Social Media and Mental Health (Part 2)
5 Ways to reduce anxiety and distractedness caused by smartphone usage
Last week I discussed the link between mental health trends and smartphone usage.
To quickly recap, smartphone usage clearly holds the potency to influence mental health. The degree of impact depends on an individual’s personality, predisposition to mood disorders, addictive tendencies, and one's quality of online activity.
After 3 months of sifting through research, writing two papers, and creating a collaborative podcast on the topic, I keep trying to return back to my underlying “why”. Why does this topic matter to me and what do I want others to gain from this information?
Upon further reflection, I have decided that my intentions behind this semester-long escapade are two-fold. I want smartphone users to understand the power this little device holds over them, as they go to check it every 5-15 minutes and look at it hundreds of times per day. Additionally, I hope these revelations disturb readers enough to question its role in their own life. We should be asking ourselves,
“Is checking social media every 5 minutes assisting my productivity?”
“Is it an overwhelmingly positive element of my daily practice or does it hold the potential to be toxic?”
“Do I feel better about myself after scrolling social media? Or does it illicit self-defeating thoughts?”
Today, I want to present 5 strategies for minimizing smartphone induced anxiety and distractedness. While these tips are not intended for complete prevention or treatment of mental health disorders (NOR DO I HAVE THE LICENSE OR CAPABILITY TO DO SO), my hope is that these tips might improve one’s mood, productivity, and general wellbeing.
Sleep with your smartphone in a separate room from you so that you are not tempted to check it in the middle of the night. Turn off / disconnect from your smartphone AT LEAST 1 hour before bed.
Turn off smartphone alerts when working on a task to minimize distractions. If possible, keep your phone out of sight. Even turning your phone face down is a good start.
Statistics show that users can only focus on a task for 15 minutes before they once again become distracted by their phone, with 5 of those minutes spent unable to focus on the task at hand. In order to build up endurance to undistracted work, set timers on your phone for 15 minutes of quality, attentive work. Reward yourself with a 2-minute break to check social media and respond to quick text messages, and then return to work for 15 minutes, keeping the smartphone out of sight. As levels of undistracted work improve, increase these periods to 20, 30, or 60+ minutes.
Block out a segment of your day specifically for managing emails or responding to client text messages. Instead of feeling the pressure to constantly respond to them, try to limit it to a 1-2 hour window where you can knock them out all at once (this may not apply to certain professions)
If you indeed notice yourself feeling down or depressed after using social media, try to find new activities to replace the time spent aimlessly scrolling. Wind down with a good book at the end of the day. Call your badass mother and tell her how much you love her. Go for a walk, write in a journal, take a hot bath, do something for YOU! Then reevaluate your mood and levels of productivity. Have they improved?
I am far from perfect and definitely struggled with letting that little device negatively affect me. I am on my phone all day for work, and sometimes I am amazed at how draining it can be. Nevertheless, when I try to implement these tips, I i