We're In A Relationship With Our Phones - Let's Talk About It
A lot of us talk about how social media can impact our mental and physical health as well as our relationships with ourselves and other people. While this is an important conversation that needs to be had, we mustn’t forget that technology itself can be just as unhealthy. Think about it. How many hours do you spend on the computer, on your phone or other device, whether it is for leisure or for work? Our phone is probably the first thing that we look at in the morning, then we spend almost the whole day looking at a computer screen for work, only to go to bed and strain our eyes at night on a small screen. Some of us even use two digital devices simultaneously. Since most of us are indoors it is a lot more tempting to keep picking up our phones too.
There is no doubt that we need technology, especially since the pandemic has shifted school work and office work online. Phones also allow us to text, call or facetime our friends, work colleagues and family who may be far away from us and this is a lifeline for many people’s social life. We need some form of human connection for our wellbeing, especially during lonely lockdowns. However, spending too much time on our devices can have an adverse effect on us. It can impact on our mental health, sleep, productivity and motivational levels and relationships with people in our household.
According to Frontiers in Psychiatry, phone and technology addiction can mean losing interest in other activities, feeling irritable or uneasy if separated from your phone, or feeling anxiety or loneliness when you’re unable to send or receive an immediate message. Some people are addicted to their phones because they are trying to suppress negative emotions and use their phone as a coping mechanism. Although this may temporarily distract users, eventually that suppression of emotion will worsen their mental health. In addition, social media posts endless news content as well as toxic positivity content. When you’re exposed to such endless harmful content for too long it can have an impact on your mental health and even exacerbate pre-existing anxieties.
We struggle to sleep when we spend too much time on our phones at night because blue light interferes with the release of melatonin, which naturally regulates our sleep, because it creates the impression that it is still day time. Not getting enough sleep means that our productivity and motivational levels the next day will be lower than it would be when we get a good night sleep. Phones can put a strain on your eyes and I know that when my eyes have sunk into my phone for far too long I start to get headaches.
Depending on how often you are picking up your phone it can affect your motivational levels and productivity. When I was at university I would leave my phone in a separate room from where I was studying because mobile notifications were distracting. Even if I placed my phone faced down to avoid the screen glaring at me when a notification popped up, there was always the temptation to quickly flip my phone around to see if I had received any notifications. If I did my motivational levels would drop and it was bye bye productivity and hello to another two hours being needlessly on my phone. This is unsurprising since the University of California Irvine found that it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to the deep focus you had on a task once you have been distracted. The American Psychological Association also discovered that even brief distractions can cause you to lose as much as 40% of your productive time.
What do I mean by devices can affect our relationships with people in our household? Well think of this scenario. Your sister is on her phone most of the time and you only really see her when it’s time for dinner. It can be pretty lonely. When you are speaking with her she is not giving you eye contact or listening to you properly because she is on her phone. This can cause frustrations to build up and eventually cause arguments. We can be so engrossed in our phones that everything else around us becomes muffled and blurry. As much as phones help us to connect with others, they can also isolate us from those we live with. A healthy balance is key.
Of course there are times that we cannot avoid being on our device whether it is for work, school or university, but we can try to use our screen time wisely outside of work hours.
So what can I do to have a healthier relationship with my phone? Try the things listed below:
· Try to get out and about, even if it is just going for a walk. You are less likely to pick up your phone when you are not at home.
· When you’re at home spend time doing your hobbies. Cook, exercise, read, write, play a musical instrument. Anything that is away from your phone.
· Do not use your phone where you do not need to like at the dinner table, during family time or even in the bathroom.
· Delete apps that you don’t use or benefit from. Turn off notifications on apps that you do not need notifications from. The lesser apps you have on your phone the better because it will stop you from jumping from one app to the other and prevent you from getting sucked into the scrolling for hours.
· Colours on our phone draw us in. If you set your screen to appear monochrome during work hours it will reduce the appeal to pick up your phone.
· Try to create a schedule of when you will look at your phone for leisure and monitor how long you are on your phone for.
· Resist the temptation to check your phone when you wake up first thing and when you are settling down for bed. An hour before bedtime, put your phone away and in the morning get into a routine that is focused on you. Enjoy having tea in the back garden, journal, cook a delicious breakfast or some yoga.
To conclude, technology is great but like all things it must be used in moderation. Making small changes everyday like using your phone at allocated times or putting it away when it's time for bed will guide you on the path to a healthier relationship with your phone. Small steps eventually become a habit. Our mental health, sleep, productivity and motivational levels and relationships with people in our household are much more important than the excessive hours we spend on technology.