Is technology causing us to feel lonely?
Learn how to cope with the rise of technology and the digital age.
Does your day consist of Zoom calls, texting your family members to make dinner plans, staying up-to-date on slack messages/emails and spending the rest of your time looking at your Instagram, news and FB feeds? Have you ever been more digitally connected than you are right now? Yet, do you feel more social isolation and loneliness than before?
If any of this resonates with you, then you are not alone. At least half of our population depends on a laptop to fulfill their work functions. Since the pandemic, a lot of us are still doing it all from home causing the real life connections we once had, diminish. Some are even calling this new phenomena a loneliness epidemic.
How Does Technology Impact Loneliness & Mental Health?
There is a growing trend in both the medical and psychology field which studies whether or not technology (and lots of screen time) provokes feelings of loneliness in people and how this impacts our lives over the long term.
Our team spent some time discussing this topic as we have seen it in a vast majority of our clients. We offer some practical recommendations for anyone feeling like the amount of technology that they are consuming is making them feel alone and lonely. Take a read.
What is Loneliness?
First, we wanted to unpack what loneliness is and whether it has a purpose. Loneliness is a reaction to a lack of pleasurable engagement–more so than painful disconnection.
Much like boredom, lonely feelings are bearably uncomfortable sensations that, if experienced for short spurts, can offer an opportunity for self-reflection, creativity and appreciation for loved ones and positive experiences.
Is Loneliness is a Bad Thing?
Loneliness is not a bad emotion to experience. We have always had to live with some form of loneliness in our lives. It does become a problem when it goes from being an infrequent sensation to a chronic emotion that lasts for long periods of time throughout the day. This, in contrast, can lead to depression.
How Does Technology Exacerbate Loneliness?
Technology, whether it is a work app, a game, or social media has been designed to keep you engaged as much as possible, making it difficult to put down your phone, tablet or laptop. When we over consume images and content a few things happen to us:
- We believe that we have endless opportunities for connection and, in consequence, we naturally have a lower tolerance for solitude and being alone when we are off our devices.
- Social platforms have gamified our social networks making us believe that we can only win and reach success by having the largest network of friends, followers, and colleagues.
- Social media offers us a beautiful and curated presentation of a synthetic world that we naturally aspire for, increasing our need to compare our life and judge ourselves accordingly.
- Technology also distracts us from our immediate lives encouraging us to postpone real life situations like conflict, break ups, uncomfortable conversations.
These are some of the reasons why, when we are off our devices, we feel lonely, fatigued or generally down and we can’t always put it into words as to why that is. We also don’t know what to do with ourselves.
There are some steps you can take to combat the loneliness epidemic.
You Might Need to Take Time Off Technology
First things first, prioritize your time off technology and digital devices.
Now that we know what we are constantly exposing our brains and emotional health to when we are in digital space, we can act on the importance of taking healthy breaks from it.
How to Take a Break From Technology
Here are a few points which speak to how you can begin to take your life back from technology.
- Start to have modest expectations of friendships and embrace human interaction in a different way. Realistically most people have no more than 1 – 5 people that they would choose to call if they had just had a breakup or needed to be picked up from the hospital.
- Accept loneliness as an emotion that is part of being a human. As long as you are not lonely all the time, it is perfectly normal to feel that sometimes.
- Get comfortable with being alone. Listen to music, read, reflect. Alone time is perfect for journaling and getting your thoughts out on paper. Being alone is also essential for creativity and having some form of creativity in your life is essential for happiness and fulfillment.
You might need more support finding a balance between technology (such as being on your phone) and going on a hike. It is fair to say that after the year that we have had, most of us have struggled with striking this essential balance, and as such, taking a digital audit will be especially useful.
Do You Spend Too Much Time Using Technology?
Stop and reflect on how much time you are spending with technology (eg. computers, smartphones, tablets) and what that activity usually entails.
We can all find times in the day where we do not need to be on our phones or increasing our screen time. It is hard, like we said, especially as many apps are specifically designed to keep us locked in for as long as possible. But try to keep in mind the way technology is affecting you and causing you to feel lonely.
Your Phone is Keeping Tabs on Your Screen Time
Some smartphones (such as iPhone) have a screen time setting where you can see how much time you spend using each app. It can be really eye-opening and sometimes shocking to see how much total time you spend in a day on your phone and what you are really doing during most of that time.
Tips to Take a Break From Technology & Reduce Screen Time
- Keep your phone out of sight during your commute.
- Delete all social media apps from your phone; check these only from a desktop computer.
- Turn all banner-style/pop-up/sound notifications off all other apps (keep the badge-type notifications where you must visually check the app).
- Leave your phone in your pocket or keep it out of sight for meetings/get-togethers/conversations/meals involving other people.
- Don’t take your phone with you into the bathroom or toilet.
- Leave your phone behind when you go out to dinner, lunch or to an evening event/gym session.
- Take your work email off of your phone. Notify everyone in advance that you’re doing this.
- Leave your phone outside your bedroom overnight. Get an alarm clock or turn up the volume on your phone so you can hear its alarm easily from your bed through the door.
- Don’t carry your phone around with you at home. Put your phone in a central place when you return home and go to the location of the phone (rather than carrying it around with you) if you need to check it.
- Keep your phone switched off and stashed away from 7pm Friday to 8am Monday on weekends.
- Keep your phone on airplane mode as default all day. Take it off this mode only when you need to use it.
This long list of ideas can help you start breaking the dependency on digital devices. Start with two, then try three. Start small so that it feels manageable and so that it is sustainable.
Don’t Give Up, Habits Can Be Tough To Break
It may also take a while to change technology habits.
If you fail a few times, don’t beat yourself up about it. Keep working at it. It’s common for people to experience minor setbacks when changing habits especially when it comes to technology given how intertwined it is in our lives.
Also, share what you are planning on doing with your community. It feels good to be supported when you are making adjusts to your life sharing your story may inspire others to do the same.
Help For Lonely Feelings & Setting Limits on Technology
Working with a therapist or life coach is always helpful to breaking unhealthy habits and we have an excellent group of highly trained therapists and life coaches that can work with you any time. Reach out anytime to speak with someone from our team.