Smartphones multiply stressors

Illustration by Marleigh Culver

Katherine Johnson
Columnist

Illustration by Marleigh Culver

According to a new study by Britain’s University of Worchester, there is “an association between the increasingly popular use of Web-enabled cell phones and a rise in stress levels.”

Surprise, surprise.

People are connected to others more than ever these days through social-networking sites and texting. There’s an overwhelming urge and social pressure to stay updated and in touch.

Having constant reliable access to others puts an unique pressure on us. While ordinary cellphones posed a similar stress problem, the addition of Facebook, Twitter and Internet access to our phones has multiplied that stress and brought it to new heights.

By feeling the pressure to quickly respond to messages or update our social media pages, we’re letting our phones take our attention away from other tasks at hand that are usually more important. This could range from priority tasks like homework and driving, to menial tasks like shopping and walking. In fact, 23 percent of the respondents “had tripped or fallen while texting.”

All of us have heard numerous anecdotes of accidents caused by drivers who were too preoccupied with their phone to give the road attention. Even as pedestrians here in Richmond, we must be alert to drivers and should walk with our heads up to avoid walking into traffic. While pedestrians have the right of way, they must also look out for themselves and their safety and not rely on the drivers.

In 2008, there were 1,000 incidents that resulted in emergency room visits by pedestrians involved in texting accidents. Although this information is now four years old, there has surely been an increase in accidents since our reliance on technology grows every year.

College students may be the worst offenders of all and can only improve by addressing the problem. Young adults shouldn’t feel stress in waiting for a response from a friend or replying as fast as they can.

The best way to lessen the stress of your phone is by taking baby steps. If you’re in the middle of a conversation but know you won’t be able to reply quickly, just tell the other person you’ll get back to them when you can, or just don’t text them back. Easy, basic, common-sense solutions to our smartphone-stress problem are rapidly available; only regular practice and dedication withhold their implementation.

Most severely, however, is the fact that we’re letting our face-to-face interactions with people suffer from our over-reliance on cell phones.
As a society, we’re more socially awkward now than ever since we can just shoot off a text or post on someone’s wall instead of actually talking. People also keep their phones out when they’re not even using it in order to stay entertained or look like they’re busy to avoid others.

When it comes time for an interview or simply making small talk, too many of us don’t know what to do. It’s important to be tech savvy in every job setting, but being a good communicator and speaker is also critical.

As hard as it may seem, the best option may be to put the phone down, at least for a little while. This seemingly 24-hour access to others has negatively impacted us to feel like we must respond immediately to keep up to date.

We shouldn’t make our digital lives a priority and shift our attention when working on other things just because we can’t respond on the spot, which we see in class when students are on the phone.

It’s important to take time away from the phone and enjoy what we’re doing in the moment.

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