February 01, 2020
I had to sit an exam again recently, one of tens I have had to take in my life; we used to take three every three months for all of medical school. A short study session would be three hours. A long one a whole day. If concentration were a muscle, I used to be a champion lifter.
Your Smartphone Is Making You Stupid
Flash forward 10 years and I sat down to revise for this one like any other. Textbook opened, laptop charged, coffee loaded. Two minutes in, I picked up my phone, checked my mail, jumped on Twitter, put it down again. Back to the book, and I had to re-read the sentence again. I stared at my own notes blankly and picked up my phone again. Twenty minutes passed and I had done nothing. With a rising panic, I realised my ability to concentrate had completely deserted me.
What happened to my brain? Facebook came in to widespread use the year I started medical school, in 2006, and the use of social media and smartphone use has exploded since. I can’t help but link these two. Think about the volume of extra information you consumed today that you wouldn’t have done even ten years ago: notifications, timeline posts, text messages, Tweets and Grams. What effect is an infinite stream of information having on your brain? Is your phone making you sick?I am trying to think of my phone as at least as harmful to my health as a cheeseburger, possibly a cigarette.The link between mobile phone use and organic disease has yet to be borne out in major clinical studies. Poor mental health on the other hand is a well-recognised association with phone use: depression, anxiety, stress and poor-sleep have all been linked to smartphone overuse. I think back to the heights of my social media use and see a correlation I previously attributed to events at the time: the junior doctors’ strike, the recent general election, but now I wonder if it was at least partially made worse by my phone.
And even if our phones aren’t making us actually sick, they might be making us stupid. 
We know that even the smallest distractions, for example a hyperlink in a sentence, can severely impair your ability to retain and understand the text as a whole. Now we live in a state of near constant distraction, flitting from focus to focus like a digital hummingbird, never stopping anywhere for long enough to really think. For example, I’m scrolling through my Twitter feed right now, emphasis on “scrolling”. At an average speed I am reading a single Tweet a second, or even less than a whole tweet. In my brain I am reading, comprehending, referencing what I already know about this, and then deciding if I want to like, retweet or comment, before moving on, all within the space of a few milliseconds. I did this perhaps 100-150 times, in the bad old days, perhaps 20-30 times a day. Without a Twitter account that’s 4500 cognitive “transactions” I wouldn’t otherwise make, every day. What else could I “spend” that brain power on? 
Worse, I found my concentration and attention permanently impaired, unable to start and finish a task without my frenzied brain pushing me to find something new or do something else, after just minutes. The average web user now spends only 15 seconds on a webpage. Does that sound like a rational or functioning brain to you? These very repetitive and tiny cognitive tasks are like vibrating your brain at a high frequency, for a very long time, and it will start to re-wire in response: wanting new information, quicker and quicker, over and over again, like an addiction. This is why using your smartphone is both exhilarating and paralysing; you are going to a million places a minute and coming straight back again, effectively going nowhere.
Think about all the times you lost your phone – the initial panic, the sense of dread, the very quick settling, and then the immense relief. That’s a comedown, as if from any other drug. We are drunk on the Internet. This isn’t a fault in our characters, it’s a fault in our biology. As 82% of this country use smartphones, a fault in our society as well.
As a country we have never been more divided. Less and less willing to compromise, the middle-ground has all but disappeared. Subtlety and context, deeper understanding requiring sustained attention to grasp, seem to have dissipated from every debate. Unscrupulous politicians take advantage of this fevered environment, declaring big, bold and false headlines, taking up those 15 seconds of attention and knowing most will never look further. 
Where once I found my phone a life-saving essential, it now burns uncomfortably in my pocket. We’ve never spent more time thinking about what we ingest in to our bodies but perhaps we should start to think in the same way about our brains. The difference is that when it comes to sustenance, our brains are like the open mouths of whales, indiscriminately hoovering up everything we come in to contact with. Descartes wrote “I think, therefore I am”. But who are you if someone else is firing content into your brain from across the Internet, even just for the tiniest fraction of a second?
Do I have a solution? I put my phone in a box by the front door now, try not to have it near me as much as possible at home. I don’t take it to bed. I am trying to think of it as at least as harmful to my health as a cheeseburger, possibly a cigarette. I have really felt the difference, and if you’ve made it to the end of this article, perhaps you will too.
Dominic Pimenta is a cardiology registrar and author. He tweets at @juniordrblog.Related... Bat Soup, A Secret Vaccine, Thousands Dead? The Coronavirus Myths We Need To Shut Down A Smart Phone Isn’t A Luxury – It’s A Lifeline If You’re Living In Poverty The Best Tech Gifts For Teens
Related Stories
Latest News
Top news around the world
Coronavirus Disease

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered coronavirus.

Most people infected with the COVID-19 virus will experience mild to moderate respiratory illness and recover without requiring special treatment. Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, and cancer are more likely to develop serious illness.

