Many teenagers have told me that they wish there were no smartphones. They explained many reasons why the smartphone makes them anxious.
- “I check my phone several times a day to make sure I don’t miss anything with my friends. If nothing happens, I wonder if my friends are avoiding me.
- “If my friend doesn’t answer right away, I’m afraid I’ve done something wrong. It’s even worse when I’m a ghost.
- “When I find out my friends are texting and making plans with other friends but not with me, I worry that I won’t be popular. It makes me sad.”
- “I get really upset when friends pull me out of conversations.”
- “I am uncomfortable when friends have sent me inappropriate photos and asked me to respond with photos.”
- “When I get together with my friends, sometimes we sit and use our phones rather than interacting.”
- “I was cyberbullied.”
- “Some of my friends say really mean things over text that they would never say to me in real life.”
- “Every time my phone notifies me that I received a text message, I want to check it right away. It distracts me from my homework and then I worry that I haven’t done my homework well.
- “I often get angry while playing games on my phone, which affects my mood for a long time.”
- “I get in trouble during meals because I’m on my phone.”
- “My parents keep taking my phone away every time I do something wrong. Even if it has nothing to do with my phone.
- “I got in trouble when I accessed porn on the net. I wasn’t even looking for it when it first appeared. I couldn’t get those images out of my head.
- “My mom gets mad at me all the time because I spend so much time on my phone watching videos and playing games. I lose track of time when I play my games.
- “I’d rather turn off my phone. But then I worry about not being up to date with my friends.
Social media and poor mental health
Indeed, studies have shown that the more adolescents and adults use social media, the more likely they are to become anxious or depressed (Shensa, 2018; Boers, 2020). In addition to the reasons mentioned above, people can become stressed by mistakenly thinking that social media posts are accurate representations of the lives of their peers, which they cannot match.
I encourage my patients to give themselves and their friends the benefit of the doubt when they become anxious from uncomfortable social media interactions and smartphone texts. For example, rather than thinking that a friend is intentionally ignoring them, patients might consider the possibility that the friend’s phone was confiscated or broken.
I remind them that text-based interactions are likely to cause misunderstandings because they don’t emphasize particular words or non-verbal cues. Finally, I explain that most people avoid posting events that are at odds with the personality they would like to portray, and thus social media portrayals are almost always distorted.
An unknown pitfall
I recently became aware of another pitfall resulting from our easy access to smartphones, other electronic devices and social media.
In teaching people how to use hypnosis to gain insight, I ask them to “park” their conscious mind to allow their subconscious to speak in ways that the conscious can perceive. Such “parking” can be achieved by focusing on the breath or by imagining being in a quiet place. By giving themselves time to reflect, people often find very helpful advice and sometimes even epiphanies.
I suggest that even Albert Einstein recognized the importance of quieting the mind when he said, “The monotony and loneliness of a quiet life stimulates the creative spirit.
As I explained this method recently, I suggested, “Parking your conscious mind is the opposite of engaging it with smartphone interaction. It was then that I realized how smartphones have led to a marked decrease in the time we spend listening to ourselves.
When we have free time, rather than using our mind for contemplation, we often end up engaging our consciousness in a non-productive activity like playing an electronic game or interacting with social media. Additionally, we might experience a continuous memory of a podcast or a YouTube video voice which is yet another obstacle to our ability to hear ourselves.
The process of creating new ideas can also be prolonged by frequent breaks due to smartphone interruptions. Also, if we come up with a new idea, many of us are tempted to post it on social media to gauge people’s reactions. If the reaction is no, an idea may be discarded before it can be refined further.
In 2022, the use of a smartphone occupies an important place in daily life. However, it is clear that its almost constant use is detrimental. Therefore, I accompany my patients to limit the use of their smartphone to two or three specific times of the day and to less than half an hour at a time. Also, I recommend that they turn off the volume on their phones or other electronic devices when engaging in creative activity.
Copyright Ran D. Anbar