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phone anxiety

By Chiara Christian, June 3, 2021

Read time: 3 Mins

phone anxiety Image

I fantasize often

about throwing my phone off the Harbour Bridge.

As a native Gen Z, I should be used to being constantly stimulated and bombarded with information 24/7—I mean, that’s how we’ve grown up. But for me, I like to use the term “phone anxiety”, because over the years I have developed this deep hatred of being constantly accessible and connected all of the time.

It really isn’t natural to be connecting with hundreds and thousands of strangers on a day-to-day basis, and yet that’s the new norm. I heard this great quote somewhere talking about how you wouldn’t let a hundred people into your bedroom every morning, which is essentially what we’re doing when we scroll on our phones first thing when we wake up.  

I guess it’s not so much about the phone itself, it’s really about social media and how it has totally consumed us as a society. Yeah, we all are aware it’s addictive and problematic for mental health, but we’re all so hooked on it we don’t care; give me the drug anyway.

Just knowing I have social media takes up a fair share of mental anxiety and energy. At the end of 2018, I took a 6-month sabbatical from Instagram. It shifted my entire relationship to my phone, social media, and literally my life in general. It taught me one of the hardest skills: how to sit in a public space without automatically reaching for my phone out of fear of looking like a “loser”.

The experience also taught me how to be present. It happened to coincide with a two-month holiday overseas, where I noticed how often I would usually take photos purely for the purpose to be shared online. In the last few years, even since getting Instagram back, I rarely take photos anymore. But ironically, it created a different kind of anxiety. When I actually do want to post something, I get so worked up in my head and scared—heart racing, sweating, classic anxiety symptoms—that I just won’t do it, even when I have a burning desire to. Every time I do work up the courage to post something, I feel SO exposed and vulnerable, like I’m standing stark naked, that I will delete the app and won’t check it for two days out of fear of the response. Even though I LITERALLY have 100 followers.

I don’t really know what the solution is. But I do already feel like everyone’s relationship to social media is changing—tbh, my opinion is that Instagram won’t be there in a few years. Or a lot more people are going to come off it. I also don’t feel like it’s “our” fault, that is our addiction to social media and our phones. It’s 100% the fault of these companies designing these apps to be addictive, because if they can’t keep our attention on them, how will they make money? I also regularly ponder the strangeness that we are technically the “workers” of these companies— we generate their revenue, we create their platforms through our willing participation to post and engage with them. If we all stopped posting, there would be no content and no eyes to sell to. So does that mean we should be the ones getting paid? If technically we are providing free labour in sustaining these platforms?

Anyway, it’s a huge topic I could ramble on for hours. But I don’t think the conversation has been overdone yet. Even if asking these big questions does generate some anxiety in itself.

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