While technology and social media have their advantages, a growing amount of research is proving that the overuse of both might be making us sick. Millennials (individuals with birth years ranging from the early 1980s to the early 2000s) are the most digitally connected generation. When it comes to social media they are biggest consumers, spending about 3.8 hours a day according to one report.
Smartphone users check their phones up to 110 times a day and up to every six seconds in the evening. They also check Facebook an average of 14 times a day. In 2011, Nielsen found that Americans spent almost 1 in every 5 minutes online on social media sites — by last year, that amount had climbed to 1 in every 4.3 minutes.
Here are five signs that the overuse of your smartphone and social media might be negatively affecting you:
1. You’re worried you’re missing out.
Have you ever felt left out after seeing a picture of your best friends adventuring or partying it up without you? FOMO for short, Fear of Missing Out is a form of social anxiety mostly associated with smartphones and social networking sites in which one is worried he or she might miss a social interaction, experience or satisfying event. Our increased dependence on the Internet has caused some of us to feel anxious when we feel disconnected, which can lead to a feeling of missing out on significant events.
2. Being away from your phone makes you anxious.
Peter Whybrow, the director of the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA has likened computers (and smart phones) to “electronic cocaine” — giving us emotional highs and lows throughout the day. One study in the United Kingdom found that smartphone users have developed a condition deemed Nomophobia, which is described as an intense fear of losing or becoming disconnected from one’s cell phone. A similar study even found that 75 percent of those surveyed used their smartphones in the bathroom. The study also found that 77 percent of people ages 18 to 24 have been found to be Nomophobic.
3. Your self-esteem has taken a hit.
One study discovered that that more than 50 percent of surveyed social media users honestly felt that using Facebook, Instagram and Twitter decreased their personal wellbeing. They felt these networking sites had an overall negative effect on their lives and felt that it was damaging to their self-esteem. While the way networking sites influence personal wellbeing is ultimately up to the individual, it is important to be aware of how these sites may be making you feel.
4. You sleep with your phone.
An astounding 83% say they sleep with their smartphones. When we let our smartphones invade the sheets and bedside, we’re setting ourselves up for less sleep and ultimately, lower productivity levels the following day. Smartphones let off blue light, which tells our body it’s morning time as there are larger amounts of blue light than red light let off in the AM hours.
It’s important to always remember that we are wired for in-person interaction and the online world is no substitute for the real thing.
5. You feel less connected.
Contrary to what you may think, being hyper connected online can actually backfire, leading to feelings of loneliness. Studies have shown that increased Internet usage coincides with increased loneliness. On the other hand, another study found people that spent less time socializing on Facebook and more time with real-life friends were less likely to be depressed. It’s how you use social media that matters — if you use it in moderation to engage, rather than merely observe, chances are you’re less likely to feel disconnected. It’s important to always remember that we are wired for in-person interaction and the online world is no substitute for the real thing.
Imagine the time you spend on social media or plugged into your phone and the possibilities of what you could do with that time if you gave it back to yourself to spend as you wish. Give yourself permission to dream about what you could do with that time. Write that novel. Volunteer. Take that trip. Read more books. Taking a cleanse from social media and detoxing from negative behaviors with your smartphone can give you a clean slate of sorts, allowing you to cultivate new, healthier habits and put boundaries in place. We suggest three types of digital detoxes: a 15 day cleanse from social media, a 30 day cleanse, or a part-day cleanse in which you refrain from using social media or your phone first thing in the morning and two to three hours before bed. Give it a shot and be surprised by how much more time you have in a day.
Will you be taking a social media break anytime soon? Why or why not?
Image via Melissa Barrett