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Could Advancements in Communication Be Causing a Decline in Mental Health?

May 27, 2022

The nation recently marked the anniversary of the first use of the telegraph. Before Samuel Morse sent his four-word message on May 24, 1844, long-distance communication was pretty much unchanged since Guttenberg invented the printing press more than 400 years earlier. It could take weeks or even months for news to travel. Today, it takes seconds. We live in a world of truly instant communication, but in a world where there are endless horrific events – Ukraine and Buffalo are the most recent examples – how much connectivity through TV, the web, apps and social media is too much? “Over exposure has been associated with depression and anxiety,” said Paul Weigle, MD, associate medical director at Natchaug Hospital and chair of the Media Committee for the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, and a member of the scientific advisory board for Children & Screens: Institute for Digital Media and Child Development. To set limits, Dr. Weigle suggests:

  • Taking a break: Simply turn off your devices, whether it’s for an evening, a day or longer to flush your system of news overload: If that seems impossible, try setting blocks of no more than an hour once or twice a day to check the news and social media.
  • Distracting yourself: Go outside for a bike ride, scrub the kitchen counters to a shine or make a snack to savor.
  • Getting involved: If a certain social issue is important to you, find a group supporting that issue and find out how you can help – offline and in person if possible.
  • Calming yourself: Create a sense of peace in your space with music, the scent of a nice candle or pretty flowers. Your mind and body need calmness to feel restored.
  • Connecting with a friend: Chatting, via Facetime or Zoom, or in person when possible is an instant boost to your spirits.
  • Setting limits such as no social media after dinner or after 8 p.m.
  • Charging the phone outside of the bedroom at night.
  • Turning off notifications and setting virtual boundaries.
  • Responding offline.