It was near the end of the semester. All students in the library were studying for their final exams. I was in the library, sitting among them. However, I wasn’t studying; I was holding my phone browsing internet and chatting with my friend. As a result, I did pretty bad in my final exam.
Thanks for our smartphones, our lives are now 24/7 staying connected with our Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Email, etc. There is no doubt that smartphones have fundamentally improved our ways of communications. In the other hand, they also create tremendous distractions and have a huge negative impact on our academic performance and relationship with others.
A study published in the journal Social Psychology reports that having your phone in your proximity is enough to distract you – even if it’s not on. The study asked a group of 50 college students to complete a set of questions in their statistics class, first with their cell phones out on their desk and then with their phones hidden out of sight. The students who couldn’t see their phones has better performance all around, particularly on more challenging tasks. They on average answered 26 questions correctly, in contrast, 21 were correct when cell phones were present.
According to a professor of the University of Southern Maine professor, Bill Thornton, cell phones remind people of the socializing and connectivity that lies at their fingertips. This, in turn, detracts attention from what you’re actually doing. He said “Even if it’s just mental, your focus is not on the task at hand, whether it be trying to write an article, get this spreadsheet set up, or just socializing; your mind is elsewhere (Stanek, 2014).”
Smartphones are supposed to help people to connect with others, but too obsess with your phones would instead detract our ability to connect with other people, especially in meaningful or romantic ways. “Couples that have meaningful, personal discussions with a cell phone in sight report “lower relationship quality and less trust for their partner,” because they see their partner as less empathetic to their concerns (Stanek, 2014).” Ask yourself a question. Would you enjoy a dinner if your companions keep their heads down with their fingers sweeping on the screens?
“The problem is that smartphone is such an incredibly powerful and sophisticated tool, and that we don’t seem to be able to selectively use just some of the functions it offers. If we can check our email and Facebook on it, we will do so. It’s awfully hard not to because we quickly become accustomed to that little dopamine kick that such news offers us (Lloyd, 2013).”
Obviously, solving the problem is not difficult. Staying away with your phone or simply turn off your phone would definitely prevent the distraction, but we need more than that. Sometime we do need to pay attention to some important phone calls, messages and emails. Here is where the filtering apps come in. In Anders Lloyd’s blog, he lists several filtering apps, such as Freedom, SelfControl, and Self Control for Study. Freedom is the one I am currently using. You can use this kind of filtering apps to set a time interval to block a specific content on your device.
Our smartphones play an important role in our day to day lives, but we should use them wisely, and not let them take control of our lives. “I’m not sure how many people’s text messages are that important,” Thornton said. “Unless you’re an advisor to the president and we have a national emergency, you can wait an hour to get a text (Worland, 2014).”
Lloyd, A. (2013, May 29). Distraction filters on the smartphone. Retrieved March 13, 2016, from http://andreaslloyd.dk/2013/05/distraction-filters-on-the-smartphone/
Stanek, B. (2014, December 09). Science Shows Your Cell Phone Is Ruining Your Life – Even When You’re Not Using It. Retrieved March 13, 2016, from http://mic.com/articles/106054/science-your-cell-phone-is-ruining-your-life#.GCdWYE23I
Worland, J. (2014, December 4). How Your Cell Phone Distracts You Even When You’re Not Using It. Retrieved March 13, 2016, from http://time.com/3616383/cell-phone-distraction/