Our culture has changed immensely as a result of the smartphone. We can get reassurance for every doubt just by texting our friends. We can feel approval by getting “likes” on our Instagram post or Facebook status. But heavy reliance on devices is responsible for a shift in how we regulate our emotions. A byproduct of this instant communication is a diminished ability to sit with uncertainty.
Intolerance to uncertainty has been shown to underlie a range of psychological difficulties. Psychologists could consider a person’s over-reliance on their phones as a “safety seeking behaviour” which reduces anxiety in the moment. But over time, safety behaviours actually feed anxiety because they prevent people from realising their fear has no basis once the situation has actually unfolded, or that it is something they’re able to cope with.
This is particularly problematic for children whose ability to build resilience may be disrupted by such behaviours. Unfortunately some apps, such as Messenger or the “read” message setting of the iPhone, tell the sender whether the other person is online or has read their message.
We need to retrain ourselves, and our teenagers, to stand up to such clear manipulation of their FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) and fear of rejection. Learning to face uncertainty is essential to managing our mental health. To read more from Danielle Einstein, click here.