Spending too much time online can harm your mental health. Even though we’re aware it’s not ideal to be online all the time, many of us struggle to disconnect from our screens. Recent studies reveal that reducing screen time can be beneficial, as excessive screen use can increase stress levels and have a negative impact on our mental well-being.
When we use our phones, we’re connected to the online world. However, even when we’re not actively using our phones, we often find ourselves preoccupied with thoughts about being online or what we might be missing out on. Researchers from Germany have coined the term “online vigilance” to describe this phenomenon. They define it as a constant mental focus on online content and communication, along with a strong inclination to constantly engage with these online options. This state of online vigilance has an impact on our brains. The researchers identified three dimensions of online vigilance: salience (persistent thoughts about the online world), reactability (the urge to respond to notifications), and monitoring (frequently checking our devices). Their findings were published in the journal Human Communication Research in December 2020.
Constantly being vigilant and engaged online can make us more stressed. This is because it involves multitasking, which is inherently stressful. Recent research explored the connection between online vigilance and stress levels. The findings, published in Human Communication Research, revealed that multitasking, along with the constant cognitive focus on online communication, contributes to increased stress. Essentially, juggling multiple online activities and constantly thinking about the digital world can heighten our stress levels.
Moreover, our preoccupation with the online world leaves us with limited time and energy to handle other challenges in our lives. Consequently, when we encounter stressful situations, we may lack the necessary coping resources because our minds are consumed with thoughts of social media platforms and the fear of missing out on online activities.
Considering these effects, it could be beneficial to reduce screen time and find ways to shift our focus away from constantly checking and engaging with online apps.
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