No one doubts that the digital revolution has been an empowering and enlightening period for humanity. The downside? All that access to instant data, social connection, and spicy Tinder matches could be driving us up the walls with anxiety, according to a new survey from the American Psychological Association (APA).
In the report, titled “Stress in America: Coping with Change,” the APA polled over 3,500 adults in the U.S. over one month and found that 86% of them—yes, 86%—are "constantly or often" checking email, sending and reading texts, and updating and monitoring their social media accounts.
The researchers also discovered that all the endless smartphone and computer checking creates a huge amount of stress, with those who identify as constant checkers reporting an average level of stress at 5.3 out of a scale from 1 to 10 (where 1 is “little to no stress,” and 10 is “a great deal of stress”). Those who didn’t check up on their digital lives as frequently clocked in at 4.4. The worst yet? The overall stress rate for those Americans who check their work email on their days and hours off was 6.0.
What's to blame? About 42% of the constant checkers blamed charged political and cultural conversations that litter the social media landscape, compared with 33% from the not-as-frequent checkers. More interesting: 65% of all respondents said that a periodical unplugging and digital detox was important to retain their sanity, though only 28% actually engaged in time off.
“Taking a digital detox is one of the most helpful ways to manage stress related to technology use,” said Lynn Bufka, Ph.D., APA’s associate executive director for practice research and policy. “Constant checkers could benefit from limiting their use of technology and presence on social media.”
We suggest shutting down and shutting out the digital distractions whenever possible, and especially refraining from checking any texts or emails when grinding it out in the gym. If you find yourself glued to your phone the gym, perhaps you aren’t working out hard enough. Why not try this 10-minute gut buster and see how many times you pick up your phone? (Pro tip: It should be zero.)