'What is popcorn brain and, oh god, I think I have it.'

Quick question: Do you have your phone in your hand right now? 

Sorry to tell you this but you probably have popcorn brain… Gotcha!

Jk, you are obviously on your phone to read this (unless you are the 10 per cent who read articles on your computer) and I am very grateful. 

However, if you are one of those people who constantly have your phone in your hand to the point where it could be an additional limb (guilty), you will want to read on. 

Watch: "If my brain could text me..." Post continues below.

Video via Mamamia

What is popcorn brain and do I have it?

Popcorn brain is a biological phenomenon that has been coined by psychologist Dr David Levy. It is when your brain circuitry starts to “pop” due to overstimulation from spending too much time online.

On the Diary Of A CEO podcast, global public health expert, Dr. Aditi Nerurkar said: "Popcorn brain is an affliction that nearly every single person has right now."

When we’re waiting for the bus what are we doing? We’re on our phone.

What about when we’re waiting for coffee order to be called? We’re on our phone. 

Even when we’ve grabbed a table at a busy restaurant and are waiting for our friend to get there? You get the picture.


By now you’re now in the same pool as me and going "oh… I definitely have popcorn brain."

It’s fine, don’t freak out. Dr. Aditi says that popcorn brain is not the same as internet addiction. Internet addiction interferes with your life whereas popcorn brain is a part of your life. 

People are more prone to popcorn brain when they’re stressed and it’s a phenomenon that goes back over two million years ago to the Paleolithic period (cavemen days).

"When we were cave people, there was a nightwatch person… The tribe would sleep and that person would scan for danger to keep the tribe safe... In modern times, we have all become that nightwatch person… we scroll incisively when we feel a sense of stress because it is our primal urge," Dr Aditi said. 

The reason why we are constantly scrolling on our phones is because we are scanning for danger and doing so gives us an innate sense of safety. Unfortunately, we don’t have someone doing it for us so we have become both the night watch person as well as the tribe. 

So, what can we do to lessen the burden of popcorn brain?

I know what you’re thinking: Not going on my phone is not an option (I agree). 

Not only does life in general move at a slow pace offline but most people’s quality of life is reliant on them being on the internet in some capacity, whether that be through work or to stay connected with others. 

"Studies have shown that it is not about abstinence because that actually doesn’t have a positive impact on our mental health or our wellbeing. But what does have an impact on our mental health and wellbeing is decreasing our reliance to our phones," Dr Aditi says. 


She says that our goal should be to just reconsider our relationship with our phone, which will lead to us creating digital boundaries. 

How to create digital boundaries:

Don’t keep your phone next to you when you sleep.

We’ve all heard this one before and yet not enough of us are doing it. Host of the Diary of a CEO podcast Stephen Bartlett says, "Studies have shown that 62 per cent of people will check their phones within 15 minutes of waking up, and about 50 per cent will check them in the middle of the night."

Keeping your phone away from you when you’re asleep will decrease your levels of stress in the morning over time. 

Honour your breaks. 

Dr Aditi recommends that taking two to four 10-minute breaks in the day can have a cumulative impact on your stress levels. It’s been proven that taking breaks helps with productivity, your mood and energy levels.  

Be observant every time you look at your phone. 

The average person touches their phone 2,617 times a day. Every time you go in to look at your phone, make note of why you’re doing it. Soon you’ll be more observant and might even stop yourself from meaningless phone pickups resulting in creating healthier boundaries between the relationship you have with your technology. 

What do you think of popcorn brain? Tell us in the comments!

If you want more culture opinions by Emily Vernem, you can follow her on Instagram @emilyvernem. 

Feature image: Canva

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