Social Media Pitfalls

How Social Media Can Affect Our Mental Well-Being

Do you ever have a hard time putting your phone down? Do you make promises to put it down and then find it in your hands 5 minutes later without even realizing it? You aren’t the only one. Our phones are now a staple in our lives. They save us in dangerous situations and keep us connected to the people we love. We have instant access to everything we want through our screens. The flip side though, is that we spend anywhere from 3 to 10 hours a day looking at a screen. So, while these little devices add so much opportunity and convenience into our lives, they have the potential to wreak havoc as well.

Screen time increased dramatically when the pandemic hit, and it hasn’t slowed down. The average daily screen time for a 10-year-old is 6 hours! Studies show that excessive phone use is associated with negative mental health symptoms and psychological problems. It’s a dilemma we’ve never had before, and now it’s important to work on our relationships to these convenient gadgets.

When we’re mindfully using our phones, there is no harm done. In fact, there are many positives to having a smartphone at our disposal. However, it’s hard to deny the addictive qualities when we find ourselves checking for notifications every few minutes. More and more these days we spend time mindlessly scrolling without a purpose, and that’s where we hit dangerous territory. Here are just a few ways that spending too much time behind a screen can affect our lives.

 

Shorter Attention Span

Life is full of distractions. Smartphones happen to be at the top of that list. The average person gets between 65 and 80 notifications per day. Is it really a mystery that you can’t seem to focus? Imagine being tapped on the shoulder every 10 to 15 minutes. A shorter attention span affects important parts of our lives, such as our performance at work and communicating with others.

 

Fear of Missing Out

Our digital worlds are filled with people doing and accomplishing things, and we get a front row seat. The problem is that we end up feeling like we’re missing out on something exciting or like our own lives aren’t as important. This fear of missing out is increasingly common and can cause significant amounts of stress and anxiety.

 

Sleep Deprivation

After a long and busy day at work, a lot of us just want to relax on the couch and scroll through our phones. One thing leads to another and it’s almost time for bed. The blue light emitted by our screens prohibits our bodies production of melatonin, which controls our sleep-wake cycle. Using our phones right before we close our eyes not only makes it difficult to go to sleep, but it’s that much harder to wake up in the morning. Without quality sleep, we’re likely to feel more anxious and depressed.

 

Poor Self Esteem

We’ve come to rely on the images and messages on our feeds to tell us how we measure up with the rest of the world. Unfortunately, this is a poor strategy that only leads to dissatisfaction in our own lives. Enter the comparison trap – a problematic behavior of comparing ourselves to others based on what we see online. When we rely too much on this form of social comparison, our self-esteem diminishes, and we often develop symptoms of anxiety and depression.

 

Tips To Spend Less Time Behind a Screen

Keep Devices Out of Routines

Checking our notifications first thing in the morning affects our productivity. It’s generally not a great way to start your day. Try buying an alarm clock and keeping your phone away from your bed. Avoid checking it during the first hour you’re awake. You can also avoid using your phone during mealtimes and when you go to the bathroom.

Mute and Block Negativity

There’s no shortage of negativity online, and it has a profound effect on our mental health. Thankfully, you can take control of this by deleting everything that doesn’t serve you. Pay close attention to the accounts that make you feel scarcity or general unease and get them off of your screen.

Turn Off Notifications

Having every like and comment pop up on our phones is as distracting as it is unnecessary. Turning off our social media notifications will encourage you to make less reaches for your phone.

Use App Time Limits

Thankfully, we have a new time limit feature on our phones. Using this feature should be a no-brainer. You can go a step further and have a friend or family member set the passcode for you, so you don’t feel inclined to bypass it.

Detox Regularly

Scheduling time away from our screens is becoming a popular habit. This can be done at any interval that feels right for you. You can either choose to detox once a week or a few hours each night. The important thing is that you intentionally take time to be away from your phone.

 

Need Help?

Our phones have a way of simplifying our lives, but too much convenience can often do more harm than good. If you find yourself in a cycle of digital abuse that leaves you constantly feeling anxious or depressed, consider seeking guidance from a trusted psychologist or counselor.

Here at Dr. Messina and Associates, our compassionate team of professionals are qualified to help you at our Flower Mound, Texas, and Southlake, Texas, offices. Our Psychologists, Psychiatrists, and Counselors specialize in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), psychological testing, and medication management for a variety of emotional and behavioral health needs. All services are available in-person and online (telehealth). If you or a loved one are seeking help with mental health, we are here to help.

Author
Dr. Michael Messina

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