According to telecoms regulator Ofcom, 61% of UK adults now say they own a smartphone. Since 2010 our daily total media consumption has risen from 8 hours 48 minutes to more than 11 hours, says Ofcom, largely thanks to the rise of smartphones.
We now consume media for more hours than we sleep and we wonder why we are so tired and wired (1). Having grown up through the decades before modern technology, when all we had were 4 television channels and not even faxes or word processors until my teens, it is astounding how much innovation has come on since then.
Technology has changed the face of modern living, made our work lives more efficient, opened up our social connections and given us access to incredible information on every subject imaginable.
We may desire to be tuned in 24/7 but how good is this for us really? Interestingly, a new study has demonstrated that our Smart phones can increase our stress levels and ironically the main impact is less on our working lives than on our personal lives (2) as we try to keep up connections with friends and social networks.
'Being unable to answer your phone—even when it’s right in front of you—can spike stress and anxiety’ finds new research in the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication. In the study, iPhone users were working on a mentally demanding word-search puzzle when they heard their phones begin to ring just a few feet away. The participants were not allowed to get up from their seats, so they could not answer their devices.
As a result, their heart rate, blood pressure, and anxiety levels spiked. People’s performance on the puzzle also plummeted compared with when they completed the task with their phones safely in reach.' (3)
One of the remedies we often discuss for improving stress is mindfulness which focuses on bringing our attention into the present moment and 'being'. Yet the more we reach for our phones, the more compulsive it can be and the more hyper-vigilant and distracted we are.
Distraction from text, email and phone alerts alone can eat into our time and lives, build the pressure and prolong the time it takes take us to get back to what we were doing beforehand (at least 20-30 minutes to refocus).
The list of potential stressors goes on:
- Causing accidents - either by driving on the phone or walking across busy streets reading a phone.
- Interpersonal communication challenges - more time spent connected to phones when in company than with the people in our immediate environment.
- Addiction - resulting from compulsive overuse of technology.
- No switch off periods - 24/7 availability to friends, family, work and information
So what can we do?
Clearly we would not be without modern technology and its many benefits but how can we moderate this escalating distraction which threatens to interfere with the importance of one-to-one human connection?
Whilst researching this topic I was amused to find websites dedicated to switching off who advocate 5 days on and 2 days off but starting gradually with 6 days on and 1 day logged off! Am I guilty of the smart phone indulgence? Yes of course I am! However, I do my best manage my mobile madness by practising these principles:
1. Give yourself a break each day. We have a 'not after 8pm' boundary so that we can spend quality together at home practising the art of good old fashioned conversation!
2. Limit your checking times to once an hour (or what works for you) leaving the rest of the hour uninterrupted for whatever you might have done before you had a mobile!
3. Switch off at least 2 hours before bed to maximise your sleep and restoration potential and keep mobile phones away from the bed.
4. Tell friends, family and work colleagues when you will and won't be available so you can manage expectations.
5. Get outside, exercise, enjoy nature, see friends and family, join a club, indulge a hobby, learn something new and remember all the joys there were and still are when we step away from technology to engage in the world.
Sources: (1) http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-28686235 (2) http://www.everydayhealth.com/emotional-health/0112/your-smartphone-may-be-stressing-youout.aspx?xid=tw_everydayhealth_20120112_smartphone (3) http://www.menshealth.com/health/how-smartphones-stress-you-out
Other links and resources: https://www.anxiety.org/smartphones-may-increase-stress http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2194806/Using-mobile-phones-tablets-bed-affectingsleep-warn-scientists.html