Average smartphone users touch their smartphones 2,617 times a day, and 70% of the U.S. residents are smartphone users. Leaving numbers aside, we’ve all watched and felt smartphones gain importance in our life. This importance is due less to the devices themselves, and more to their ability to connect to the Internet.
• Staying connected
• Having the media at our fingertip
• Being able to access any information we need, from the weather forecast to the social media activity of someone we know
• Being able to stay connected to the people we see no matter where they are
• Having the possibility to express ourselves and make a stand for the things we believe in.
In theory, access to information and the added communication channels should make us smarter and help us live a better life. In practice, things look entirely different.
We become addicted to Internet use; we forget to stop eating, we fall victim to depression, we are unable to sleep correctly, are we inhibit our creativity.
No matter if we care to admit to it or not, digital distraction is a threat to our physical and mental wellness. The reasons are numerous, but let’s take a closer look at the most critical five of them in the following lines!
5 Reasons Why Digital Distraction Is a Danger to Our Wellness
1. Digital Distraction Is Addictive
Excess use of the Internet can lead to Internet Addiction Disorder, not too different from addiction to drugs and alcohol. It physically changes the structure of the prefrontal brain, affecting the white and grey matter amount.
In doing so, it impacts the sufferer’s ability to focus, plan, and prioritize, determining the addiction to choosing Internet use over other essential tasks like working, eating, socializing, caring for their children, and more. In severe cases, Internet users can become a threat to the user’s life.
2. Digital Distraction Leads to Overeating
The conclusion was reached following several scientific studies focusing on the impact of distraction on eating habits. The most important of them were performed in 2010 and 2013. They both showed that people whose attention is distracted from their food tend to eat more.
In turn, overeating can lead to a plethora of related conditions, from obesity and cardiovascular disease to diabetes, and more. Just like watching TV while eating makes people forget to stop and eat more than they need, internet use puts them on autopilot and determines them to keep eating even after they have had enough.
3. Digital Distraction Leads to Depression
A 2015 study links the Internet, and especially social media use to depression. This connection was also established by the researchers at the School of Medicine within the University of Pittsburgh, who found that the more time adults spend on social media, the higher the risk of developing depression gets.
At the same time, the Royal Society for Public Health and Young Health Movement confirmed that social media use could lead to depression and anxiety.
People use the Internet to follow those around them and keep up with the news. However, many Internet users distort the truth on the Internet, approximately 75% of them, according to Naked Security, presenting only the good in their life. Upon comparing what their peers post online with their reality, many end up depressed.
4. Digital Distraction Leads to Insufficient and Poor Quality Sleep
As mentioned in my previous article on 7 Reasons Why Taking a Break from Social Media Can Be Good for You excess use of social media can lead to sleep disturbances. The connection was established by a 2016 study but also by the Royal Society for Public Health.
Researchers concluded that social media users sleep less and not as thick and restful as non-users.
It all starts with the idea of reading something online or checking your social media account. You engage in discussions, browse photos, watch videos, or play games, and you lose track of time. By the time you decide to stop, it is long past midnight or even early morning. The same activity prevents you from going to bed early and catching up on the lost sleep the following evening as well.
5. Digital Distraction Makes Us Dumb and Twitchy
It may seem an exaggeration, but it is the conclusion of an article in the Financial Times. As the author explains, the state of boredom, the activities that do not represent a challenge for our brain, and allow it to enter the “default” mode are the ones that spark our creativity and allow us to come up with ideas and solutions.
By preventing boredom and keeping us hooked, digital distractions avoid the “default” mode and inhibit our creativity. In the long run, we become unable to reach our full potential, unable to solve otherwise simple problems, unable to switch off.
Digital Distraction – From Friend to Foe
Internet use has its benefits. It:
- gets us closer to people who live at a distance from us
- gives us access to information
- lets us access products and services otherwise unavailable to us
- helps us learn and improve ourselves
- makes it easier to reach our goals
However, we are not talking about Internet use in general, but about the excessive use of the Internet, about the stage when internet use is no longer a means to an end, but an end in itself, a distraction from reality and its issues.
When you cross the line and lose control, your health and well being, your work, and your relationships will suffer. I hope this article will represent a wake-up call and determine you to take a look around, assess your situation, and do something about it, if necessary.
What stage are you at, regarding your use of the Internet? Do you stay online only to solve issues and serve an immediate purpose, or has your use of the Internet become a goal in itself? A good idea to figure things out would be to try and take a break.
If you can survive without using the Internet for a couple of days, you can consider yourself safe from the above-reviewed threats. However, if you find it challenging to stay “off the grid,” you should do something about it.
Don’t be afraid to acknowledge your addiction! You are not the only one who has fallen prey to it. We all are, one way or another, addicted to the digital world. What matters is what we do about it, what steps we take from here on.
I suggest we protect our health and well being and learn to avoid digital distractions, no matter how beneficial they may seem. We can do so by limiting the time we spend online, going on vacation to a place where there is no Internet connection, or just refusing to go online or access specific networks and types of content.
What stage are you at and what are you doing to protect your wellness? Share your thoughts on digital distractions and your tricks to fight their adverse effects in a comment below, and let’s help one another live a healthier, better life!
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