The Truth About Tech: An Honest Conversation About Screen Addiction

Mental health is a topic that is increasingly associated with technology, screen time and digital addiction. That is, scientists and researchers are taking a closer look at how technology is affecting our mental health. But, as we use our mobile devices for professional, personal and entertainment purposes, most of us feel inescapably tethered to our screens.

We previously discussed some of the dangers of excessive screen time and gave tips for people looking to digitally detox, but we want to focus specifically on how our digital devices can affect our mental health and how to maintain better relationships with the technology in our lives.

Most of us don’t need a scientist to tell us that too much screen time is a bad thing. But, understanding the harmful effects of screen time doesn’t really make it any easier to resist our phones. One study showed that most people tap, swipe, or click on their phone “a whopping 2,617 times each day, on average.” That’s a lot of touches and a lot of time looking down at our screens every day. So, when we see a Forbes headline that reads “Phone Addiction is Real -- And So Are Its Mental Health Risks,” we’re not the least bit shocked. Since our phones aren’t really going anywhere, it’s important to understand these risks and what we can do to curb our addiction.

The Science is Undeniable

As you read more about mental health, you’re bound to see references to smartphones, social media and digital addiction. Scientists, psychologists and sociologists alike are rushing to understand how the ever-increasing influx of technology in our lives is influencing our brains, as 50% of American teens say they feel addicted to their phones and 72% of teens feel the need to immediately respond to texts, social-networking messages and other notifications. One of the most worrying trends is that Americans are feeling higher levels of “stress, anger, and worry” than ever before.

 

Psychologist Jean Twenge suggests that there is a clear correlation between the advent of mobile technology and increased levels of stress. She says, “the correlations between depression and smartphone use are strong enough to suggest that more parents should be telling their kids to put down their phones” because they’re making us “seriously unhappy.” Even though the problem seems to be more pronounced among the younger generation—who Twenge calls “iGen”—the science suggests that tech users of all ages are negatively affected by too much screen time.

After conducting research on this topic, founder and CEO of Common Sense Media, James Steyer, commented that, "Mobile devices are fundamentally changing how families go about their day-to-day lives, be it doing homework, driving, or having dinner together. What we've discovered is that kids and parents feel addicted to their mobile devices, that it is causing daily conflict in homes, and that families are concerned about the consequences.”

Psychotherapist Hilda Burke noticed that when her patients have symptoms of anxiety and insomnia, “it’s rare that it’s not related in some way to heavy use of digital devices.” A study in Korea found that those who were addicted to their smartphones “scored significantly higher than their peers in levels of anxiety, depression, insomnia, and impulsivity.” Unsurprisingly, other studies have “found a link between excessive smartphone usage and an impaired ability to remember, a lack of creative thinking, and reduced attention spans.”

The CDC found that the suicide rate for girls rose by 65% from 2010-2015, while depression rose by 58% during that same period. When we remember the amazing developments that occurred in mobile technology during that period, it’s easy to imagine a correlation. There are endless studies with similarly alarming results and the consensus seems to always be the same— we’d all benefit it we spent less time looking at our screens.

“There’s a lack of community today," said Dr. Laurel Williams, chief of psychiatry at Texas Children’s Hospital in response to this rise in depression among Americans. "There’s the amount of time that we spend in front of screens and not in front of other people. If you don’t have a community to reach out to, then your hopelessness doesn’t have any place to go.”

Finding the Right Work Balance

Many people say it is harder than ever to find the perfect work/life balance today. This is partly due to the fact that most of us rely so heavily on our smartphones in our professional lives that it's hard to realistically disconnect. When it comes to productivity and efficiency, our smartphones can be tremendously helpful—saving us time, speeding up communication and giving us the ability to work remotely. We can respond to work emails, hop into a conference call, or send an invoice in the matter of seconds—no need to be near a computer.

The obvious drawback to having a mobile work station by our side at all times is that you never get to truly leave behind the stresses of work. We might get a ping from a work email as you’re trying to fall asleep or an appointment reminder while trying to enjoy that hard earned beach vacation… with smartphones, we’re always working. This feeling of being "always-on" can lead to an increase in stress, anxiety and mental fatigue.

Using Smarter Devices

The science reinforces what we have already noticed in our daily lives—smartphones can cause undue stress, distraction and even depression. Of course, there’s no instant cure-all for these problems, and our smartphones aren’t going anywhere. They are only going to become even smarter and more indispensable. In fact, it is this inevitable trend that truly inspired the creation of Palm. Palm was founded on the very idea that too much tech in our lives is not a good thing and we need to be proactive about using devices that demand less and recede into the background. We made Palm small so that it doesn’t demand your attention and packed it with tech that promotes quicker interactions and less screen time, allowing you to rediscover the perfect balance between your physical and digital worlds.

While most smartphones are getting bigger, more powerful and more capable, Palm is devoted to designing devices that are smarter. And by “smarter” we mean devices that make our lives better, don’t demand so much from us and know when to leave us alone. That is why we designed Palm with Life Mode, so that you only get the notifications you want, when you want them.

📷: Hailey Wilson @verseandventure 

Palm is the perfect mobile solution for users who are ready to regain control of their digital interactions. We believe using Palm can realistically reduce the amount of time you spend looking at a screen throughout the day. It is a perfect primary phone for kids and digital minimalists, but it can also be purchased as a companion to your existing smartphone. This means you can leave your big phone at home when you want to live in the moment but still stay connected.

 

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