We are living in an era of information and communication. With the establishment of modern information and communication technologies, we are able to transfer knowledge and information faster than before. Establishing an online connection has become easier than face to face interaction. Mobile phones or smartphones are one of the most dominant epitomes of this modern tech world. Possession of the latest smartphone available literally has become a mark of pride. People are more attached to their mobile phones than their spouses.
Gone are the days when children used to wait for vacation to run around in the playground. Today, children don’t even know the names of outdoor games. A 5-year kid, who doesn’t even know the correct manner to eat, can easily complete the highest levels of Candy-Crush. Mobile phones are no longer our servants; we have become their slaves.
About 81% of Americans own a smartphone in the present times. The numbers are expected to grow up to 285 million by 2023. In modern times, the USA might as well stand for United Smartphones of America. No kidding, just look at the percentage of Americans with smartphones!
With that said, it has been brought into notice that people’s psychological and mental health is also affected by mobile phones. Excessive or maladaptive use of mobile phones has been linked with anxiety, anger and depression. However, we cannot blame just smartphones. It can also be an existing illness (anxiety or depression) that might be gaining more power from the excessive use of mobile phones. Either way, mobile phones do affect our mental health.
But the question remains, how exactly are mobile phones affecting our mental health? What is giving them the power to play such an important role in our lives?
Is it FOMO?
FOMO, or “fear of missing out”, as you already know is one of the most problematic areas of teenagers. People have stopped using their brains. One single question and the hands run towards Google to find the answer. That’s one evil of technological modernism. With a smartphone in hand, everyone tries to stay up-to-date with the world. We try to know everything.
Open TikTok and you’ll see how people of all ages are running a race of matching up with the “trend”. We don’t want to stay behind. We can’t lose sight of what new apps are released in APKDyno. We can’t afford to lose a single conversation going on in our “WhatsApp friends-group”. That makes us lean towards FOMO. And it all comes from smartphones.
FOMO is linked to problematic smartphone use and depression symptoms. A study reveals that “problematic smartphone use is an important public health challenge and is linked to poor mental health outcomes.” A decrease in smartphone usage frequency triggers the fear of missing out, which then leads to the ‘need to touch’ and then to depressive symptoms.
That’s how smartphones are controlling our minds.
The Negative Feedback Loop
Don’t we feel irritated when we are not able to send or receive a text message right away?
This is the result of smartphone addiction. A fairly new member of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) family, cell phone addiction finds its place in the 5th Edition. Frontiers in Psychiatry described in a review of literature about the addiction of cell phone. The addiction might have one or more of these symptoms – losing interest in everything else, feeling anxious when not able to send or receive messages, getting easily annoyed when separated from the cell phone, and some more. The researchers also suggested that teenagers and women might be more susceptible to this kind of behavioural action.
“The problematic use of cell phones has been associated with personality variables, such as extraversion, neuroticism, self-esteem, impulsivity, self-identity, and self-image. Similarly, sleep disturbance, anxiety, stress, and, to a lesser extent, depression, which are also associated with Internet abuse, have been associated with problematic cell-phone use.”
Running Away From Negative Emotions?
Did you ever have a ‘security blanket’ in childhood that you grabbed on to whenever you were scared? There was no magic in that blanket. But still, somehow it made you feel safe. The same phenomenon goes with smartphones. People tend to get engulfed in smartphones to avoid people, social interactions and negative emotions. We have always been advised to “share” when we are emotionally troubled. But with the information and communication system at the rage, nothing really comes out. People tend to rely on social media and other entertainment sources available online. They avoid sharing. Researches have proven that smartphone use is highly associated with mental health. Mobile phone use has seen to be an escape from the initial negative reaction to stress.
But also, “findings suggest that long term utilization of ICTs as an emotional coping strategy may have a negative influence on mental health and/or exacerbate mental health predispositions.”
It is always better to face adversities rather than running away from them. The more you face your fear, the more your fear would fear you. This might sound poetic, but it’s true. Running away from situations and hiding under the pseudo blanket of a cell phone is never going to help you with anything.
Joel Minden (Clinical psychologist, Chico Center for Cognitive Behavior Therapy, California) says that avoidance and escapism like social media fixation can take a person away from facing a problem head-on. Initial stress and negative emotions can trigger mobile phone use, depriving the person of actual ‘anti-depressant activities’ like exercising, meditating, socialising, working, etc. and lead to an increase in the risk of negative feelings.
Mobile phone isn’t a solution to any problem. It is just an illusion of a solution. Once the fog clears, you will see that your problems are still there. So, it is always better to face the hardship and come out triumphant.
Cell phones or mobile phones were created to make the lives of humans easier. But, maybe we became way too comfortable. We no longer want to tire our body or mind. We always end up finding an alternative to either avoid the given task or to get a shortcut to get it done. There’s no second opinion to the fact that smartphones have transformed the very face of the world. More than the virtues that mobile phones impart to society, it’s the vices that are spreading overwhelmingly.
Perhaps, it’s time that we take a moment and find a way to free ourselves from this addiction. Or else, the zombie apocalypse that people believe to be a result of information & communication overdose is actually not so far.