This is why being constantly online stresses you out

Feel a little frazzled after spending most of the day online?

New research says that constantly checking emails, WhatsApps and Instagram, as well as browsing the web and getting notification after notification is a habit called ‘online vigilance.’ And, somewhat unsurprisingly, it stresses people out.

A study published last month in Human Communication Research found a link between how much time people spent online and how stressed out they were.

Researchers say this online vigilance phenomenon refers to three things: 1) when you constantly think about the online world, 2) when you always take it in with an ever-present phone and multiple tabs open and 3) when you instantly react to notifications. 

There’s no denying the pandemic has increased our screen time, but researchers say that this rise could be stressing out our brains. 

However, it’s not down to the amount of emails or notifications, instead it’s the fact that we are permanently connected to the online world.

This multi-tasking – however much it might seem natural to us now – can overwhelm a brain’s attention centres, according to the results of three different studies conducted by researchers.

‘Multitasking was quite consistently related to higher levels of perceived stress. This result replicates previous findings demonstrating a relationship between media multitasking and perceived stress,’ the authors explain.

They add: ‘We show that not only specific usage patterns such as multitasking but also a permanently connected mindset may have costs for users’ cognitive capacity, resulting in more stressful experiences in daily life.’

What’s more, the constant presence of a phone can make you ultra-sensitive to notification sounds and signals, which can cause feelings of guilt or stress if you don’t respond quickly.

The bad news is that this all supports previous studies which have highlighted the detrimental effects of the permanent availability of connectivity.

So taking some time away from our devices is especially important in this already-stressful coronavirus climate.

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