Lockdown Diaries: The Mental Health Effects of Being Constantly Online

Lockdown Diaries: The Mental Health Effects of Being Constantly Online

Internet consumption has been steadily rising but has definitely shot through the roof due to the global Coronavirus lockdown. It seems like we live our entire lives on the Internet, but how healthy is such a dependency? While it’s a helpful tool for education, work, social interaction, and entertainment, being constantly online can take a toll on your health, causing a wide range of mental, emotional, and physical problems. Whether it’s from reading too much negative news or researching your symptoms online– too much computer time can increase your anxiety. Being constantly aware of every event happening can make you feel agitated and restless.

When we get online on social media, we are looking for affirmation, and consciously or not, we are comparing our life to the lives of others. As a result, we may not be able to enjoy what’s in the moment. This damages our mental health. Cat memes, comedy shows, and the ability to talk to a friend on the Internet can make people smile. But the truth is that looking at a screen for several hours per day can worsen a person’s mood. Researchers in a 2017 study Trusted Source found that adults who watched TV or used a computer for more than 6 hours per day were more likely to experience moderate to severe depression.

The constant connectivity may actually be making us feel disconnected, says Dr. Gail Saltz, a clinical associate professor of psychiatry at the NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill-Cornell Medical College. “Loneliness has to do with more connected intimate relationships that feel real and close, and a screen doesn’t really provide that… and yet people are replacing time invested in real relationships with screen time,” Saltz says. Dr. Saltz cautions that screens are taking us away from the real relationships in our lives. Excessive smartphone, computer, and tablet use can disrupt your sleep. Bright lights from these devices block melatonin secretion, the hormone that regulates sleep. Screen time is also a sedentary behavior, and high sedentary levels are linked to depression.

Rather than get wrapped up in comparison, try this: Each day, write down five things for which you are grateful. Focusing on the good in your life helps you combat feelings of low self-esteem and envy. Perhaps you set a limit on your screen time each day or turn off your devices at a certain time every night. Whatever you do, carve in plenty of time for your mental health and “real life.” You’ll be happier and healthier for it.

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