Are Smartphones Killing Our Creativity?

Texting Couple. Image via Jacob Ufkes

by Lucy Wyndham

Today, it is no secret that almost everyone has a smartphone, if not more than one. The number of smartphone users is increasing every day; in 2018, it was 5.135 billion, up 4% from the previous year. Technology is progressing in leaps and the line between real life and virtual life is blurring every day, as we live our parallel lives on social media and look forward to new advancements such as virtual vacations.

Smartphones help us be more productive and get tasks done more quickly and efficiently. However, they are also a huge distraction and a continuous source of entertainment which leaves no possibility for down time. But aside from distracting us, could smartphones also be hurting our creativity?

Creativity Stems From Daydreaming

Thanks to smartphones and technology, our brains are constantly occupied. Think back to the last time you actually did nothing and just daydreamed while staring into nothing. It’s probably been a while! Today, every time we have a spare second we tend to check our emails, surf the internet or play a mindless game; according to the RSNA, there is a strong risk of smartphone addiction in particular in young people, which creates an imbalance in the brain. Technology keeps our mind constantly busy, but this is actually hurting our creativity. The brain needs boredom to be creative and down time to process creative ideas.

Research has shown that boredom and creativity are linked; some of our best and most innovative creative thoughts come when our mind is not engaged or receiving information, such as when you go for a walk with nothing distracting you. It’s your brain’s way of dealing with an uncomfortable situation and entertaining itself when there’s nothing to do.

The Negative Effects of Smartphones Don’t Stop Here

Not only do smartphones hurt our creativity, stopping us from reaching our full potential, but they also have negative repercussions on other areas of our lives. One 2017 study published in the Journal of Economic psychology found that smartphones are hurting social relationships, as personal connections are no longer the priority. It’s much harder to strike up a conversation with someone who is immersed in their phone and can’t make eye contact with you. On the other side “virtual relationships” are given more and more importance.

Research has also shown that smartphones have negative effects on health, increasing stress and anxiety. Especially where work is concerned, smartphones make us available 24/7, a situation which greatly increases work-related stress. Furthermore, smartphones carry a huge quantity of germs and bacteria. Scientists at the University of Arizona found that cellphones carry 10 times more bacteria than an average toilet seat! The amount of germs present on smartphones (and the amount of time they spend pressed to our faces) makes them a trigger for problems such as acne and oily skin. It’s absurd to imagine that your smartphone may be causing acne, but unfortunately, it is our reality today. To resolve the issue, try to avoid pressing the phone against your skin; investing in a good pair of headphones which can be used for calls as well is an effective solution.

How to Reclaim Your Creativity (and Your Life)

If smartphones are really hurting our creativity, then how can we reclaim it without completely destroying our productivity in a world where we are expected to be always available? The solution is simple, although probably not easy for most people. You need to spend less time on your smartphone. Period. There is no other way to improve the situation.

Studies have shown that we spend about 4 hours every day on our smartphones. Some of that time may be necessary for work related calls, but most of it is time that could be spent away from our phones, doing real life activities. Apps such as Moment help you track your phone usage and offer insights and helpful activities on how to reduce your screen-time.

It’s also necessary to learn to say no. Work can be our life mission but it is also a way to create the life we want. In other words, we work to live and usually not the other way around. Learning to say no and putting down your smartphone after work can really help you get your life back and tap into your creativity.


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