How do I get your attention?

Hi everyone, I am pretty concerned about mobile phone usage.

There is no consensus on whether mobile phone usage is actually detrimental to our health. Although, there have been many studies conducted on this topic, there is no evidence of causation: that mobile phone usage actually causes an increase in anxiety and depression or loneliness, there are just correlation studies.

And although there is a huge difference between social media usage and smart phone usage, a study by the University of Oxford’s Internet Institute showed that teenagers in UK who used social media between 1-3 hours a day reported a higher well-being as opposed to those who didn’t and those who used it for longer. So this kind of brought my attention to the fact that perhaps people get a positive utility from it and maybe it’s not too bad for our mental health. This is probably because the usage of mobile phones is heterogeneous. For instance, speaking to my friends in a distant country has positive effects on me as opposed to reading all sorts of horrible stories circulating on the internet or scrolling down my newsfeed. But again, it must be noted that these are just statistics and this does not imply causation.

One important concept that I am particularly concerned about is attention and reaction time and this seems ubiquitous to mobile phone usage to me. That is, it does not matter whether I am texting a friend or watching a video on the phone or just clicking on my homescreen button, my reaction time significantly decreases. However, this could be universal because of the hypothesised two system brain that we have. Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky through various experiments showed how the brain behaves as if it were two separate entities. One automatic system (System 1) which works when we are lazy and the other which does the methodical thinking (System 2). And they showed that during times of stress or preoccupation, i.e. when System 2 is working, our minds being pre-occupied perform other function automatically through System 1. So, say while texting if someone asks us a question we just say yes or something random, not knowing the context of the question. It’s only when we utilise our system 2, by actually listening to the question we are able to answer appositely. But then this kind of cognitive taxation occurs in many activities. For instance, if we are talking to one person, we may be unable to follow the football match on the screen. I wanted to understand, however, whether this attention absorbing activity through mobile phone usage is more detrimental as opposed to other media or activities. Also, what long term effects do you think this could have.

There is a laboratory study by the University of Tokyo on how mobile phone usage affects walking on pedestrian paths. Although their sample size is pretty small to be a representative sample, it does show how mobile phone usages affects reaction time significantly, and therefore, increasing the number of collisions and accidents.

So, it would be great to understand some prospective issues that arise from this slow reaction time or lack of attention towards people or other forms or media and activities.
Is it social engagement, health, phsyical well-being or mental well-being that could suffer. How and why?
There are obviously dangers while driving.

And how I can one fix this problem? I’ve noticed this about myself. I tend to get fully absorbed in texting a friend so much so that I feel lost. And the funny thing is I barely use social media, I have been posting maybe once a month on average since the past five six years.

1 Like - A good listen by BBC analysis.

This is known as “cognitive blindness” and has been noted in driver safety studies. I think it’s the same everywhere. When ones eyes are not headed in the direction of movement there will be accidents. An orthopedic surgeon swiftly redirected me as I pressed send on a text entering a stairwell, he said you might want to finish that text before stepping any further;). So never again did I text and walk at the same time.

Anyways… we can assume there are significant health risks of a person does not have any face time (3D and not virtual;). So the way social media is used and the state of mind while using will decide the response- whether positive or negative. I think this is why adolescents have more negative responses overall- raging hormones does not help one put things in perspective when they get no likes or get ignored. Or they take getting likes a little too seriously- defining self worth. Those hormones make every moment really bad or really good and with dopamine surges this messes it all up. So anyways… I think the social media experience really depends on the person using it and what they are seeking. Personally, when I used to post on FB- it was kind of creepy when people would talk about my post but never comment or like it- I was thinking like what’s the point? But I’m addicted to conversational culture;)

Here in The Netherlands there are an incredible amount of bicycles (about every inhabitant owns at least one) and currently it is not prohibited to text while cycling. I am not sure how much, but I think since the rise of smartphones there has been a significant increase of traffic accidents because of this - as you can imagine. I have had some near accidents myself by youngsters swerving on the pavement while absorbed in their social network.
Jurisdiction is in the works to regulate and put a stop to this (which should have been much earlier, if you ask me).

As to how to fix it: I use Forest to curb my mobile phone usage while at work and out with friends. I find that it helps me stay off my phone. You can also use the in-app coins to plant trees.

There may be legal ways to fix it as well. Here in the U.S., phone usage while driving is illegal in some states (aside from navigation, single-tap responses, etc.). You’ll get a ticket of ~$150 USD if police catch you. Canada is more strict: they’ve outlawed all handheld device use while driving.