Phones have become such a staple in society, it’s rare to sit through a meal or commute across the city without taking a peek on Facebook or Twitter.
It’s a never-ending stream of hyperactivity – even saying that is exhausting – that’s making it difficult for these high-frequency internet users to pay attention, even when they’re away from the web.
New research finds that the most frequent mobile phone and internet users are the most likely to be distracted; for example, missing an important appointment or daydreaming in a conversation.
‘Cognitive failures’ are more likely to occur the more times a person uses the internet or their mobile phone, according to an academic from Leicester’s De Montfort University. This was the first study of its kind.
These cognitive failures include a whole range of blunders, and a general lack of awareness of a person’s surroundings. Even something as simple as people forgetting why they’ve just gone from one part of the house to the other can be a result, says Dr. Lee Hadlington, author of the research.
He’s still unsure whether the most digitally active people are more distracted because their excessive online activity makes them jittery, or whether it’s the other way around. It could be a mix of both, with those people already suffering from short attention spans being drawn to the distractions of modern technology. This in turn makes it more difficult to notice their surroundings.
“This is a very underexamined area and a very important one. We are using technology on a daily basis but we don’t understand its effect on us,” Dr. Hadlington said.
“We don’t know what’s actually happening to our cognition when we are using this technology and that’s the important thing. What we do know from this research is that there are some statistically significant numbers of people who say they use the internet or their phone a lot and who experience cognitive failures.”