It's probably not news anymore – spending a lot of time in front of the phone screen is unhealthy. For the brain and concentration. Why is that?
Kassel – Quickly answer the WhatsApp message, check Instagram and just take a provisional look at what's going on in the TikTok feed. But then immediately back to work. And just when you've just put your phone away, it suddenly makes "Ping!" and a new push notification appears on the screen. Well – then you just look again. Just very briefly. Just in a hurry.
It's probably a social phenomenon – always being reachable and having pulled out your cell phone before there's even anything relevant to read. The average user spends about 3.7 hours in front of the mobile phone screen, according to a 2020 calculation by the analysis platform App Annie. But what does that do to the brain? And the concentration?
Distracted again? Often you don't question your own mobile phone use. © Eugenio Marongiu/Imago
By mobile phone: Constant multitasking is bad for concentration
Most people now know that multitasking is not as great for productivity as suspected. But it's more than that, according to quarks.de: because the brain can only fully concentrate on one thing. Even interruptions of 2.8 seconds can disturb this concentration. And maybe you can even defy the push notifications on the screen and not pick up your phone – but just reading the message for a short time is enough to stop being on the real thing.
Flow theory – when concentration and focus suddenly "flow" all by themselves
Fortunately, concentration can also be used in such a way that the task at hand does not feel strenuous at all. "Flow Theory" is the name of the phenomenon in psychology, as reported by The Business Psychology Society (WPGS). If you concentrate on just one task, and do so with full attention, you will eventually reach a state where the activity just flows. It's a positive creative frenzy, full of productivity that's fun at the same time. You are absorbed in the task.
It takes an average of 9.5 minutes to concentrate fully on the actual task again, says Martin Korte, Professor of Neurobiology at TU Braunschweig to gmx.de. So the mobile phone is not only bad for concentration – it also takes a lot of time.
Concentration and distraction: Mobile phone triggers dopamine release in the brain
So the smartphone is distracting – subconsciously so much that it doesn't even have to be actively used: Even the mere presence of a cell phone in the room can have an impact on memory. But what makes the smartphone so treacherous? That it's so hard to part with it and put up with the constant interruptions in concentration?
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Fancy a voyage of discovery?
Apps like Facebook, Instagram and Co. are deliberately designed to spend as much time as possible on them. Timelines don't end – it goes on and on. And so it is with the brain – it wants to go on and on, according to wdr.de. What's more, it has never been easier to get confirmation than it is today. Because with every like, comment or reaction on social media, the brain releases the happiness hormone dopamine. And in the search for even more positive confirmation, one has quickly arrived: in the wake of the mobile phone.
Finally more concentration: With these tips for more conscious mobile phone use
But how do you manage to spend less time on your phone? These tips can help to get a more conscious use of the smartphone:
- Consciously online: Instead of being online for a short time every now and then, it is better to be consciously online. This works, for example, with digital intermittent fasting: Turn off your mobile phone for several hours, then be attentive online for a short time at a time. Tip: Really turn off your mobile phone – not just in airplane mode!
- Digital Detox: Just offline. Maybe just a day, maybe a weekend or even a whole week. Tip:If a complete digital detox is too bad for you, you can just do without social media for a certain period of time
- Out of sight: In order to spend less time on the smartphone, it can make sense to simply put the mobile phone away from your own reach.
- Turn off push notifications: The fewer incentives there are to pick up the phone, the better – without push notifications, there are also fewer reasons to constantly check the phone.
- App limits: Reduce the screen time of a dedicated app? App limits help to question and curb one's own mobile phone use.
- Get out without a mobile phone: It's better to pack the camera separately and leave your phone at home. If it's not there, it can't be distracting.
In principle, it can also help to question your own smartphone use again and again. Because quite often there is no reason to pick up the mobile phone at all.