Most mornings, when I open my eyes, I reach for my smartphone. I spend about a half-hour checking e-mail, scrolling through social media and looking at my favorite news sites.
But I am rethinking my routine now that I know about the toll smartphones—and social media—can have on my mental health. A study by Jean M. Twenge, PhD, professor of psychology at San Diego State University, has linked the spike in depression and anxiety since 2012 to our increasing use of our phones and social media. This isn’t just evident among teens—studies from University of Pittsburgh, Northeastern University and other institutions show similar patterns among adults.
Not surprising, right? Social media tempts us to compare our lives—usually unfavorably—with those of our peers…and Facebook and other sites offer us content to keep us scrolling, often toward things that are far from uplifting. These technologies activate our dopamine pathways just as drugs, alcohol and other addictive substances can. So what are we going to do about it? Dr. Twenge offers these suggestions…
Use the phone only for what it is meant to be used for—calling, texting and navigation.
Keep smartphones out of the bedroom. Use an alarm clock to wake up.
Limit notifications. Use alerts for truly important e-mails or texts.
Remove social media from your phone. Limit it to your computers.
Set timers to restrict online time. One friend limits social scrolling to 30 minutes at the end of her workday.
It is time to take back our lives. Will you join me?