Wed, 18 May 2022

Nomophobia! Digital Anxiety! Regain Brain Focus

Merxwire
28 Mar 2022, 12:58 GMT+10


Survey of Time magazine found that 84 percent of respondents couldn't go a day without their phones, and 65 percent of phone users suffered from phone-free panic. The study also found that about one-fifth of heavy smartphone users in order to stay online at any time, affect school learning, workability, interpersonal relationships, quality of life, and physical and mental health. This is an important issue that modern society has to pay attention to.


The convenience after the invention of the mobile phone has caused more and more serious mobile phone dependence and health problems. (Photo via pexels.com)

Taipei, TAIWAN (Merxwire) - Can you go a day without using your phone? The answer to this question should be no for most people. According to statistics, adults spend an average of 4 hours a day on their mobile phones, and middle school students to college students spend 4 to 5 hours a day. Many people have mobile phone dependence, panic disorder without a mobile phone, and mobile phone addiction, which gradually evolves into mental and physical health problems. A study by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine found that nearly 90 percent of college students' sleep has been affected by mobile phone panic.

Since the invention of the mobile phone, it has been constantly innovating, from appearance to function, it has rapidly evolved, and some people even change their mobile phones every year. In 2007, the first iPhone was officially born, entering the era of smartphones. From everyone owning a mobile phone to almost everyone owning a smartphone, Taiwan's smartphone penetration rate has evolved from 73% in 2016 to nearly 90% in 2021. A smartphone is like a phone with a camera and a small computer, combining multiple functions such as communication, photography, social media, email, and games. Convenient and comprehensive functions have created "mobile phone syndrome" and various problems derived from it.

A survey by TMIE magazine found that 84% of respondents believe they can't go a day without a cell phone. The study also found that 65% of mobile phone users suffer from Nomophobia. Whenever they forget to bring their mobile phone or the mobile phone is out of power, they will immediately feel anxiety and panic. Therefore, there is a special psychosomatic outpatient treatment for "Nomophobia" in the United States. Another symptom is phone addiction, also known as mobile phone dependence. This informal medical diagnosis occurs all over the world. Studies have found that about 1/5 of smartphone users invest a lot of time and money on the phone and couldn't control themselves. To stay connected or online at any time, will affect academic study, work performance, interpersonal communication, quality of life, and physical and mental health.

One in five mobile phone users try to stay connected at all times affects their performance and physical and mental health. (Photo via pexels.com)

Why are modern people addicted to cellphones?

  • Driven by dopamine: When the notification sound of the mobile phone sounds or the notification message flashes on the screen of the mobile phone, it will drive the secretion of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is the driving force behind our behavior, driving our desire to explore the unknown. This is an instinct that humans have evolved over hundreds of thousands of years. Curiosity about new things to see if there will be discoveries. So every time we swipe the phone or switch the computer screen, it stimulates the secretion of dopamine. Statistics find that we spend less than 4 seconds on a mobile screen on average because the "next page" is more attractive to us. Dopamine will always tell us where to focus, focus on the satisfaction of exploration, and give us the motivation to use our phones.
  • Brain Reward System: The motivation to learn new things or get new knowledge, besides dopamine, there is also the reward mechanism of the brain. This mechanism makes us involuntarily look forward to the responses and rewards that the unknown may bring later. If dopamine focuses on the satisfaction of desires in the process, the reward system of the brain is to expect what can be obtained after the process. Various social media such as Facebook, Instagram, and LINE can be said to be completely in line with the needs of the brain and human beings to be rewarded and recognized. The number of clicks and likes is the biggest incentive for us to pick up our mobile phones every 10 minutes. A direct hit to the brain's reward system.

Every notification of information triggers the brain to secrete dopamine and expect the unknown. (Photo via unsplash.com)

Reliance on cellphones raises alarms on concentration and memory

The most direct side effect of over-reliance on mobile phones is the decline of the brain's concentration and memory. The brain does have the ability to process multiple things at once, but it can only focus on one thing at a time. When work, reading, and mobile phones exist at the same time, the brain will switch focus to one of these three things according to our current situation. When switching, there will be an attention residue phenomenon, which will it's the transition time needed to shift focus to the next thing. Therefore, as long as our mobile phones are placed around, even if the silent mode is turned on, it will still distract our attention, and the brain will be in a state of multitasking. In this state, we are usually distracted and unable to concentrate.

In a multitasking situation, to handle everything, the frontal lobes are quite active, working very hard, constantly switching between work and mobile phones and various messages. In this state, the brain naturally ignores many details, reducing our cognitive abilities and preventing us from remembering things effectively. The brain consumes a lot of energy when constructing long-term memory. At this time, whenever a mobile phone message or email notification comes in, the memory process will be interrupted and must be switched back. In addition, the storage space of the brain is limited, and the brain will not spend too much effort on memorizing the things that have been saved, such as files saved on the computer, and pictures that have been taken in the mobile phone, the details will be ignored and not remembered. It is the so-called digital amnesia, so the original information will not be transferred into long-term knowledge memory, many things have been experienced but will not be remembered.

