Skip to content

The power of cell phones

Are cell phones bad for your mental health?

Do you control your smartphone? Or does it control you?

Do you purposely decide when you unlock your “beloved” phone? Or do you occasionally catch yourself scrolling through the same newsfeed for the third time?

Almost 84% of people worldwide use smartphones. On average, we spend a whopping 4.8 hours daily on our mobile phones watching the news, scrolling on social media, playing games, or staying updated with the latest notifications.

We check our mobile phones every 12 minutes. It is the first thing we do after waking up and the last activity before bed. Many intelligent professionals continue to find new ways to get us hooked on cell phones, applications, and platforms.

But why are cell phones bad for your mental health?

An overreliance on cell phones can harm our mental health. Excessive cell phone use can negatively affect sleep, cognitive control, academic performance, and socioeconomic functioning and is linked to anxiety and depression.

Are cell phones bad for your mental health?

Attention span

Smartphones function as our personal libraries. The caveat? We forget many things and can’t maintain concentration.

Even having a phone in proximity can already negatively impact concentration. A smartphone reminds your brain of connectivity and socializing, detracting attention from actual tasks.

Mobile phones might even make us dumber – a fascinating 2005 study demonstrated that continuous interruptions led to a temporary 10-point decrease in IQ.


We spend the entire day micromanaging different tasks due to smartphones. Answering texts. Checking our newsfeeds. Responding to emails. All these actions demand much cognitive capacity.

And when we decide not to answer a text immediately, we still exhaust additional resources thinking about the unanswered message.

Social media and changing relationships

Smartphones and social media platforms have undeniably changed our social relationships. We work, think, and operate differently. And we are more connected than ever.

Social media and smartphones ensure that we can see the “beautiful lives” of our connections. We are doing something boring at home, while our connections go on amazing trips with gorgeous people.

Social comparison can adversely impact social and interpersonal relationships. Negative online interactions are linked to mental distress, self-injurious behavior, and even suicidality.


One interesting phenomenon that contributing to the high mobile phone use is FOMO (Fear of Missing Out).

Mobile technology allows us to see all events we miss. Others might have rewarding experiences and share them online. And we are not part of it.

As a result, we may experience loneliness and depression, and impaired face-to-face communication.


With entire libraries of information on our smartphones, we may engage in a practice called doomscrolling: “endlessly scrolling through and consuming accurate and essential, but negative news.”

For example, the (recent) pandemic has immensely influenced the news. Every day, newspapers reported on the number of Covid-19 cases and fatalities. As we want to stay updated, we indulge in negative news without realizing the potential adverse effects.

Cell phones and mental health


Create Interferences

The first straightforward step is creating interferences. For instance, you can use the “elastic band trick.” You put an elastic band around your phone to create awareness each time you pick up your phone.

Another idea is changing the background of your phone into something that reminds you of not unlocking your phone unnecessarily.

Remove distractions

Next to creating interferences, it is vital to remove distractions. Therefore, we should turn off as many notifications as possible.

Removing distracting apps from your home screen, moving applications to different folders, and deleting social media apps (or only using social media on your browser) are among many great options.

We can even become addicted to our phones’ rewarding, bright colors. Changing the colors of our phones to grayscale helps remove the shiny rewards that colorful icons provide.

Plan non-phone time

The first step to controlling your usage is planning considerate time without your phone. Set alarms every fifteen minutes to check your phone for a designated time. Afterward, you can increase the non-phone time to 30 minutes, 45 minutes, and onwards. To reduce pressure, it helps to inform your social circle that you will respond less quickly.

To monitor yourself, I find the app Forest very useful. Forest encourages less smartphone use by planting trees around the world.

Invest in offline skills

A 2014 study has shown that the rate of cell phone addiction decreased with improved mental health. The study builds on the hypothesis that a link exists between people with high mobile phone use, lower self-esteem, and poor social relationships in real life.

To become less dependent on the effects of smartphones (and social media), we should focus on developing good offline skills, practices, and relationships. Ultimately, we are less influenced by what is happening in the “digital cell phone world” if we are steady in the real world.

We should ensure that we actively consider how we control our phones. Not the other way around.