Dis­con­nected and Far Bet­ter for It

Trillions - - In This Issue -

A re­search project con­ducted re­cently in Kingston, On­tario., showed that be­ing sep­a­rated from your smart­phone can feel very good.

The ex­per­i­ment was far from ex­ten­sive, but even with only six teenagers be­tween the ages of 13 and 17 be­ing logged out from their so­cial me­dia ac­counts for just one week, the re­sults still showed a few con­sis­tent pos­i­tives.

Not sur­pris­ingly, the teens slept bet­ter. With­out the dis­trac­tion of their phones be­ing read­ily at hand, once the teens re­al­ized they would not be able to con­nect via so­cial me­dia apps, they ended up let­ting go and ex­pe­ri­enced longer and deeper sleep than usual.

Dur­ing the day, they also did some­thing un­usual: They went out­side. They spent time – some­times re­ferred to as “IRL” (In Real Life) – with their friends and fam­ily. They saw faces other than those via video chat or self­ies.

They also found them­selves think­ing more deeply, es­pe­cially when there was noth­ing else to do.

The study, led by Univer­sity of Ot­tawa re­searcher Va­lerie Steeves, was a project called “The Dis­con­nected Chal­lenge.” Smart­phones were al­lowed for school work, check­ing work and as­sign­ment sched­ules and call­ing par­ents. Be­yond that, the phones were to be put away, with all so­cial me­dia ac­counts switched off.

One of the big­gest sur­prises from the study was how easy it seemed to be for the teens to be away from their smart­phones. Some peo­ple have likened hav­ing to give up their smart­phone to let­ting go of a chem­i­cal ad­dic­tion, and, to some ex­tent, it is. Face­book re­ported that the av­er­age user of its pri­mary ser­vices – which in­clude Face­book, Mes­sen­ger and In­sta­gram – spends 50 min­utes a day con­nected to these apps. That is up from 40 min­utes a day a year ago. Based on this trend, it is en­tirely pos­si­ble that Face­book – hav­ing be­come ever more in­ven­tive at pulling eye­balls into its ap­pli­ca­tions – has in­creased that num­ber of min­utes still fur­ther as of 2017.

De­spite that pull, how­ever, get­ting away from their phones and so­cial me­dia net­ted the teens in the study with not just fewer prob­lems but more pos­i­tives than any­one might have imag­ined. There were the phys­i­cal and so­cial changes that brought them back to be­ing more con­nected with peo­ple in a true, phys­i­cal way. And it turns out that there might have been im­por­tant med­i­cal pos­i­tives too.

Some­thing not talked about enough to­day is how elec­tro­mag­netic fields can af­fect our bod­ies. Hu­man be­ings have their own in­ter­nal elec­tro­mag­netic sys­tems, all of which are sen­si­tive to one de­gree or another to other such fields.

One ob­ser­va­tion that has been backed up by sev­eral stud­ies is that the pres­ence of a cell­phone near the brain stim­u­lates glu­cose pro­duc­tion close to where the phone rests. While what hap­pens be­cause of this is not clear, re­searchers have spec­u­lated on every­thing from a very low in­ter­ac­tion to the pos­si­bil­ity of the ra­dio waves ef­fec­tively break­ing down the blood-brain bar­rier and ex­pos­ing the brain to a num­ber of prob­lems.

A study by the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion showed a “sig­nif­i­cantly in­creased risk” of brain tu­mors after ex­po­sure of “10 years or more.” Eight in­ter­phone stud­ies showed that hav­ing cell­phones next to the brain for ex­tended pe­ri­ods of time could pro­duce as much as a 40% higher risk for gliomas after as lit­tle as 30 min­utes per day of mo­bile phone use. Two stud­ies sug­gested a higher risk of acous­tic neu­ro­mas (tu­mors be­tween the ear and the brain), with as much as 3.9 times higher pos­si­ble im­pact after ex­po­sure to close cell­phone ra­di­a­tion. And another study sug­gested a higher in­ci­dence of tu­mors re­lated to the sali­vary glands.

Though there were no no­tice­able ad­verse med­i­cal ef­fects after only one week, all the points men­tioned above are good rea­sons to avoid hold­ing a cell­phone near your brain for ex­tended pe­ri­ods of time. They would not be no­tice­able in such a short time as one week.

Per­haps the most sur­pris­ing dis­cov­ery made by the re­searchers in this study was that when the teens were away from their cell­phones and so­cial me­dia ac­counts, they recorded hav­ing longer pe­ri­ods of deep thought. This ob­ser­va­tion has been backed up by other re­cent stud­ies, which have sug­gested that the “down­time” of bore­dom and free time may be a nec­es­sary part of not just deep think­ing but also in­tense cre­ative thought.

If be­ing away from smart­phones and so­cial me­dia for only seven days can bring about so many pos­i­tives, just imag­ine what would hap­pen if these things were not around at all.

Now that is in­deed food for some very deep thoughts.

Photo by Stacey Mc­cool, cc

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