The 7 Deadly Monsters of Unhealthy Phone Usage

8i68jyXiEThe colour yellow has long been associated with sunshines, smiley face emojis, and brightness, however it has also been associated with the word “coward” which means someone who is too afraid to do something of importance.  There’s a long and interesting reason for how yellow became synonymous with fear and cowardice, and while I don’t have time in this short post to go into it, if you are curious feel free to Google it.  You might be surprised.

While we have already established and I will continue to reiterate the positives of using social media and technology, over the years, it has also fueled a lot of fear and even cowardice.

Let’s look at each one separately before coming together to make our concluding remarks.

Fear: A recent term that millenials and Gen Zs have adopted is “FOMO” (Fear of Missing Out).  It started just as slang for when young adults spoke to each other, but now I have even heard older populations using this term. FOMO has always existed and it impacts some more than others, however, FOMO is exasperated due to being online. I am a huge extrovert who is so thankful to have so many friends.  I know that my friends care about me and love me and that has been demonstrated over and over.  Yet, I distinctly remember (moreso in my early 20s than today) scrolling through my Facebook and seeing pictures of people at birthday parties and other celebrations.  Suddenly FOMO would set in.  My mind would negatively spiral towards why I wasn’t invited to that particular event.  Did the person not like me? Did the person not think about me? What about the wedding of a person I thought was my friend that I wasn’t invited to just to turn on Facebook and see 10 other university friends with the bride and groom?  FOMO then breeds comparison which in turn can bread jealousy or even anger.  However, when I spent time to rationally dissect it I realized in most of those cases the reason for not being invited was either because I simply was not that close to the person (many times they were an acquaintance) or because my friends knew I wouldn’t enjoy an event and they organized a different event for me to take part in.  One issue with social media is that it often makes people appear emotionally closer to us than they truly are (we feel we know them so well because we know where they go on their jogs and what they eat for breakfast and what their 2 year old did today, but in reality, we are not really all that connected to them).  FOMO can also occur when we see other friends on expensive holidays or in relationships (especially couples which post sappy posts about how their husband/wife cooked them dinner or bought them a nice gift).  We can fear we are missing out on these life experiences, again leading to FOMO.

Cowardice: In the younger teen, middle school (and increasingly elementary school) environments, social media and cell phones have played a huge part in the cyber bullying and sexting culture.  Sadly, many each year succumb to its effects.  There are certain apps out there now which make it almost impossible to trace what one teen is saying to another.  This does not help with teachers or parents providing proof to match their cases.  I feel that in a way, cyberbullying is cowardly.  Like I discussed in yesterday’s post, people can be different behind a screen than in person.  People feel freer to say whatever they want without thinking about it and they don’t consider the other person’s emotions because they can’t see the other person. There have been so many individuals  who have unfriended people simply for sharing or commenting on a different political view than the one they have, rather than walking away from those upsetting posts and reminding themselves that we are all entitled to our own opinions.  There have also been so many stories of people breaking up with their partners over text rather than in person, or families airing all of their dirty laundry online in a smear campaign against other relatives.

To help combat the problems that fear and cowardice involve, I would like to leave you with 5 tips you might like to try in this coming week:

1) When FOMO sets in, write a gratitude list.  Think of all the people you are happy to have in your life and maybe send a DM or text to one of them.  If you are feeling FOMO due to materialistic things such as not affording a nice holiday, write a gratitude list about what you do have.

2) If you see someone posting something negative online, have the courage to walk away rather than to engage in that post.

3) If you’re a parent, do a bit of research into what apps your teen/child is using.  Know about them and how they can be used both positively and negatively.  Understand what bullying is, its signs and symptoms and know how to talk to your child about cyberbullying or sexting if need be.

4) Try to avoid being contentious for one week.  Right now, there are so many political posts floating around about several different topics.  There will always be people to take one side or the other.  It can be tempting to write about your own beliefs and values online and it can be tempting to contribute fuel to other heated discussions. For one week, challenge yourself to post only positive statues which will build up, encourage, and add something of value to conversation.  Think about the 3 gatekeepers: Is it true, is it kind, is it necessary?

5) Lastly, keep arguments and disagreements private whenever possible.  People don’t need to know all about family fights and romantic arguments.  Those things are meant to be private and discussed within the family unit, not to all of your friends and followers online.

FOMO is a difficult fear to shake and sometimes it has made people question whether they should get off social media entirely.  If you are finding that FOMO is causing undue anxiety, or that every time you see a divisive point your blood boils and you need to comment, think about taking a step back. Turn off your notifications, walk away from the screen to collect your thoughts, and don’t act out of impulse.  If the trouble persists even after a few deep breaths and limiting screen time, consider potentially going on a social media fast for a week to see how it helps. Remember, there are a number of resources available  which can help support you in your technological struggles and offer tips and encouragement for you to find healthier and more productive ways to use a tool which is able to benefit many. 

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