• Imogen Bowlt

Opinion: Would we have been better off this lockdown if we didn’t have our phones?

Updated: Mar 6

We’ve seen it in studies, we’ve been told on the news. With fear of sounding like a broken record, there really is only so much screen time that we can all take before it becomes damaging.

As someone born in the post 2000 era (yes, I can’t believe I’m old enough for University either), I have truly grown up with the rise of social media. I was on Instagram from the very beginning - from the Retrica filters and in-app editing to the arguably over saturated platform that it has become today. Our generation is one which regards Google as the norm.

Do I think the side effects of constant comparison and FOMO has affected my own mental state? Most probably.

But I don’t think that this is just the younger generation anymore. Pretty much everyone and their mother is on Facebook at this point and, especially since lockdown, older generations have seen the benefits of keeping up with friends without needing to ring them on the land line for a yearly catch up. Now every generation has a preference of social platforms they enjoy to some extent and it’s no longer “the young person’s problem”, but universal. In this sense, our phones have become our most important asset, our prized possession.

And yes, we know that social media is damaging. Constantly being fed pictures of everyone’s best angles, seemingly perfect relationships and exciting plans does sometimes make you feel like everybody else has more of a life than you do. The comparison is imminent unless actively ensuring that you're not.

At this time of lockdown and social distancing, our phones and social media have kept us connected with others. It has made a lot of people in times of isolation feel far less alone. For this reason, it can’t all be negative, can it?

It has certainly kept us occupied in our spare time because, aside from everything else, boredom levels have increased. Feeling as though you’ve gone through the entirety of Netflix and finishing all the work that you can manage under these circumstances, mindlessly scrolling to kill time is something that actually now sounds very appealing.

The question is; have the benefitted us more than the damage that they may have caused? If phones didn’t exist, would the pandemic be better or worse?

I suppose technology has made it easier to communicate and made working from home a possibility for a lot more people. Yes, with the state of the economy being what it is, there has been an unfortunate amount of people losing thier jobs which has been detrimental to thier mental state. However, at least with phones and social media, more people have had the ability to work from home which has given a sense of financial security than what it would have been.

More than this, if we didn’t have phones, how would our mental health be if we couldn’t keep in contact with our relatives and loved ones?

It’s interesting how social media often makes us feel very alone. But with the number of people we now only have contact with online, those who have gone through lockdown with only one or two other people (if anybody at all) would have felt even more so.

I suppose we can’t really blame phones entirely for their role in our mental health as, although it is damaging, I can’t quite see the lockdowns being easier without them. Such “unprecedented times” (which is a phrase that needs to be binned as soon as this is over) has meant changes to everyone's lives that will affect us whether social media was there or not. Being at home all of the time, not going out with friends, financial uncertainty, lack of fresh air and exercise. They are all reasons for the state of our mental wellbeing taking a hit.

Yes, the amount of time on social media for all of us during lockdown has increased and it has taken its toll on our mental health. But overall phones have definitely not been our enemy over the past year. In a lot of cases, it has kept us together.

Edited by Pia Cooper

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