The new year is always a good time to reflect on the important things in life, such as who and what brings us joy and meaning, how we can improve our own health and well-being, and have better and more fulfilling relationships. Often this involves taking stock of our own behaviour and making some changes.

A common trend today is intentionally taking time away from behaviours that no longer serve us or may in fact be causing us harm. For example, “dry January” was initiated to encourage people to limit alcohol consumption. Another behaviour that can cause us harm is our (over)use of technology and social media. Because the impacts may be less obvious, the potential harms may not be in our awareness. What are some of the costs of being on our devices? Here are just a few for you to consider:

 Feeling Dissatisfied, or FOMO- Fear of Missing Out.

Research has shown that there is a negative correlation between how satisfied people feel with their lives and the amount of time they spend on social media. Consistently ingesting images of other people’s lived experiences can lead to elevated feelings of dissatisfaction, jealousy, envy, and loneliness, as people will often compare themselves to others, and feel “less than.” Research with children and adolescents shows a correlation between the presence of mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and the overconsumption of social media.

Disrupted Sleep Patterns

It is recommended that people shut down their screens well before bedtime, to give the brain time to transition to sleep. Blue light stimulation through screen viewing into the evening and night signals the brain to stay awake and interrupts the brain’s process to transition to sleep. Children and adolescents who take their devices to bed are often sleep deprived on a regular basis, which impacts their growth, learning, and mood.

Barrier to Intimacy

Spending time on devices while in the presence of other people creates barriers to true connection and misses an opportunity to have meaningful time together. Being in the moment is an important aspect of developing intimacy in a relationship, whether it be with a partner, child, or friend. Having a device as part of every moment makes it more likely we will miss things that are happening around us, and it prevents us from being tuned in to the people we are with. It signals to the other person that they are not the most important thing, not deserving of our attention.

Poorer Productivity

People find they are more productive both at home and work when they limit the amount of time spent on social media. Time spent online shopping, gaming, and scrolling can develop into habits that are hard to break. The same neural networks in the brain that are activated by narcotics, are also activated by spending time on screens. Therefore, it is possible to be addicted to technology.

Given these risk factors, “unplugging” from our devices on a regular basis, as well as limiting social media is highly recommended by many in the field of health and psychology. Is a “digital detox” something you need to consider? Here are some of the benefits to reducing your screen time:

Deeper connections and presence

Being in the moment with people who are important to you and being present are central to feeling connected with others. Focusing on the “here and now” is a key aspect of mindfulness. It increases self awareness, improves relationships, and builds empathy. Experiencing simple joys with other people ignites positive feelings and deeper connections. Limiting the role of the device in those moments is a simple way to be more present. To ensure both good communication and connection, have face to face conversations instead of having important conversations through texting.

Improved sleep patterns and mood

Reducing the amount of time spent on social media and devices helps improve the quality of sleep as well as mood. Allowing the brain to rest is as important as allowing the body to rest. The brain needs to have a break from external stimuli to integrate the information it takes in and needs to do this at night. A good sleep allows for the brain to function at a more optimal level, which is a critical for regulating our moods. Shut down devices at least one hour before bedtime.

More time for simple pleasures

The time you take from social media and devices can be spent on things you say you have no time for but enjoy, such as reading, cooking, visiting, crafting, playing with pets and children, as examples. Take stock of how much time you spend on your devices and be honest with yourself about how you are spending the time you have. Does your device serve you, or does it rule you? You have the power to make some adjustments to bring other pleasures into your life.

Life Balance

Unplugging from your device and getting outside or being active is an uncomplicated way to bring your life into more of a balance, especially if you find yourself doing a lot of sitting. Human beings need connection with other people, the natural world and we are designed to move. Building these activities into daily life may mean spending less time on a device, however it will be more rewarding and better for your health. Motivate yourself with identifying the things you would like to do with your time instead, such as starting your day with journalling, yoga, or meditation vs. scrolling social media.


Spending more time focusing on yourself and your own life and relationships will help you experience more appreciation and gratitude for who you are and what you have. Limiting social media helps people to develop a perspective on their own lives and reduces the time spent on unnecessary comparison to others. Mental health, well-being and relationships will all improve, as you focus on your true and authentic self, and allow yourself to have more realistic expectations of self and others.


If you or a loved one is struggling with an addiction to social media, or other behaviours that are not serving you, reaching out for confidential help is always an option to consider. The team at Brant Mental Health Solutions are here to support you in your journey of self-awareness and healing.

Christine Bibby, Social Worker, Brant Mental Health Solutions