Can’t put down the phone? How smartphones are changing our brains — and lives

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By Lynne Peeples

Until a year and a half ago, Samuel Veissiere’s smartphone was the last thing he saw before he fell asleep and the first thing that greeted him when he woke up. During the day, the device bombarded him with constant notifications — from four different email accounts as well as Instagram, Facebook, WhatsApp, Reddit and Twitter.

“It was abominable,” said Veissiere, co-director of the Culture, Mind and Brain Program at McGill University in Montreal.

It’s also a daily storyline familiar to many of us. In the U.S., at least three of every four people now own a smartphone. And one estimate suggests that Americans touch their mobile devices more than 2,600 times a day on average. But what do all those pings and buzzes, scrolls and swipes actually add up to? Is it worrisome — or not so much? After all, Socrates once warned that writing would “introduce forgetfulness” and make people “difficult to get along with.”

“I think we know enough now to be deeply concerned about how these very, very powerful and seductive devices are influencing pretty much every aspect of our life,” said Nicholas Carr, a technology and culture author.

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