We live in a time where our phones are glued to our wrists and seemingly embedded in our ears. We receive push notifications every fifteen minutes with breaking news and pop culture gossip. We are bombarded with text messages, emails, and workplace task reminders. It’s gotten so bad that it’s considered culturally offensive if you don’t text someone back within 24 hours. But is all this screen time good for our mental health? Below are some more reasons why your phone is making you depressed.
A survey conducted in 2019 found that 27% of American adults said that they were “almost constantly” online. You can imagine how much this number has gone up since COVID-19 has forced all of us to stay virtually connected. Whether we’re signing into Zoom for a work meeting, hopping on a conference call, FaceTiming with a friend, or going to a doctor’s appointment through a telehealth visit, there is little room in our schedules for a break from our screens.
Studies show that increased screen time leads to increased sadness. According to Healthline, “a 2017 study found that adults who watched TV or used a computer for more than 6 hours per day were more likely to experience moderate to severe depression.” Think about the last time you binge-watched a show on Netflix or sat in bed all day on your laptop--while those may have felt good at the moment, you probably didn’t feel truly better at the end of the day. You likely felt worse. That’s because, according to Healthline, “screen time is also a sedentary behavior, and high sedentary levels are linked to depression.” When our bodies aren’t physically moving, enjoying sunlight, or interacting with friends, we aren’t boosting our endorphins or our self-esteem.
When you have a computer at your fingertips, it is assumed that you are online. Our increased online availability is subsequently decreasing our boundaries with other people. When our phones are constantly on hand, we are permitting other people to contact us at all hours. We’re essentially saying that it’s OK for them to contact us, any time, day or night. Being glued to our phones also bears the assumption that we’ll respond as instantaneously as we receive the message.
Feeling like you’re always “on” is exhausting. Connectivity leads to stress and anxiety, which often lead to depression. But being accessible 24/7 is not only unenjoyable - it’s unfeasible. We are not computers; we are human beings. And human beings need rest. More specifically, our eyes need a break from screens.
The internet connects us to virtually anyone, anywhere. With faster internet brings increased connectivity. But try as you might to deny it, connecting with someone over a screen is not the same as connecting with them face-to-face. More critically, technology takes us away from our in-person relationships. Technology, though tantalizing, distracts us from those who matter in our lives. When your head is looking down at a screen, you’re less likely to look up and notice the beauty of those around you.
According to GCF Global, “one study reported that 47 percent of Americans feel they don’t have any meaningful personal connections.” Social media plays a huge factor in feelings of loneliness. Even though your friend list may be long, or your followers may be extensive, that doesn’t mean your feelings of loneliness have subsided. Online connection is merely the substitute for the real thing.
Social media heightens loneliness because it is much easier to compare yourself to others, or feel left out. When you’re constantly surrounded by other people’s successes, it's easy to start comparing your lives to theirs. And when you see photos of an event that you weren’t invited to, you feel all the more lonely. In this way, the adage “ignorance is bliss” could not ring any more true.
Rather than counting sheep, meditating, or listening to a sound machine, it’s easier to further distract our hurried minds by scrolling through social media, checking late-night emails, or texting that one friend back. But looking at your phone before bed is about the worst thing you can do for your sleep cycle, and thus your mental health. According to the National Sleep Foundation, you should disconnect from your screens about 30 minutes before bed.
Screen time leads to disrupted or insufficient sleep: “Phones cause sleep problems because of the blue light they create. This blue light can suppress melatonin, a hormone that helps control your natural sleep cycle.” Not only does the blue light from screens disrupt your sleep, but the temptation of the screen itself may keep you up at night. Melatonin is critical to deep sleep and deep sleep is critical for your mental health. There is ample research to support that poor sleep leads to poor mental health. Studies have shown that those who have sleep problems have a greater risk of developing a psychiatric disorder.
If you feel like your phone is making you depressed, try setting boundaries with your screen time. Limit screen time to work hours, if that’s easiest. Or put your phone on “do not disturb” during a set period in the day. You’ll soon find that better boundaries with yourself and better boundaries with others boosts your self-esteem and thus your mood! The more empowered you feel in your choices, the better you feel about yourself. But if you still find that your anxiety or depression is unmanageable, there are experts at SokyaHealth who can help you achieve that screen time balance that you’ve been looking for. At SokyaHealth, we holistically approach health and wellness. Our therapists have tools to help you unplug, disconnect from the world, and reconnect with yourself. Call SokyaHealth at 866-932-1767 to schedule a consultation and take control of your mental health today.