Are Our Smartphones Making Us Dumb?

By: Lauren Gordon | @MissLaurenG


Image Source

Directions to a friend’s apartment? Open Waze. Need to split the bill for lunch? Pull up Venmo. Want to share your post-lunch selfie with the world? Upload it to Instagram. All of these activities and more have become effortless with smartphones. However, according to research this light mental load is coming at a heavy cost.

A recent study from Stanford University discovered that students had problems distinguishing reliable news from promotional or fake news-even when labeled with “sponsored content”. “Many people assume that because young people are fluent in social media they are equally perceptive about what they find there,” said Professor Sam Wineburg, the lead author of the report and founder of SHEG. “Our work shows the opposite to be true.” Content is readily available on the Web, but cognitive ability is necessary to differentiate real from fake.

Multitasking has become the new normal. Conversely, an older Stanford study shows that multitaskers pay a mental price by trying to complete everything at once. Three series of studies proved that those who regularly multitask “do not pay attention, control their memory or switch from one job to another as well as those who prefer to complete one task at a time.”

When the brain has the chance to wander, it engages a collection of overlying linkages known as its “default mode,” shows research from Mary Helen Immordino-Yang, a neuroscientist at the University of Southern California. “When the brain has space to roam freely, its default mode is engaged in reliving recent experiences, connecting emotionally relevant information, and constructing narratives that make sense out of life,” Immordino-Yang explains. Unfortunately, if we seek constant entertainment from the palm of our hand we are missing out on life connections all around us.

Therefore, see a phone for what it is. A tool for communication and information. Prioritize people and real life human connections over that of electronics. To put it simply, by doing less, you might accomplish more.


Donald, Brooke. “Stanford Researchers Find Students Have Trouble Judging the Credibility of    Information Online.”Stanford Graduate School of Education. N.p., 22 Nov. 2016. Web.            26 Feb. 2017.

Gorlick, Adam. “Media Multitaskers Pay Mental Price, Stanford Study Shows.” Stanford News.   N.p., 15 Apr. 2016. Web. 26 Feb. 2017.

“Social Media: Evolution or Devolution?” Asbury Park Press. N.p., 24 Feb. 2017. Web. 26 Feb. 2017.

Published by

UNT Eagle Strategies

Class members of the social media class in the Mayborn School of Journalism