for addictive apps. It has nothing to do with going anti-technology or denying the fact that the technology helps us in many ways but “use the technology, don’t get used by it”. An app is not an evil thing, use it but don’t give it free reign to affect your brain negatively.