Smartphones are taking the FUN out of life – people view the world from their screens instead of experiencing it directly

Everyone owns a smartphone these days, and it’s not hard to see why. They make our lives easier and make things more convenient, whether it is traveling, doing business, or talking to someone who is miles away. But, like all good things, they also come with disadvantages. So while smartphones give, they also take away. Sure, they enable people to accomplish important tasks, but they also prevent them from enjoying something that really matters: living in the moment. This is what exactly researchers from the University of Milan found in their study which was published in the Journal of Economic Psychology. In their report, they investigated whether smartphone use reduced the quality of face-to-face social interactions.

“It can also make close people more distant”

These days, most people see the world through the screens of their gadgets. They seldom take the time to connect with someone or something; not just by talking and listening – both of which can be easily done over the phone – but by actually being present to experience things. Instead, smartphones do all the work for them. With just a click, they let people exchange words or take them wherever they want to go (but just visually), and people think it is alright – amazing, even – because it costs less time and effort. No preparation needed, no money spent. And in doing so, they learn to be content with it, not realizing that they miss out on valuable opportunities and experiences. They also start to value social interaction less.

To test their hypothesis, researchers asked the participants to answer questions aimed at determining how often they saw their friends, how they used their smartphones, and how satisfied they were with their lives and their relationship with their friends. When the data was compiled, the results suggested that individuals who spent more time socializing rather than using their smartphones were more satisfied with their lives and relationships, while those who spent more time on their phones found less satisfaction with both. The researchers concluded that too much use of smartphones also affected the well-being of the individuals who used them. They were not as happy with their lives as their more sociable counterparts.

“The smartphone can bring distant people closer together, at least virtually, it can also make close people more distant,” the researchers concluded in their report. “It can negatively affect the quality of time spent with others, a key determinant of individual well-being.”

Another study, this time from the University of British Columbia, highlighted the impact of smartphones on social interactions using data from over 300 adults and university students in Vancouver. The researchers asked them to dine at a restaurant with their families or friends. Some of them were allowed to keep their phones with them during the meal, while others were asked to put their phones away in a box. After the meal, they were asked to rate how much they enjoyed the experience and how socially connected they felt, or if they got bored or distracted. Those who had their phones with them at the table were also asked how many times they used them and what they did on them. The participants who used their phones during the meal admitted to being distracted and said that they enjoyed the experience less. On the other hand, the participants who did not have their phones responded positively to the experience. The researchers concluded that although smartphones are very useful, they deprived people of the benefits of real human interaction.

Limit how smartphones control your life

Cutting back on the use of smartphones can be very difficult for some. But if it means being present and building healthier relationships with the people who matter, it’s worth the sacrifice. Dr. Jean Twenge, a professor of psychology at San Diego State University, says that if people want to be healthy with their smartphone usage, they should use them no more than two hours per day, provided that they are not spending those two hours with other people. Phones should also be put away at least an hour before going to bed. This ensures that people get to talk to their partners before they sleep and that they get to sleep well.

Another tool that helps build healthy habits is setting boundaries and limiting where and when to use them. This  allows people to spend some quality time with their loved ones doing activities that involve face-to-face interaction. Using certain features such as FaceTime can also be a way of getting someone’s attention, especially when they seem too immersed in their phone activities. It doesn’t really matter how people do it, what matters is that people learn how to use their smartphones properly and in moderation so that their phones do not command most of their time and attention. (Related: Smartphones are Keeping Kids Up at Night, Damaging Their Development and Alertness During the Day.)

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