Mansi Thakker is a Psychologist and Outreach Associate with Mpower – The Foundation. Her work with her clients has given her a comprehensive perspective on how too much time online can negatively affect an individual.
How would you react if one day on your way to work you realised that you had left your phone at home? Would you panic? Would you decide to go back home and get it? Or would not having your phone with you make you uncomfortable and restless. A recent study conducted by psychologist Tine Eide and her team found that a vast number of people show withdrawal symptoms when separated from their phones. Symptoms that are very similar to those seen in patients with addictions to alcohol or other substances.
While the advancements in technology come with a whole lot of advantages including keeping us connected at all times of the day, they are not without their drawbacks. Smartphone addiction is a real problem but aside from that, there are a number of other psychological problems that could arise from using too much technology.
The Effects Of Too Much Time Online
No Escape From Work:
Constant connection means that not only are you connected to your friends and family, but also to your work. In a day and age when a business continues 24×7, work emails and WhatsApp messages can come in at any time of the day or night. Many people have been found to experience stress and anxiety when they receive work communications outside of their office. This reaction can badly affect the quality of the time meant for rest, relaxation and socialising.
Lack Of Sleep:
Social media can be addictive without us realising it. Very often you decide to check your social media accounts for just ten minutes before bed, but before you know it, two hours have passed. This is a common problem among young adults and teenagers resulting in a severe lack of sleep. Besides the fewer hours of sleep, the quality of sleep is also affected because of the light of screens that prevent people from feeling sleepy. Poor sleep can affect productivity, mood, energy levels, and focus which in the long run can cause more serious problems.
Could Be Linked To Depression:
Although not confirmed, some studies have shown that people who spend too much time online also show symptoms of depression. However, on the flip side, it is possible that these individuals already suffered from depression, which is what causes them to spend more time online. Further research is required in this area to understand the correlation better.
Fear Of Missing Out, more commonly known as FOMO has become a much more serious problem since the onset of social media. A study by Elhai (2016) on problematic smartphone use, found that participants in the study experienced a type of social anxiety when kept away from social media. The anxiety was caused because the individuals felt that they would miss out on something like an interesting piece of news, or an event if they didn’t regularly check their phones. The irony, however, is that the more time people spend online the more likely they are to miss out on real-life events.
Can Lead To Low Self-esteem:
Another unfortunate fallout of spending too much time on social media is that we start to compare ourselves and our life to others. How often have you seen pictures of your friend’s amazing holiday and wished that you could do that too? Or seen pictures of them and their spouse looking so happy together and wanted to also be in a relationship? When we start to think that other people have better lives, it affects our self-esteem and makes us feel like we’re not good enough because we may not have all those nice things.
The Other Side
Of course, the internet and being online is not always bad. We have a great resource at our fingertips that allow us to contact our loved ones, get information, and reach out for help when we need it. People who are introverted and get anxious in the presence of other people can be a part of groups from the safety of their own homes, and people who are home-bound can shop for anything from groceries and clothes to medicines without stepping out. The key to preventing the bad effects of the internet is to moderate how much time is spent online.
If you find yourself spending too much time online, stop and ask yourself ‘why’. It is possible that you feel lonely or left out, or maybe you are just bored. Once you know the reason you can take steps to reduce your time online like joining a hobby group, calling up a friend, or even seeking professional help if required. Your mental and physical health should always be your priority so do what you should to take care of yourself.