Written by: Brittany Lyonette
Biggest Take Away: NO, your phone isn’t evil, but YES, it is destroying your memory and your mental health.
Hi, my name is Brittany and I’m a phone-aholic. I LOVE my smartphone! I have all the apps, it is always on my person and, yes, I even sleep with it under my pillow!
Considering I was late to the game with smartphones, purchasing my first one in 2013 after having spent at least a year and a half with only an email address and a landline to my name, it’s amazing how my phone and I are now inseparable.
In my head I can see my slow demise into smartphone addiction: using it first as a way to get around in a new country (thank you Google Maps) and a way to stay connected to people back home (thank you Whatsapp), to the sole sucking hours spent [wasted] scrolling endlessly through my social media feeds (thank you Facebook and Instagram). Even when I’m not looking at my screen I have my favourite podcast app running in the background as a soundtrack to my life. I EVEN LISTEN TO PODCASTS TO FALL ASLEEP!
Anyone who has heard me rant about children having access to an entire world of information in their pockets, and access to any joe-schmo with a Snap-Chat account before they even understand what it fully means to be a human, knows that poor little Sophie will NOT be getting a phone until she is old enough to buy it herself. “What a hypocrite,” you may say...and you wouldn’t be wrong.
I specifically chose this book because I know I have a problem.
We all know the damaging effects overuse of social media and smartphones have on us. You don’t need me, or a book, to tell you that anxiety levels in teens (and adults) are at an all-time high. You don’t need me to tell you that the youth of today can no longer spell or read a map. We all know that every time we get a *ping* or a *buzz* telling us that we have a new message, or a new like, a little hit of dopamine is being pumped into our brains, cementing the addiction even further. I knew this before I read the How to Break Up With Your Phone, yet having all the information in one spot, and having the long term impacts spelled out for me was still shocking!
In the first half of her book, Catherine Price uses very accessible language to describes the negatives effects smartphones have on our brains, our attention span, our memory, and our mental health. She covers the findings of multiple research studies and, let me tell you, it’s not good.
What stood out most for me was the effect constant smartphone use has on memory and your ability to focus. Despite what any job board might have you think, multitasking is not only impossible (your brain can only focus properly on one thing at a time) but also damaging to your short term memory.
Catherine explains how the default setting of the human brain is distraction. This makes sense if you think about it in terms of survival: if you were NOT easily distracted by the little changes to your surroundings, you may not notice the saber tooth tiger waiting to pounce!
Humans have evolved and our biggest threat is no longer the creatures hunting us, however, our brains are still on “distraction mode” by default. The ability to focus is a skill, and, like any skill, needs to be practiced. Every pop-up, alert, *buzz*, *ping*, new post, and shiny object all require our attention and brainpower. Even if you’re not actively paying attention to all these little distractions your brain has to make a split-second decision to ignore them. This requires a little bit of your brainpower each time and by the end of one article read on a website your brain will begin to fatigue, your focus will begin to dull. Instead of being focused on one thing and practicing your skill, your brain had to unconsciously focus on shutting out the rest. This is why reading in a book (or even an eBook) is better than reading from a webpage with multiple links to other articles, adverts, pop-ups, etc..
The way I understand it, all of this energy being put into distractions takes away from the energy required to make short term memory. Now ask yourself, have you felt as if you’ve become a bit of a goldfish in the last ten years? Ya, me too.
Catherine does a much better job in her book at explaining this phenomenon using scientific evidence, along with how phones affect your brain writ large, your sleep, stress, satisfaction, and your mental health.
The second part of Catherine’s book is THE BREAKUP. Now, I think it’s important to mention that Catherine does not think that phones are evil and should all be destroyed. She points out how useful our smartphones can be and how, when managed properly, they can actually bring value to our lives. THE BREAKUP is not about completely renouncing your phone, but instead taking the time to re-evaluate your relationship to it. Like any relationship, there should be boundaries and it’s up to us to set them.
THE BREAKUP is a practice in mindfulness. Catherine lays out a 30-day roadmap that encourages you to evaluate what is working and what isn’t, what you want to spend your focus on, and what can go. It’s a roadmap to phone-independence, rather than phone-dependence.
THE BREAKUP is divided into four weeks. Each day has its own instruction, a few questions to help you reflect on what’s working and what’s not, and an opportunity to explore what you want to keep going forward. It’s not about being perfect. It’s not about shaming yourself. It’s about taking back control and building a healthy relationship with your phone.
Here are the themes for each week:
Week 1: Technology Triage
Week 2: Changing Your Habits
Week 3: Reclaiming Your Brain
Week 4: Your New Relationship
I will personally be going through THE BREAK UP this month and I'd like to invite you to join me! Leave a comment below if you plan on joining me.
If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.