The Irrational Mind

Technology-Induced Anxiety: Keep Your Head Up

anxietyI was out and about with a friend of mine who was overly anxious about plugging his iPhone in to charge throughout the day. He was plugged in in the car, plugged in over dinner, and plugged in again up to the second he left the house. He proclaimed he had “battery anxiety.”

We agreed that charging anxiety was better than being “plugged in” to his phone 24/7, as many Millenials (and others!) are today. He commented that he had gone on a run through campus during class change, only to see a wave of teenagers and 20-somethings walking head-down in their phones. Whatever happened to talking between classes, we wondered?

Having my phone around stresses me out. I have four email addresses to check, and I went through a period of my OCD in which I checked all my social media accounts compulsively. I would be stuck in the checking cycle for long stints of time. Now I plug my phone in around dinner time and don’t check it again until the morning.

Go out to dinner sometime and notice the groups of people not chatting, just texting other people on their phones. Or checking stocks, or the game scores. Walk around an airport and fight for a space at one of the charging stations (fun tip: bring a power strip with you on trips to increase the number of outlets available to you! Just don’t become a fire hazard).

Believe it or not, the use of smartphones and its effect on socialization has become a growing area of research. The inability for people of all ages to completely disconnect potentially increases anxiety.

So how can you fight technology-induced anxiety?

  • Don’t give into your notifications. Turn off notifications for all but the most urgent of apps. Even urgent notifications, like work email, can probably be turned off over dinner and family time, or on a nice date.
  • Play the no-phone game over dinner with friends. At the beginning of dinner, place all your smartphones in the middle of the dinner table. The first one to give in and check his or her phone has to¬†pay for dinner! Of course, with a big group, this may be a bit much, so perhaps make the loser pitch in a larger percentage of the bill, buy a round of drinks, or take on dessert. Financial incentives are wonderful.
  • Let friends and family know that you will only have your phone on and be available during certain hours of the day. Remind your parents that 30 years ago their parents were unable to reach them 24/7, and they turned out just fine.
  • Fight the urge to check your phone when you’re feeling awkward not having anything to do. Look around, people watch, and be aware of your surroundings. Enjoy your walk without feeling the need to update your Instagram with a picture of your latte.

Most importantly: keep your head up, literally. Your anxiety levels will thank you.

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