A Side Effect of COVID-19: Digital Overload

During the months I’ve spent in isolation, steering clear of public gatherings and long grocery lines, I’ve come to the realization that I took breaks from technology for granted. The times I didn’t go to the park or go to my favorite restaurant are now what I see in my rearview mirror when I have to drive right past them. Now, I see my friends through video screens and use the raise hand feature on bluejeans. We’ve all grown up using phones and our dependence on them has only grown stronger but I don’t think we ever expected a time where going outside was no longer a safe option. 

 

The loud and crowded study spaces in Clough or the library are wildly different this new semester. I see my classmates in the same place I am: a couple of feet away from their beds. After seeing countless comments of how tired people feel after just the first week, I wanted to find out how our time online is affecting us. I’m sure we have all seen the 24/7 surge of information on social media, with a nonstop newscycle feeding us hopelessness and gory videos. 

 

If you have felt drained or anxious after using your phone, this is a sign of what experts are calling “digital overload.” This can occur when people have trouble processing all the information they see online. This can lead to feelings of stress, anxiety, fatigue, and even depression. It can even translate into physical health problems like vision and sleep problems. What can we do to combat this?

 

Take regular breaks. It’s so easy to fall into a pattern of checking our phone and then checking our laptop and spending our day switching back and forth without taking a break. At this point, a break from online classes might as well just mean going on social media. In order to avoid a digital overload, we should make it a priority to take meaningful breaks that don’t involve our devices. That could mean picking up that new hobby we’ve always been meaning to try. 

 

Be mindful about how you consume information. With an endless stream of content, research has shown that sorting through so much information can lead to digital overload. It’s important to stay updated, but it’s also important to take care of ourselves and not overwhelm our brains. 

 

Stop “multitasking”. I know I’m not the only one that goes on Twitter while watching a Netflix movie or texts my friends during online lecture. While it may feel like we are multitasking, we actually aren’t. Our brains are just switching back and forth from every task. Research reveals that this makes it harder in the long-run to consolidate meaningful information and leave out unnecessary information while trying to focus. 

 

Here we are, at the start of the semester with it looking nothing like we thought it would. Tech Green is emptier than it should be and suddenly Clough has spots open to study at. Life is weird. But one thing we can control is how we use our devices. As we log on to our next class, let’s not forget to put our phones down and take a break once we’re done. It’s the least we can do for ourselves right now.