Dr Mark Williams Neuroscience Professor Author Speaker Facilitator
Smart Phones are making us dumb!
August 5, 2019
Dr Mark Williams Neuroscience Professor Author Speaker Facilitator


There is now a phenomenon called 'Phantom Vibration Syndrome'. It occurs when someone regularly has their phone set to vibrate. They feel phantom vibrations on their leg - even when their phone is not present. Up to 90% of US University students experience these phantom vibrations.

How long do they last?

To learn more, a US researcher took a group of students out camping. There was no network service but, to be really sure, he took their smart phones away from them. After 4 days of no smart phone use many students still experienced phantom buzzes. They were so addicted to their phones that their brains created an illusion that a non-existent phone was buzzing.


We don’t know why this phenomenon occurs. It appears to be more than a habit created by regularly turning your phone to 'vibrate'. We do know it's more prevalent in people who feel reliant on their phone. Attachment anxiety has been shown to predict the frequency of 'phantom vibration' experiences. Attachment anxiety is associated with insecurity in interpersonal relationships. This naturally leads us to social media use which is prevalent in individuals with attachment anxiety.

Social Media

Voice calls are just one feature of the computer-in-our-pocket Smartphones fo course. Much more time is spent on Social media - particularly amongst teenagers. Sadly, increased time spent on social media is a good indication of potential mental health issues. Ironically, the more online 'friends' a teenager has, the fewer they have in real life.

Fear of Missing Out (FOMO)

FOMO has become an issue amongst teenagers of today. The convergence of smartphones, 24/7 connection and the explosion of social media, has resulted in an unhealthy trifecta. Teenagers now compulsively check for updates as they are bombarded with images of virtual friends having fun. Of course, these images are carefully orchestrated and often do not show reality. Unfortunately, it is driving FOMO that is driving a need to always be connected. As a result, we have a generation addicted to their smartphones.

Decrease in Drugs/Increase in Depression

An interesting bi-product of this current addiction is that drug-taking amongst teens is at its lowest since the 70s. It’s suggested that this is due to good drug education and also because many teenagers now prefer to be on social media than out in the real world. The sad consequence is depression is at an all-time high. Since smartphones and social media appeared, depression in teenagers has increased dramatically. There is a direct correlation between the hours spent on social media and likelihood of suicide.

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All the best!
Dr Mark Williams
Neuroscience Professor, Author, Speaker & Facilitator

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