Bethany Biron
June 11, 2016 10:20 am
Lucia Lambriex / Getty Images

The general school of thought is that cell phones are destroying our happiness and detracting us from living in the moment.

Take Louis C.K.’s famous discussion on cell phones on Conan O’Brien in 2013. What begins as a funny discussion takes an existential turn, as the comedian discusses how cell phones prevent kids from developing real feelings and denies them the experience of sadness or loneliness.

“I think these things are toxic, especially for kids,” C.K. said on Conan. “They don’t look at people when they talk to them and they don’t build empathy.”

However, a new study by the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that people who use their cell phones are actually living in the moment more than those without.

How, you say? Through a series of nine experiments examining how much people enjoyed themselves while going sightseeing or eating lunch with or without their phones they had a surprising discovery — people enjoyed themselves way more when they were documenting their experiences.

That’s right, your Instagram habit may mean you’re actually significantly living more in the moment than without the vice.

While it may sound to good to be true, Kristin Diehl, associate professor of marketing at the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business, explained to Time how phones can actually help make you more immersed in your surroundings.

“What we find is you actually look at the world slightly differently, because you’re looking for things you want to capture, that you may want to hang onto,” Diehl said. “That gets people more engaged in the experience, and they tend to enjoy it more.”

This includes everything from a visit to the museum to lunch with friends. During a meal, the researchers found that when subjects were encouraged to take up to three photos they had much higher engagement with their food.

In general, they found that it was less the act of physically taking a picture, and more mentally determining what is worthy of photographing, and thus worthy of remembering and building memories around.

“If you want to take mental photos, that works the same way,” Diehl says. “Thinking about what you would want to photograph also gets you more engaged.”

Advertisement