Other than venturing out to a local supermarket to do a weekly shop or some exercise, many of us will have been spending most of our time within the vicinity of our homes, as schools, colleges, universities and offices have closed, forcing us to switch to online education, working from home, or being furloughed (that is, if you’ve been following the rules, which we sincerely hope you have been).
If you have the privilege of having some extra time on your hands, you may have found yourself using your phone a lot more frequently. While some people don’t look at their phones often, there are many of us that are currently using our phones excessively now that we’re weeks into lockdown experiencing the emotional ‘coronacoaster’.
This isn’t as easy of a question to answer as it might seem. While it’s generally accepted that using your phone constantly isn’t a good thing (teenagers will be familiar with being criticised by adults for this), one can argue that as many of us have more time on our hands in lockdown, we’re relying on tech more and more to keep our minds occupied. While this is justifiable, we ought to try to not let frequent usage develop into something more insidious.
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Smartphone addiction, also known as ‘nomophobia’, is a real problem and can have a detrimental impact on our lives. This is apparent by South Korea’s introduction of government-run ‘detox centres’ to address the issue of teenage smartphone addiction. An increasing number of people are becoming addicted to their phones, which can lead to other problems for people across all age groups. In 2016, a Danish study found that for the 19-32 age range, the more time that the participants spent using social media (which tends to be on smartphones), the more likely that they were to suffer from depression.
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We’ve clearly got a huge societal issue to deal with regarding smartphone addiction, and this is all without taking the recent lockdown into consideration. In May 2020, the professional networking site LinkedIn partnered with the Mental Health Foundation on a survey to find out what people’s mental wellbeing was like while working from home during lockdown. The poll revealed that over half of the survey’s respondents (UK workers) reported experiencing increased levels of stress and anxiety than they had been experiencing before the lockdown came into force.
What’s more, there’s also the scores of people that are experiencing loneliness acutely as a result of the stringent social-distancing measures. The Mental Health Foundation (the same organisation that worked alongside LinkedIn) carried out a survey on the 2nd and 3rd of April 2020 (during the lockdown) to find out how lonely people in the UK were. They found that young adults between the ages of 18 to 24 were three times more likely to experience loneliness during lockdown compared to before (a considerable jump from 16% of respondents to 44% of respondents).
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These are considerable challenges that we’re facing, which is why now is the ideal time to work towards having a healthier relationship with your phone if you feel that it’s using you, as opposed to you using it. Some quick ways that you can power down now are simply by leaving your phone in a different room for several hours (or all day), or by using Do Not Disturb in the evenings so that you can properly relax before bed (we have a guide for this here which provides detailed guidance of how to manage your phone usage in lockdown). If you have a competitive streak and want to push yourself, why not try our Digital Detox challenge?
Another way that you can detox your digital life is by establishing firm boundaries between positive and negative screen time. What's labelled as ‘positive’ or ‘negative’ will differ from person to person, but some obvious examples of positive content include following social media accounts that promote body-positive content if you're having issues with body confidence in lockdown, and finding engaging and meaningful content on subjects that interest you. Negative content would be content like pessimistic news articles. To be clear, we’re not saying that you should completely close yourself off from learning about current events and living in a bubble. What we’re encouraging you to do instead is to consume this information mindfully and when you’re in the right headspace to receive this information. One way that you could do this is by setting yourself specific times to check the news.
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Living in lockdown is evidently a hardship for a lot of people, however many of us will agree that it’s necessary, at least for the next month or so. It remains to be seen how the government will address the mental health crisis looming from the dangerous cocktail of stress and isolation that we’re currently seeing in our communities, but for now, all we can do is carry out acts of self-care such as a digital detox, and checking in with others. Whatever helps you to feel better during this time is what we would recommend above all else.
Visit the NHS website for a full list of mental health helplines.
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*Our advice in this blog post is aimed at people that feel as though they’re becoming reliant on their phones but aren’t struggling with a severe mental health issue. If you feel that you’re the latter, take a look at the link provided in the Mental Health Resources section above.
Cover photo by Anthony Tran on Unsplash
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