The holiday season is here, and while the temptation may be to sink into the couch and bury your face in your phone during that awkward encounter with the aunt or uncle you disagree with politically, this actually does more harm than good. And the harm goes beyond the basic rudeness of the gesture; it’s actually damaging your brain’s ability to function and your emotional health.
This holiday season we have the science to help encourage you to put the phone away and have a happier time. And in our next blog post we will equip you with tips and tricks for how to not rely on your phone, because we know the temptation can be great.
If you feel like everyone has a phone out these days, you’re not wrong. Nearly every American has a cellphone, according to the Pew Research Center, with 77% opting for a smartphone. And those smartphone users are moving more and more toward using their phones as their sole internet access point, too.
It’s not just Millennials, either, though people are often quick to suggest that. While Millennials lead in the adoption of technology, Gen Xers and Baby Boomers have steadily increasing numbers when it comes to technology use. 85% of Gen Xers and 67% of Baby Boomers own a smartphone and more Gen Xers own a tablet computer than Millennials, with all groups using social media at increasing rates.
Earlier this year the Pew Research Center reported that 77% of Americans go online daily, which is not particularly shocking considering the use of email and social media, but 26% of those adults report that they go online “almost constantly.” If we are all online nearly every day, what does that do to our brains? And does it impede our ability to connect with people?
Your smartphone is a brain drain. According to researchers at the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas, Austin, the “mere presence” of your smartphone reduces your brain’s ability to function. Researchers found that people performed poorly if their phones were simply visible – they didn’t even need to receive an email or text to be distracted. As the researchers discovered, the more people depend on their smartphones on a daily basis, the more they suffer (cognitively) from the presence of the phone. And, conversely, the more people stand to benefit from the absence of the phone.
If that wasn’t enough to convince you to put the phone away, a researcher in Denmark discovered that taking a break from Facebook increases overall well-being, resulting in more positive emotions. For anyone with a family split by politics, this shouldn’t be a big surprise.
The research over the last few years continues to point to the fact that smartphones tax our brains and create brain and emotional drain. And while checking Instagram to watch cute dog videos might feel like a good idea when politics comes up around the dinner table, doing so will actually make it harder for you to engage in conversations you do enjoy. And checking those social media accounts will only make you feel more drained when you head home.
Instead of grabbing the phone, bring a few cards from How Do You See the World instead and pull them out at dinner or dessert. You can select questions that will get people thinking, engage their empathy, and distract from taxing or uncomfortable topics. Plus, the questions engage our brains in thoughtful, introspective, and creative processes. And when everyone shares their thoughts, you’ll feel more connected to your friends and family instead of feeling more distant.