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Smartphone overuse : A crisis amidst a crisis

8 months ago

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By Sakuni Weerasinghe   The start of the Covid-19 pandemic, with lockdowns and implementation of the work-from-home concept, has seen a rise in smartphone use. Today, amidst the current crisis owing to the grave situation of the country, we might observe that many people, yet again, are glued to their smartphones. This is worrying especially when it comes to the youth. Why? Because unlike many other threats to well-being that could be avoided directly, a smartphone just happens to be within reach 24/7. It’s there when you wake up and go to sleep. It’s there when you’re eating and it’s there when you’re studying. From the bedroom to the dining room, and for some even in the washroom, the smartphone has become an omnipresent device. It is almost as if there is no escape. Almost. What you need to know is that you hold the power to avert a crisis amidst a crisis. You can stop the overuse of smartphones by being aware of how it can infiltrate your days and your minds, and the array of negative effects this brings.  With the increased levels of uncertainty all around, all of us are experiencing a necessity to remain informed. Today, many of us do not have to wait for the evening news to be updated. The smartphone is readily available to keep us updated, whether it’s news on price increases of basic necessities or when the next power-cut would be. This understandably leads to an excessive reliance on our smartphones. Unlike the news programmes which deliver the news of the day at a specific time slot, smartphones can provide us with unlimited exposure to information all day. Imagine hearing pings after pings of news alerts and reading article after article on the current dire circumstance. Would this not be information overload? The definition of information overload itself addresses the concern: the information presented is more than what we can handle. From what we know so far through extensive research on the topic, information overload only contributes to increased feelings of anxiety, feeling overwhelmed, and mental fatigue. Our brains, exhausted from having to process all of this information, would then lead us to make hasty decisions. You are not only risking your physical well-being because staring at the screens for extended periods of time can cause eye strain among other problems; you are also risking your mental health. We may also be prone to pick up our smartphones as a way of coping with what is unravelling around us. Perhaps a funny video of a puppy refusing a bath can cheer us up. While this may be the case, what we may forget is that this coping strategy – let’s call it distraction – only works over the short-term. Because of this, many psychologists have described prolonged use of distraction as maladaptive. After all, once the puppy is finally bathed, you would scroll to the next video, and to the next, until you would lose track of time. Besides, by excessively relying on the smartphone as a means of coping, aren’t we ignoring many other effective ways of coping? For example, time spent on the smartphone can be spent with people and having conversations in real life. Social connections and quality relationships have time and again been highlighted as important factors that determine resilience, which is something we could benefit from at present.  Given that the online world today highlights the negative, overstaying on our visits online can further fuel our emotions of anger, frustration, sadness, and despair. Consumed by the negativity, we may then react in ways that are harmful not only to ourselves but to others as well, perpetuating a vicious cycle of emotional dysregulation. You may then ask yourselves, are we balancing out the negatives with positives? At the end of the day, when you reach out for your smartphone, do you use it to reach out to family and friends to express gratitude? How many times do you use the smartphone to read the stories of communities coming together to help each other during the hard times? The answers to these will be very telling.   Today more than ever, we must prioritise our mental health. This means putting your smartphone away when it is not absolutely required and when you are not using it for the benefit of your health. There’s already a lot on our shoulders. Let’s not let the crisis of smartphone overuse be yet another burden.   Author bio: Sakuni Weerasinghe is an Applied Psychologist and Lecturer with an MSc from the UK and a BSc in Psych Counselling from Sri Lanka. Twitter: @sakuniamanda Instagram: @breathe.lk Facebook: breathe.lk   PHOTOS © MEDIUM.COM, LIFEBEYOND.ONE, CONSULTANCY.UK, HELPGUIDE.ORG  
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