What being online 24/7 does to your mental health

online mental health

Being online all the time impacts your mental health negatively

Even though we all know that it is probably not the best idea to be online for twenty-four hours in a day, seven days a week, we still can’t seem to detach from our screens. But now, new research shows that it might be good to reduce the time you spend staring at your screen. Because it might make use more stressed and impacts our mental health in a negative way.


When we use our phones, we’re online. But even when we don’t use our phones, we constantly think about being online. Or the things that happen (that we’re missing out on) online. German researchers call this ‘online vigilance’. In a study, published in PLoS ONE, they described this phenomenon as “users’ permanent cognitive orientation towards online content and communication as well as their disposition to exploit these options constantly.” And this constant online vigilance impacts our brain. Researchers found that online vigilance consists of three dimensions. Their research, published in Human Communication Research in December 2020, said that it consists of salience (thinking about the online world), reactability (the need to respond to notifications) and monitoring (constantly checking our devices, all the time).


And this online vigilance can cause us to become more stressed. Because it is associated with multitasking, which is stressful in and of itself. In recent research, scientists analyzed people to see whether online vigilance is related to stress. The paper, published in Human Communication Research, read: “Results across three studies showed that, in addition to multitasking (but not communication load), especially the cognitive salience of online communication is positively related to stress.” That means that multitasking increases stress levels, and salience (constantly thinking about the online world) does too.

And because we’re constantly busy with (or thinking about) the online world, we’ll have less time and energy to deal with other challenges that we face. That means that when we do encounter some stressful situation, we won’t have enough coping resources to deal with it because we’re too busy thinking about Facebook and the things we might be missing online.

So, it might be beneficial to cut down on screen time and find ways to focus less on whatever is happing on the apps you used to check 24/7.

Read more: Public schools sue Big Tech for mental health issues youth

Source: Real Simple | Image: Unsplash, Bruce Mars