It’s no surprise that anxiety is on the rise in the United States. According to observers and research, anxiety is on the verge of affecting our society like an epidemic. Anxiety seems to hide in our minds and slip to the surface only when we least expect it. Anxiety finds a way to push beyond rational fear, by redefining our internal conflict into exaggerated, demoralizing threats to our being. Stated by Medical News Today, and the American Psychiatric Association, millennials are the most anxious generation; anxiety levels have also risen 5% from 2017 to 2018. “Work reporting anxiety and depression have risen by nearly a third in the last 4 years.” Although there’s no definitive answer to the rise of anxiety, there’s one steadily rising factor that may be able to validate it all, technology and cell phone use.
Through studies dating back to when cell phones were first introduced, they were said to have no purpose or ability to grow beyond simple phone calls or work affiliated reasons. Within a matter of time, these devices grew to shape our lives around the use of social media and networks. As the pressure to keep up with technology increased, the stress followed suit as well. It never seems to end. Along with these reports, it’s shown that with time and technological advances, the United States is experiencing the greatest increase in anxiety.
Yeah, we may deny the fact we’re addicted, but you have to admit to yourself: there’s definitely something that pushes you to check your phone on a consistent basis. Mentally, cell phone use and social media platforms serve as a rewarding pleasure to consumers, but why does this cause anxiety?
It’s a lot more than just satisfaction. Notifications trigger receptors that create a dopamine rush, directly giving us the urge to check our phones as a habit. It subconsciously feels great, but little do we pay attention to the damage it’s causing. Cell phone addiction ultimately worsens symptoms of depression and anxiety. With technology advances on the rise, the anxiety that comes with it is inevitable.
How often do you go to pick up your phone in an awkward or uncomfortable situation? This is what’s called escapism. Since our phones become a habit to check, we jump to that relief tool, before letting ourselves step outside our comfort zone. The scary thing is, we don’t even realize. Do you pick up your phone every time you’re bored? We all do. Constantly checking for updates and scrolling through social media allows us an effortless way to escape from reality.
This sense of gratification is highly found through the use of apps, but of course, there’s a downside and negativity we are well aware of. We can’t resist the urge to say no when it comes to checking our feeds several times a day. It might be cool to document your plans and see what everyone’s doing, but this luxury can feel demoralizing as well.
That “like” button can be dangerous, and it’s on every social media platform. After posting an Instagram, do you check for notifications? This goes back to the dopamine rush we feel in the midst of receiving positive feedback through media. It also sets a self-expectation. When making a post, we subconsciously anticipate the number of likes or comments we’ll receive based off previous post trends. When those standards aren’t met it can feel depressing for users. According to youngpost, Psychologist Dr. Christian Chan says, “We feel good when we get many likes, but we can get discouraged when we don’t – especially if we interpret the likes as an indicator of approval and our worth.”
Self-esteem in teenagers and now older generations is distorted through media and the feeling of exclusion from being on the outside looking in, just from a device. Fomo - fear of missing out, is a new term that’s been introduced in the past few years to describe our hypersensitivity of exclusion in relation to others posts. If we aren’t included, naturally we feel lonely but when we are, it’s simply a struggle to stay in the loop. This pushes us to make social comparisons based on what we see when in reality, it’s just a perfect illusion. When self-esteem is low, it can seem like everyone’s a whole lot happier than you. Chan says, “...the perceptions you have of other people simply aren’t true. People work to enhance and uphold an “image” of themselves online, putting a positive filter on everything they post.”
Bullying, harassment or confrontation is now a 24/7 thing with technology. It’s much easier to vocalize yourself behind a device. According to youngpost, “When you’re writing and posting things, there’s a phenomenon in which you don’t have the same filter you might when talking on the phone or in person. I think that lends itself to more abrasive statements,” said Rian Rowles, chairman of psychiatric services at Advocate Christ Medical Centre in the state of Illinois.
The answers to everything are right at our fingertips due to the endless possibilities technology’s grown to provide us. This convenience gives us a solution to all extends, to the point we couldn’t imagine a life without it. We can’t remember the last time we made plans without our cell phones, drove from point A to point B, or even watched the news. Technology’s found a way to diminish the need for routine self-sufficiency and independence. On top of the chemically proven addiction that ties us to our cell phones, we have a need for it too. Having that consistent accessibility makes it hard for us to spend a sheer hour without it, even if we don’t need it. We feel anxious when our battery gets low for that reason. Research has found that younger generations, including millennials, show anxiety through rapid heart rate and stress when being separated from technology. The struggle to stay in the loop and remain connected with the rest of the world has taken a turn for the worst.