A man lies on the grown looking scared and confused. He is surrounded by phones and laptops.
Photo: Devin Jones

Online overload can make students anxious and stressed

In Business & Technology /

By Raneem Al-Ozzi

Spending too much time online can cause students to feel stress and anxiety, according to Toronto psychologist Oren Amitay.

When a student spends too much time on social media or even studying, they can become mentally fatigued. This can lead to physiological exhaustion and the over-thinking of situations, said Amitay.

By draining yourself emotionally and physiologically on the internet, you are also draining your mental capabilities, he said, explaining that these functions all stem from the brain.

“All of that takes away from your ability to actually study because you’re tapping into the same source,” said Amitay.

On Jan. 1, the French government passed a law giving employees the right to disconnect from their emails outside of their regular working hours.

Companies with more than 50 employees are required to regulate hours when workers are not to send or respond to any emails.

The law is meant to balance one’s work and personal life, as well as to protect the health of workers.

According to Time magazine, managers at the French insurance company, Allianz France, have orders not to send work emails after 6 p.m., or to organize staff meetings in the late afternoon.

At KEDGE Business School, which has seven campuses in France, the cut-off time for staff emails is 7 p.m. An automated email response lets employees know that the email is “out of schedule” until the next workday.

This, however, is not the case with students. Amitay said that with school, students have always brought their work home with them in the form of homework.

“When you’re doing your work online, very few people will devote themselves to just doing that work. You will flip between work and checking your social media … that’s when the emotional component comes in,” he said.

Amitay said social media shows people a world that is almost entirely made-up, describing it as an illusion. It has an effect that creates envy, upset and contributes to a Fear Of Missing Out, a feeling that one is absent from the experiences they see on social media.

“It’s a powerfully disturbing psychological phenomenon… It creates a sense of isolation and that one is not good enough, or even good in the average,” said Amitay.

A 2010 study by the University of Maryland found that a majority of students in 10 countries experienced distress when attempting to go without using their cell phones for a day.

According to a 2011 Telenav survey, one in three people would rather give up sex than go a week without their phones.

Priscilla Li, a fourth-year nursing student at Ryerson, said she is completely dependent on technology as a means of communication and studying.

She uses social media as a way of finding out about workshops, events and organizations relevant to her area of study. She also uses it to communicate with classmates and do schoolwork.

“Records, healthcare policies, research papers. Everything has to be updated frequently and cannot be older than five years,” said Li, “Most papers are also published online and there’s no way to get hard copies.”

According to a 2013 study commissioned by Nokia, most people checked their smartphones 150 times a day or every six minutes. It also found that most people check their phones before going to sleep and immediately once they wake up.

A 2011 study by the Pew Research Center found people aged 18 to 24 sent 110 texts daily.

Kaylyn Shaughnessy, a first-year philosophy student, has deleted most of her social media accounts except Facebook, which she uses to stay connected to some school groups.

“At one point, I just felt overwhelmed and so I deleted everything,” said Shaughnessy.

Shaughnessy also said there’s not a lot of online research involved in philosophy, so most of her studies can be done from physical sources.

Li said it’s hard to entirely disconnect as a student and that some things will always require her to be connected.

Amitay said humans fear isolation and feeling left out, so we choose to remain connected. It’s also a distraction from reality, which ironically leaves reality looking bleaker.

Along with acknowledging the existence of a problem, Amitay said students must commit to unplugging a certain amount of time every day.

“It’s easier said than done, but you have to do it,” he said.

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