Around the World

Celebrity News

> Latest News in Media

Watch It
Deepak Chopra’s super-spiritual house with ‘God rays’ listed for $5M | Page Six Celebrity News
June 21, 2021
_LqsyYtcZ90
Braunwyn Windham-Burke confirms relationship with ‘RHOC’ alum | Page Six Celebrity News
June 21, 2021
NtLWMFTsKi0
Anthony Bourdain’s NYC apartment up for rent with $2,200 price cut | Page Six Celebrity News
June 21, 2021
8TW879a3_Vs
Beyonce Can't Sing?, Khloe Split & "RHONY" Size Debate
June 22, 2021
L3GVFZ4bnf8
Snoop Dogg Tells Which Star Couldn't Handle Being Smoked Out - "Nightly Pop" 06/22/21 | E! News
June 22, 2021
It5QvEgMEN8
Khloé Kardashian & Tristan Thompson: What Went Wrong This Time? | E! News
June 22, 2021
NkdYcPAuKao
Maggie Lindemann Talks About the Most Random Party She's Ever Been To | TMZ
June 22, 2021
Eqno6pdwrgg
Macy Gray Defends Revamping U.S. Flag, Says Jan. 6 Made it Hate Symbol | TMZ
June 22, 2021
TMTUbWNOtGA
Gwen Stefani Throws Blake Shelton an Epic Surprise Birthday Party | TMZ TV
June 22, 2021
s69NhRen7TQ
How 'The Queen's Gambit's' Costume Designer Made Outfits Fit for a Chess Queen
June 22, 2021
18ncQSIcx5M
Why Paris Hilton Doesn’t Need to Make a Billion Dollars Anymore
June 22, 2021
j5ssoQNtb_o
The Cast of ‘F9’ Reveal their 9 Favorite Cars from the Fast & Furious Franchise
June 22, 2021
vZZRGlR7v3Q
TV Schedule
Late Night Show
Watch the latest shows of U.S. top comedians

Sports

Latest sport results, news, videos, interviews and comments
Latest Events
19
Nov
ASIAN CHAMPIONS LEAGUE: Group H
Sydney FC - Shanghai SIPG
17
Nov
UEFA NATIONS LEAGUE A: Group Stage
Spain - Germany
14
Nov
UEFA NATIONS LEAGUE A: Group Stage
Germany - Ukraine
08
Nov
ENGLAND: Premier League
Manchester City - Liverpool
08
Nov
ENGLAND: Premier League
Arsenal - Aston Villa
08
Nov
SPAIN: La Liga
Valencia - Real Madrid
08
Nov
ITALY: Serie A
AC Milan - Verona
08
Nov
ENGLAND: Premier League
West Bromwich Albion - Tottenham Hotspur
08
Nov
ITALY: Serie A
Bologna - Napoli
08
Nov
ITALY: Serie A
Genoa - Roma
08
Nov
ITALY: Serie A
Atalanta - Inter Milan
08
Nov
ITALY: Serie A
Lazio - Juventus
08
Nov
GERMANY: Bundesliga
Bayer Leverkusen - Borussia Monchengladbach
08
Nov
ENGLAND: Premier League
Leicester City - Wolves
08
Nov
GERMANY: Bundesliga
Wolfsburg - Hoffenheim
08
Nov
SPAIN: La Liga
Real Valladolid - Athletic Bilbao
08
Nov
SPAIN: La Liga
Levante - Alaves
08
Nov
SPAIN: La Liga
Real Sociedad - Granada CF
08
Nov
ITALY: Serie A
Torino - Crotone
08
Nov
SPAIN: La Liga
Getafe - Villarreal
07
Nov
GERMANY: Bundesliga
Borussia Dortmund - Bayern Munich
07
Nov
ENGLAND: Premier League
Everton - Manchester United
07
Nov
ENGLAND: Premier League
Chelsea - Sheffield United
07
Nov
SPAIN: La Liga
Atletico Madrid - Cadiz
07
Nov
SPAIN: La Liga
Barcelona - Real Betis
07
Nov
GERMANY: Bundesliga
Augsburg - Hertha Berlin
07
Nov
GERMANY: Bundesliga
Stuttgart - Eintracht Frankfurt
07
Nov
GERMANY: Bundesliga
RB Leipzig - SC Freiburg
07
Nov
ENGLAND: Championship
Rotherham - Preston NE
07
Nov
ITALY: Serie A
Parma - Fiorentina
07
Nov
ENGLAND: Championship
Watford - Coventry
07
Nov
ENGLAND: Championship
Norwich City - Swansea City
07
Nov
ENGLAND: Championship
Blackburn - QPR
07
Nov
ENGLAND: Championship
Derby County - Barnsley
07
Nov
ENGLAND: Championship
Huddersfield - Luton
07
Nov
ENGLAND: Championship
Nottingham Forest - Wycombe Wanderers
07
Nov
ENGLAND: Premier League
West Ham United - Fulham
07
Nov
ENGLAND: Championship
Sheffield Wednesday - Millwall
07
Nov
ENGLAND: Championship
Brentford - Middlesbrough
07
Nov
ENGLAND: Championship
Birmingham - Bournemouth
07
Nov
SPAIN: La Liga
Sevilla - Osasuna
07
Nov
ITALY: Serie A
Benevento - Spezia
07
Nov
ENGLAND: Premier League
Crystal Palace - Leeds
04
Nov
CHAMPIONS LEAGUE: Group stage, Group G
Ferencvaros - Juventus
04
Nov
CHAMPIONS LEAGUE: Group stage, Group G
Barcelona - Dynamo K.
03
Nov
CHAMPIONS LEAGUE: Group stage, Group A
Salzburg - Bayern Munich
03
Nov
CHAMPIONS LEAGUE: Group stage, Group D
Atalanta - Liverpool
Find us on Instagram
at @feedimo to stay up to date with the latest.
Featured Video You Might Like
zWJ3MxW_HWA L1eLanNeZKg i1XRgbyUtOo -g9Qziqbif8 0vmRhiLHE2U JFCZUoa6MYE UfN5PCF5EUo 2PV55f3-UAg W3y9zuI_F64 -7qCxIccihU pQ9gcOoH9R8 g5MRDEXRk4k
Copyright © 2020 Feedimo. All Rights Reserved.