Addicted to Our Phones

By Marisol Pino

Students get on social media for fear of missing out but often feel anxious or depressed from their times online.

A recent 2018 study in the Psychiatry Research journal titled “Emotion regulation’s relationships with depression, anxiety and stress due to imagined smartphone and social media loss” states that students who imagined two days without being online felt depressed, anxious and stressed from the imagined loss of being disconnected. The idea of missing out on a Twitter message or an Instagram photo or a Facebook feed really disturbed them.

This research showed students felt distressed exhibiting higher levels of anxiety, blood pressure and heart rate that gradually increased over time when they were separated from their phones. They couldn’t wait to get them back.

Over dependency on phones can be a problem.

“It’s almost like an addiction for some people,” said Dr. Daniel Alvarado, director of Counseling and Psychological Services at College of Southern Nevada. “That’s the negative aspect of social media because you form this addiction and especially if you are someone that may tend to be more of a loner, so you use this platform to connect with people, which I could understand. You’re sharing information. I see that as a benefit but if you overextend it becomes addictive and then you get caught up with the back and forth conversations.”

Another issue Alvarado points to is the comparison that happens in social media, which can make people feel bad about themselves. “I think the whole social-comparison aspect can pose a threat to a young adults,” Alvarado said. He mentioned how students learn a lot about attractiveness and ideal body image based on what they see online. “If you get caught up in that, that’s what can lead to anxiety and depression if you are trying to meet these expectations you’ve created.”

In a recent study conducted at the University of Toledo, 145 college students were surveyed based on their general social-comparison tendencies on Facebook that included the frequency, intensity and physiological involvement. Results showed that participants who experienced social comparison more frequently appeared to use Facebook more heavily than participants with lower levels of social comparison. Those students who were more sensitive to social comparison are uncertain about themselves and may use the information on Facebook for self-evaluation.

“There have been sometimes when I did compare myself to others due to social media,” said Reyes Bencomo, CSN student. “For example, on Twitter I would read how others are almost done with their college or university careers and are about to graduate, which made me happy for them but I would get sad because I have not found myself until recently and discovered what I want to do in life. I would be hard on myself feeling that I was behind in school and probably wasn’t going to make it.”

“I have felt the need to take a break from social media and I’ve taken off a week [before],” Reyes said. “It felt nice. It reminded me of life before social media existed and that there is no necessity to spend so much time staring at a screen, posting too much on social media or feeling the need to catch up on what is new in social media.”

Phillip Hopper, CSN student, said, “I’ve compared myself in the past [to the stuff I read online]. I would think ‘Why am I not there?’ It doesn’t bother me now but it is a habit of subconscious self-judgment.” Hopper recently deleted his apps for a week. “It was a nice break but I also felt like I had to be back on for the sake of my music.”

Michele Fogg, professor of journalism and media studies at CSN, conducts an assignment where students go without their phones for a Day of Disconnect. She does this assignment to prove to students the addictive aspects of media and how their lives are affected by it negatively.

“There is a dependence on their devices that I have seen increase in severity over the years,” Fogg said. “Students report not just anxiety but actual fear of being without their devices.” She said they have a fear of missing out. She asked her students if they would do this assignment again willingly and she found that they expressed great relief in having their phones back and would not want to repeat the day without them.

“Social media will always be there but your time will not,” Bencomo said. “Whenever you catch yourself comparing your own life to someone else’s, remember that is their life, their path and you are living your own separate unique life and can choose to see a post positively or negatively.”


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