If you're like many Americans, your smartphone is nearly always in your hand. According to a recent study by the American Psychological Association, four out of every five Americans report constantly checking their social media accounts, emails and text messages. All this checking can do a number on your mental health for several reasons.
The APA measures stress levels on a scale from 1 to 10, with 1 being "little to no stress" and 10 signifying "a great deal of stress." Of those surveyed, people who constantly check their phones and social media accounts reported an average stress level of 5.3, compared with a level of 4.4 for people who don't check in as often. People who check their work emails on their phones when not in the office reported an average stress level of 6. "What these individuals don’t consider is that while technology helps us in many ways, being constantly connected can have a negative impact on both their physical and mental health," says Dr. Lynn Bufka, the APA's associate executive director for practice research and policy.
"Taking a digital detox is one of the most helpful ways to manage stress related to technology use," Bufka says. About two-thirds of Americans agree with her: While 65 percent of survey respondents agree that digital disconnect once in a while can help them relax, only 28 percent reported actually taking steps to do that. Parents in particular have a difficult time managing both their own screen time and their children's. It's important to set a good example for children on how to use technology in healthy, beneficial ways, and limiting time on social media is one of the most effective ways to send that message.
Tips for Management
The American Psychological Association offers several tips for managing social media time. First, keep your phone away from you while driving to prevent unsafe driving habits. Try to keep it out of your bed as well; using a smartphone during bedtime can impair the body's production of melatonin, the sleep hormone. Limit social media use to only a few designated times per day, and disable your notifications so you're not constantly distracted with new updates. Make downtime from social media a priority each day, and let friends and family know about your intentions so they don't unintentionally sabotage your efforts.
Social media is a convenient and innovative form of communication when used in moderation. If you start relying too much on social media updates to get through the day, it begins to take its toll on your sanity. Use the tips listed above to help yourself disconnect from time to time and enjoy life in the real world.
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