A couple of months ago I was lounging on my couch watching TV and snacking on Stacy’s Pita Chips. The cinnamon sugar ones are my favorite —they’re just sweet enough to feel like a dessert, but they have a satisfying crunch almost like a potato chip. During a commercial, I started to scroll through Instagram on my phone, and almost immediately I found myself looking at a promoted post for Stacy’s pita chips.
It’s not that strange to see an ad on Instagram these days — in fact, some are so stealthily designed they look like they could be actual posts from friends. But I’d never seen an ad for Stacy’s anywhere that I could remember, let alone on Instagram. And now suddenly I’m eating them and they pop up on my screen.
Smartphone apps do a lot of things these days. They can turn on your home thermostat, test your blood-alcohol content, and even diagnose car trouble. One thing they apparently can’t do, however, is eliminate human error from processes that require consistent decision making. Such as birth control.
You may have heard of Natural Cycles, the fertility app designed by Swedish physicists. It was the first app in the world to be certified by the European Union as a form of contraception, and as of late 2017 had more than 600,000 users in 160 countries. Based on an algorithm using a woman’s basal body temperature to predict fertility, Natural Cycles was reported to have an effectiveness rate around 93 percent — comparable to that of the oral contraceptive pill.
This is the age of the smartphone. Studies show that people spend over four hours a day on their smartphones – while walking the dog, boarding the bus, ordering coffee, watching television. Sixty-nine percent of people even admit to using their smartphones in the bathroom. (And come on, we all know that’s low.) This is nearly double the time people spent on their smartphones in 2012, with use continuing to rise.
In addition to the future of human social interaction, there’s another less obvious issue with excessive cellphone use, according to Manoush Zomorodi, author of the new book Bored and Brilliant: How Spacing Out Can Unlock Your Most Productive and Creative Self. With all this distraction constantly at our literal fingertips, people no longer get bored. And according to Zomorodi and a host of scientists, that’s a big problem.
If you’re like most people, you sleep with your smartphone within reach. Maybe you’re even guilty of doing some pre-bed emailing, Facebook scrolling or news reading. Scientists say that evening ritual may be hurting your sleep.