Millennials are the most digitally connected generation in history. Though comprising 29% of the population, they account for 41% of the total time that Americans spend on their smartphones. So it’s only natural that college life would be shaped by technology. But are these changes an enhancement or a distraction? Opinions about how technology affects us as individuals and as a society are as varied as the technologies themselves. While the jury is still out on the cumulative effect, research has revealed some areas of concern.
- Being a ‘constant checker’: Are you one of the 43% of Americans who constantly, obsessively checks your email, text, social media accounts? If so, research shows that you are at risk of experiencing higher stress levels, and of having a hard time concentrating on anything for an extended period of time. Constant checkers report feeling disconnected from family more often than non-constant checkers, and a third of them say they are unlikely to meet with friends and family due to social media.
- Social media and isolation: Many studies have shown that more time spent on social media is associated with an increased risk of loneliness, depression, and social isolation. While researchers don’t know whether unhappy people are using social media or fi using social media leads to unhappiness, it is worth some self-reflection into our own use of social media.
- Artificial light: Studies show that our round-the-clock exposure to artificial light-even low-level light from computer and TV screens-can throw off our circadian rhythms, with negative effects from depression and mood disorders to increased risk for cancer.
You don’t have to quit social media altogether to reduce these negative effects. Finding ways to reduce your engagement on social media and other online applications has shown to improve people’s sense of well-being.
For you checkers out there, weaken the habit loop by turning off notifications (sounds, vibrations) that encourage you to check. Also try putting your mobile device away (i.e. out of reach) when you don’t need to use it. This can help you wean yourself from your checking habit.
To avoid social isolation that technology can foster, make plans with friends or plan time outdoors or doing a favorite activity-sans device- that engages you with others and the larger world.
Lastly, limit the time you spend using technology before bed so that your body’s natural rhythms can prepare you for sleep. If you wonder whether you or a friend needs more mental health support, take a brief anonymous mental health screening at: