There was a time, not so long ago, when phones were only used for receiving incoming or making outgoing calls. They were found in a fixed location within homes and they were tethered to a cord limiting your range of movement depending on the length of the cord. Nowadays, our smartphones allow us to be located wherever in the world giving us free range of movement as long as we are within distance of a cell phone tower giving us good reception.
Thanks to technology, this phone freedom has opened up a brand new world of not only making or receiving calls, but also texting, checking our emails and social media, snapping photos, facetime, surfing the net and all the other gizmos and gadgets creative cell phone developers can come up with. What this has created though is the fact we are tied to our phones more than ever. Whether that’s good or bad depends on your philosophy. It used to be considered rude to check your phone when out to dinner or engaged with people in real life, but constant phone checking has become quite commonplace. Walk down any busy sidewalk in a major metropolitan city and you will easily find people intently looking at their smartphones barely looking up to see where they are going.
The only problem is this constant interaction and checking of our cell phones is causing undue stress according to the American Psychological Association (APA). The APA has an annual Stress in America survey and for 2017, it has found that technology and the use of social media is affecting our stress levels, happiness, and wellbeing. A notable finding was too many of us are checking our phone too often which is linked to higher levels of stress. According to the survey, 74% of Americans own an internet-connected smartphone while 55% own a tablet and about nine in 10 have a computer. We are a well-connected nation.
Consider the fact that back in 2005, only 7% of adults in America used social media which skyrocketed to 65% who were connected to social media in 2015. Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, Twitter, and LinkedIn are examples of the many and various ways we can easily be checking out phones 24/7.
The rise in social media and internet-connected devices means more of us are in the habit of checking our phones for emails, texts, and social media posts. According to the survey, 43% of Americans are constantly checking their phones all day long and into the night.
Smartphone use and stress
Why would frequent checking of your cellphone be a source of stress? Here are some reasons why:
- Effects on health – eye and neck strain, attempts at reading too small of print, and the effect on mental health are all concerns of constant checking of your phone. Social media in particular has been linked to reduced happiness and wellbeing and increased levels of stress as well.
- Constant checking on the political and cultural climate – This is a hot button topic as political discussions and cultural disagreements are often played out on social media. When reading or actively engaging in these fiery discussions, it can lead to anger, hypertension, and feelings of negativity towards others we might otherwise get along with fine. There is a reason why it is wise to not engage in discussions of politics or religion in casual conversation unless you are going to be open-minded.
- Feeling disconnected – Revelations from the study also found those who check social media the most also feel the least connected. When viewing social media, other people’s lives seem more fun and perfect than yours, leading to feelings of inadequacy. Getting together with friends or family in person has been reduced over the year’s thanks in part to social media. Why do we need to see one another in person when we already know what’s going on in their lives and how they look from postings on social media platforms?
How to limit yourself on constantly checking your phone
Many of us are realizing the threat of perpetual looking at our phones. We don’t need to know every time someone posts something on social media or to be searching the web frequently. Like the saying goes “moderation in everything,” this also applies to the use of our cellphones. We can learn to limit our time spent on a device that takes our focus away from what is really going on around us – the beauty of nature, looking into a real person’s eyes or just enjoying the moment without being plugged in. If you find yourself too often glued to looking at your smartphone or other electronic device screen instead of what’s going on around you, here are some strategies to break that habit:
- Restrict being online to only certain times of the day.
- Make it a rule to keep your phone on “sleep mode” and check it only one time an hour.
- Get rid of too many apps as they can only lead to mindlessly checking your phone.
- Make a pact with friends, each of you will not check your phones when together.
- Do not have any electronics in your bedroom – no computer, smartphone, laptop, tablets or any other device with a screen. Your bedroom is a sanctuary for sleep and sexual activity and not for constant screen time.
Develop more positive habits separate from smartphone use – meditation, yoga, Pilates, other forms of exercise or any other new habit that gets you into becoming more conscious of the present moment, the here and now. This healthy habit will make much easier to take your eyes off your phone and more on your everyday surroundings.