People the world over have embraced the ‘digital life’; where smart devices and the internet have become the central focus, going so far as to replace human connections with binary ones. However, this digital addiction also induces feelings of anxiety, apprehension, stress and depression both during usage and when one is forced to keep away from their digital devices. This has resulted in what is now termed as ‘digital stress’; a rapidly growing physical and mental health disorder.
Depending upon behaviour and mental health impact, digital stress is classified into the following two types:
Sufferers tend to express feelings of hostility, meanness and cruelty via the internet as a result of overspending time on their devices. Examples include leaving anonymous, hateful comments against others, spreading private information on someone for purposes of humiliation, and pretending to be someone else by either hacking or creating a fake account.
For this type, digital stress manifests as a compulsion to invade others’ personal space. This is usually done by forcibly accessing others’ device and account contents without permission, pressurizing others for access to their personal accounts, and continuously sending messages where the other feels smothered and invaded.
- Panic attacks
- Social withdrawal
- Unexplained body aches
- Rebellion and bad grades in adolescents
Not only do the flashing lights, beeping, and vibrations act as visual and auditory distractions, but constantly interrupting a task to check messages and ‘updates’ divides one’s attention, reduces and negatively impacts memory, learning, and focusing ability.
LED devices emit blue light which drastically reduces melatonin (the sleep-regulating hormone) production and makes it harder to fall asleep. The destructive habit of checking one’s phone right before bed for menial matters and ending up spending more time than intended also overstimulates the brain and makes sleep difficult.
The regular digital distraction and sleep disruption combined with constant requirement to remain digitally connected blurs the lines between home and work life. This leaves one perpetually unable to fully relax and de-stress.
Since most people have replaced personal contact with digital communication, the misguided need to check on the events in others’ lives under the pretense of ‘staying in the loop’ fuels stress, anxiety, and digital overuse. Moreover, it also leads to an unhealthy depression-inducing habit of comparing one’s professional and personal live with others.
Say NO To:
24/7 work availability greatly increases digital stress. Set work time boundaries and inform your colleagues of your unavailability after a certain time. Switch off the phone or at least turn off email notifications, refrain from checking work-related updates, and leave whatever remains to the next day.
2-Screens Before Bed:
Leave all digital devices at least a half hour before bed. Not only will this improve your morning mood and productivity by reducing irritability and fatigue, but also strengthen your immune system by allowing your body to make uninterrupted nightly repairs.
3-Negative Newsfeeds and People:
Unfollow or hide the posts of people that make you depressed and/or uncomfortable, no matter your closeness to them or how popular they are. Also, do not accept every friend request that comes your way and refrain from sharing your contact details with everyone. Instead, follow people who prompt inspiration and productivity in you.
Understand that you don’t need to possess the latest phone model or partake in every ‘trending’ bit of technology and social media platform to retain your social status and make your life better. In fact, the more digital channels you are connected to, the more your stress intensifies.
Say YES To:
While a few days away from all technological media is ideal, you can also set aside some ‘disconnect’ time every day for relaxing activities like reading and yoga. Meet up with friends instead of spending time on group chats and indulge in nature instead of your music player.
Instead of dividing your attention between digital and real life, set some smartphone ground rules. Avoid smartphone usage at mealtimes, refrain from texting through the night, and put your phone on airplane mode during a long-awaited meetup with friends or family.
Digital stress may be a global phenomenon, but it is easily manageable through positive self-control. However, if you believe that your digital use is difficult to control and is negatively impacting your social life and physical well-being, do not hesitate to seek help.
You can also book an appointment with a top Psychiatrist in Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad through oladoc.com, or call our helpline at 042-3250-0444 for assistance to find the RIGHT Doctor for your mental health concerns.
About the Writer:
Yashfa Marrium is a freelance writer and health enthusiast. You can reach her at [email protected]