The presence of mobile phones seriously affects our concentration and memory. (Photo via pexels.com)

Effects of mobile phone addiction on emotional health and sleep  

When you are accustomed to the presence of mobile phones and have become dependent, forgetting to bring your mobile phone, running out of battery, or being asked to put it down will make our brains feel a strong sense of unease because of the things that can quickly produce dopamine disappear. At this time, the secretion of stress hormones and cortisol will increase. The more severe mobile phone users, the more obvious this phenomenon, the higher the proportion of depression and anxiety disorders. Such findings have been dubbed "Stress in America" by the American Psychiatric Association (APA). Anxiety becomes more pronounced the longer we are separated from our phones, and our over-reliance on our phones also deprives us of time to engage in sports, social activities, and even sleep.

The biggest danger caused by heavy or extreme mobile phone use is the impact on sleep quality. The proportion of the population who cannot sleep well is getting higher, the sleep time is getting shorter, and the average sleep time has been reduced by one hour compared with the past. Countries with higher mobile phone users have a higher proportion of the population with sleep disorders, approaching 30%. On the contrary, in rural or tribal areas, the proportion of people with insomnia may only be 1% to 2%, showing a considerable gap. The main reason why the use of mobile phones will affect sleep is that in addition to the aforementioned dopamine secretion, which will boost the mind and make people not want to fall asleep, because of the pressure of worrying about disconnection or missing information, it will make it difficult for people to fall asleep or wake up easily. The blue light of the screen will also make the body think that it is a clear blue sky and have the illusion of daytime, so it inhibits the secretion of melatonin, which makes us full of energy and does not want to sleep.

Long-term lack of sleep or poor sleep quality will prevent the brain's cleaning system from working properly when falling asleep, so there is a risk of stroke or dementia. Sleeping less than six hours will affect the normal functioning of all parts of the body, and it will also reduce concentration and emotional instability, and it will not be able to transform short-term memory into solidified long-term memory at night. As a result, memory retention, work, and learning performance are affected. Statistics show that children who put their mobile phones in the bedroom will reduce their average sleep time by one hour. The impact of mobile phones is beyond our imagination.

Mobile phone users pick up their phone to watch on average every 10 minutes, and heavy users will stay up late or get up in the middle night to read messages. (Photo via pexels.com)

The use of cellphones affects children's learning ability and normal development

In a developed country like Sweden, children over the age of 7 use the Internet almost every day, 98% of children over the age of 11 have mobile phones, and teenagers spend about one-third of the 10-12 hours they are awake to look at a computer or mobile phone screen. The problem isn't only in Sweden, where children in the UK spend an average of six hours a day watching their phones, computers, and TV, compared to nine hours in the US. The main aspects that will be affected are as follows:

  • The brain's impulse restraint and delayed gratification system will not develop until the age of 25 to 30. Therefore, children will not restrain impulses and desire to use mobile phones and tablets, and can easily become mobile phone addicts. At this time, if he is deprived of the right to use, there will be crying or other behaviors that are out of control.
  • When the dopamine is stimulated, and they don't have enough restraint, they will be in a state of excitement and will want to do some risky things. Especially in adolescence, if they can't be guided in a timely manner, they may try stimulating behaviors such as smoking, drinking, and driving fast.
  • When using a tablet or mobile phone as a learning tool, will reduce the frequency of children exercising their finger activity and the tactile stimulation of touching shapes and materials. For example, from paper puzzles to digital puzzles in the APP program, the physical learning ability is thus reduced.
  • Long-term use of the keyboard to record reduces the frequency of handwriting, the ability to recognize words, and pinyin will decline. They will lack the motor ability and reading ability when they spend too little time writing. In the long run, it may cause dyslexia and an inability to concentrate.
  • In the process of developing impulse restraint, a moderate amount of play is necessary. With over-reliance on mobile phones and tablets, many children have fewer activities, lack motor skills related to numeracy, and fail to learn to focus on certain activities. Long-term use of mobile phones can also make children more impulsive, and it is difficult to understand the results and rewards that will be obtained at a certain point in the future, and patiently work hard on a certain thing, which is the ability to delay gratification mentioned above.

Excessive use of mobile phones and tablets has great side effects on children's development and makes them stupid. (Photo via pexels.com)

In the digital age, what you can do to free yourself from the control of your cellphones

  • Know how much time you use your phone every day and adjust your phone usage appropriately.
  • Add watches and alarms, watch the time in other ways, and reduce the importance and time spent looking at your phone.
  • In your surroundings, place other study and leisure tools, and move your phone out of some areas of your home, especially bedrooms.
  • Shut down for two hours a day, you can inform your relatives and friends in advance to avoid their anxiety. you will find that without a cellphone, your life will not change.
  • Turning off the push notification function, switching to silent mode sometimes, and setting the cellphone screen to black and white can all reduce the stimulation and attraction of the picture and sound to us when the message pops up.
  • To reduce the use of social media, you can delete the mobile version of the social media APP, and use the community media with a computer version. As the convenience decreases, the frequency and time of use will decrease.
  • Don't look at your phone while eating, and concentrating on eating is also a necessary way. It will benefit your health and your social interactions with family and friends.

In the digital age, to enjoy the convenience of technology, we must also learn to reduce digital toxins, return to normal life, and take into account physical and psychological health. Learn to use but not abuse, learn to master this smart tool, and not let your phone control your emotions and life.

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