A recent article by the Australian Psychological Society identified that Australians are the fourth biggest smartphone users in the world. Aussies spend an average of 2.5 hours per day on their phone; this equates to 38 days per year. These figures are not surprising when you think about it. Consider last time you were on the bus or at the pub, how many people had their eyes glued to their screens? How is all this time in front of a screen impacting our health and wellbeing?

Using smartphone social media apps (Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram etc.) to keep in touch with friends or family and stay updated on community events is a beneficial and convenient way to stay connected. This is especially true for blokes in remote areas where face to face contact with our mates is not always possible. Smartphones have also made other aspects of our lives easier; we can now look at tomorrow’s weather or check the footy score with the touch of a screen. There are also many health apps that some people find beneficial to their mental health and overall wellbeing.

There is research, however, that suggests compulsive use of our devices can negatively affect our health. Researchers have even started using the term ‘smartphone addiction’ for people who have an inability to regulate their use. The addictive nature of smartphones is likely due to the instant gratification we get from every text message we receive or like we get on our Facebook posts. Overuse and dependency on smartphones can sometimes have negative impacts on our wellbeing by:

  • Increasing loneliness and depression;
  • Fueling anxiety;
  • Increasing stress levels;
  • Disturbing our sleep.

Another thing to consider when replacing face to face communication with online communication is what makes the biggest impression in how we communicate? The research tells us our body language (visual) is 55%, how we speak (voice/tone) is 38% and the words (verbal) are only 7%. So, if we are trying to communicate with a mate via social media how much meaning is getting lost in translation? It is also very easy for guys to ‘filter’ their online presence to make the appearance of a ‘perfect’ life. This can make it difficult for our support groups to identify when we are going through a rough patch. If our smartphone use is causing us to lose interest in the things we usually enjoy, or we are using them as a replacement to physical relationships it might be time to consider a ‘digital detox’. This doesn’t mean cutting use out completely, rather just cutting back. Helpful ways we can achieve this include:

  • Replacing use with more fulfilling activities. This could be by interacting with our kids, partner or mates more. I know I would feel better doing this than just refreshing my newsfeeds for hours on end;
  • Removing the temptation. This method had great results in combating other addictions (like alcoholism or gambling). We can charge our phones in the lounge at night, so we don’t check it during the night or leave the phone in the smoko room at work, rather than in our pocket.

Let’s control the way we use technology, not let it control us!

Working with Warriors® Podcast Series. The podcast was launched on the 19th June 2020 and is based on conversations around men’s wellbeing and health from our “Working with Warriors®” education sessions. The short podcasts regarding a man’s approach to his wellbeing and health are now available to listen via our website or on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and numerous other podcast directories.

Tom and the Team

The Regional Men’s Health Initiative

delivered by Wheatbelt Men’s Health (Inc.)

PO Box 768, Northam WA 6401

Phone: 08 9690 2277

Email: menshealth@4blokes.com.au