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Social Media – Are you being driven insane?

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Social Media – Are you being driven insane?

If you pull out your phone to check Twitter while waiting for the light to change, or read e-mails while brushing your teeth, you might be what the American Psychological Association calls a “constant checker.” And chances are, it’s hurting your mental health.

Last week, the APA released a study finding that Americans were experiencing the first statistically significant stress increase in the survey’s 10-year history. In January, 57 percent of respondents of all political stripes said the U.S. political climate was a very or somewhat significant source of stress, up from 52 percent who said the same thing in August. On Thursday, the APA released the second part of its 1 findings, “Stress In America: Coping With Change,” examining the role technology and social media play in American stress levels.

The highest stress levels, it should be noted, are reserved for those who constantly check their work e-mail on days off. Their average stress level is 6.0. So those of you who think it’s somehow pleasant to work from home on a Saturday afternoon, you’re actually fooling yourself. (Good news, there is certainly a way to fight burnout.)

About 42 percent of constant checkers specifically point to political and cultural discussions as causing stress. And the impacts play out in real life—35 percent of constant checkers say they are less likely to spend time with family and friends because of social media.

If the first step toward recovery, however, is admitting there is a problem, Americans are on their way. Some 65 percent of respondents said “unplugging” or taking a “digital detox” is important. But alas, knowing you have a problem is not the same as fixing it: Only 28 percent of those Americans say they take their own advice.

For those looking to manage their social media usage, Anthony L. Rostain, professor of psychiatry at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and co-author of The Adult ADHD Tool Kit: Using CBT to Facilitate Coping Inside and Out, offers some suggestions:

  • Set guidelines for your social media time.
  • Make sure you complete the tasks you need to get done.
  • Get the sleep you need.
  • At the end of the day, evaluate: “Did I do OK? Where did I slip up? Can I do better tomorrow?” These are all important questions to ask yourself, Rostain says.
  • And he adds one final, crucial point: “Don’t [lie] in bed at all hours with the screen in your face.”