How does texting affect your brain?

Have you ever wondered how texting affects your brain? Well, wonder no more! We’ve got the scoop on all the ways that sending those LOLs and emojis is impacting your gray matter. From dopamine levels to attention spans, read on for our hilarious take on this fascinating topic.

The Dopamine Dilemma

Did you know that every time you get a notification on your phone, your brain releases dopamine? That’s right – that little buzz or ding sends pleasure signals straight to your noggin. And as we all know (or maybe not), dopamine is responsible for regulating feelings of reward and reinforcement.

But here’s where things get tricky: when you’re constantly checking your phone and receiving notifications, it can lead to an overabundance of dopamine in the brain. It’s like taking too many hits off a joint (not that we would know anything about that…). And just like with drugs or alcohol (not saying we condone those either), increased exposure leads to decreased sensitivity over time. So eventually, those constant notifications won’t be as exciting anymore.

In short (pun intended): texting may be giving us temporary joy kicks, but it could have long-lasting effects if we’re not careful.

Attention Span Anguish

Let’s be real: who among us hasn’t checked their phone during an important meeting/class/movie/awkward date? We all have pretty short attention spans these days (SQUIRREL!), thanks in part to our dependence on technology.

Studies show^(1)  that using smartphones can decrease cognitive capacity even when they’re not actually being used. In other words (err…shorter sentence) , simply having access to our phones makes it harder for us to focus on tasks at hand.

Cognitive Task % Time Spent Off-Task
No Phone 10%
Face Down Phone 20%
Face Up Phone 30%

Even having our phones face-up on the table next to us can lead to a decline in cognitive ability. So maybe try leaving your phone outside of the bathroom next time (just kidding, that’s disgusting)  you’re sitting down for some quality reading material.

Sleep Struggles

We’ve all heard that using technology before bed is bad for sleep. But why exactly? Well, there are two main reasons:

  1. Blue light exposure: Your phone (as well as any other electronic devices) emits blue light which messes with your body’s production of melatonin – the hormone responsible for regulating sleep.
  2. Mental stimulation: Texting, social media (oh hey Facebook! Haven’t wasted enough hours scrolling today…) and games can all be mentally stimulating activities that get our brains fired up instead of winding down.

So what does this mean for us night owls who have trouble putting the phone away?

Try setting up a “no-phone zone” at least an hour before bed where you switch off from technology or use an app like Flux to decrease blue light emission from screens^(2).

Emotionally Charged Conversations

Raise your hand if you’ve ever gotten into a heated text exchange with someone close to you? That should pretty much cover everyone (we know it wasn’t just us sending drunk texts last weekend…)

The thing about texting is that it’s often devoid of tone context and nonverbal cues we’d otherwise use in face-to-face interactions. This can make messages come across as more hostile than intended or cause misunderstandings ^(3).

In fact, research has shown(there we go again,) that participants in one study were consistently overconfident about their ability to detect sarcasm in text messages. Meanwhile, those who actually NEEDED to detect sarcasm (people with autism) found it almost impossible^(4).

So the next time you’re tempted to have a deep conversation via text, consider picking up the phone…or better yet, having a face-to-face chat!

Memory Meltdown

Remember when our parents used to tell us that writing things down helps us remember them better? Well, turns out there was some truth to that old adage. Studies suggest^(5) that physically recording information creates stronger pathways in the brain compared to simply typing notes on a computer or -you guessed it- texting.

This could be because writing requires more cognitive engagement and fine motor skills than just tapping keys. So if you’re trying to remember something important (like your boss’s birthday so you can avoid getting fired), try jotting it down by hand instead of sending yourself a reminder message^(6).

Conclusion: To Text or Not To Text?

While texting definitely has its benefits (hello convenience!), it’s clear that we need balance in order for our brains and bodies to function at full capacity. So next time (yes there WILL be a next time) you feel like firing off 48 texts consecutively..just take a deep breath…and maybe give someone an actual call instead. Or play solitaire without notification pings interrupting your focus……hmm….nah! Let’s continue feeding the addiction! 🙂


1: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28941083
2: https://justgetflux.com/
3: http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/jcom.12217
4: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/11/the-sensitivity-reader/407826/
5: http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/2325967117742114
6: https://www.psychologicalscience.org/news/releases/take-notes-by-hand-for-better-long-term-comprehension.html

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