Why You’ve Got to Put Your Phone Down—Seriously

Social media can steal your memory. Find out how to cut back on screen time, just a little.
November 1, 2017

Do you have a habit of pulling out your smartphone to check your Facebook when you have some downtime? It could be hurting your short-term memory. A study by the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden found that overexposure to social media can actually reduce your memory capacity.

Related: 6 Tips to Become a Memory Master

Erik Fransén, KTH computer science professor, says the brain is easily overloaded when it browses social media and subsequently retains less information.

At any given time, the working or short-term memory can only carry three or four items, Fransén says. “When you are on Facebook, you are making it harder to keep the things that are ‘online’ in your brain that you need. You are reducing your own working memory capacity,” he says.

The bottom line? Your brain needs downtime. When it’s time to relax, then relax—don’t keep your brain active by scrolling through your phone. Or as the late Jim Rohn said, “When you work, work. When you play, play. Don’t mix the two.”

Related: 3 Places You Shouldn’t Bring Your Smartphone

How can you cut down on social media? Try these tips:

1. Plan “social media breaks.”

Rather than checking your social media profiles on your phone throughout the day, set scheduled times to get updated.

2. Time yourself.

It’s easy to get lose track of time scrolling through tweets and Facebook posts. Try cutting yourself off after five to 10 minutes.

3. Decide what’s important.

Focus on the networks that are most relevant to you. And consider which pages to unlike or unfollow and which friends to defriend to help clear up some space in your newsfeed or timeline. 


Editor’s note: This post was originally published in January 2015 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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