How Our Smartphones are Making Us Stupid, Antisocial and Unhealthy

If a digital detox is part of your new resolutions, you really need to put down your smartphone and get back to way we used to operate before 2007. The Globe and Mail had a fantastic look at how smartphones are messing things up for all of us. I highly recommend you read the full article (if you have the attention span, something that’s being destroyed by smartphones) but if you don’t have the time, here are some highlights.

  • We look at our phones about 150 times a day. That’s up to FIVE HOURS a day. Extrapolated over a lifetime, that’s SEVEN YEARS looking at them.
  • According to Microsoft, the average attention span has decreased from 12 seconds in 2000 to just 8 in 2013. It’s probably shorter today.
  • In 2007, Americans were absorbing the equivalent of 174 newspapers every day.  That’s five times the amount they were taking in twenty years earlier. I can’t imagine how much we take in now.
  • Studies repeatedly show that smartphones have impaired our memories, reduced brain power, messed up work-life balance and reduced the amount of meaningful time we spend with friends and family.
  • A day’s worth of smartphone use has the same cognitive effect as losing a full night’s sleep.
  • If you compulsively check your smartphone at work, it can take up to 25 minutes for your concentration to return to the task at hand.
  • All of the above is caused by short-term dopamine feedback loops. In other words, we’re always looking for a new hit of information or positive reinforcement from our phones.
  • Instagram knows this,  According to a company called Dopamine Labs, Instagram withholds “likes” from certain people. The strategy is that this will create an initial disappointment that results in people compulsively coming back to the app to check for updates.

We can only guess at what effect smartphones are having on children. Again, you MUST read this article. It’s long, but it could help with your mental health.


Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

2 thoughts on “How Our Smartphones are Making Us Stupid, Antisocial and Unhealthy

  • January 9, 2018 at 12:42 pm

    I feel like this article is probably cherry-picking studies, but I don’t realistically have the time to sit here and investigate the research behind each point. I am curious though.

    I will add for my own part, and for my own sanity, I’ve long disabled most push notifications, and the ones that interrupt are further reduced by what actually notifies me on my smart watch.

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