Mad About Media

Research from Michigan State University suggests that digital multi-tasking, such as watching a movie while checking Facebook, can wreak havoc on your psyche.

sad media illustration

New research suggests that if you increase screen time by doing things like simultaneously watching a movie, checking Facebook, and sending an email, it can wreak havoc on your psyche.

Researchers at Michigan State University asked 319 people how many hours per week they typically spent using more than one form of media at a time to socialize, gather information, or entertain themselves (smartphones, websites, video games, social-media platforms, television, music players, etc.). Then they asked a series of questions about participants’ mental health. The findings, published in Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking (February 2013), reveal a correlation between digital multi-tasking and sad or anxious feelings.

Keep Check of Your Screen Time

While more research needs to be done to determine a definitive causal link to explain the issue, Christopher Hopwood, PhD, assistant professor at MSU, notes that the phenomenon appears to affect everyone’s mood for the worse, whether he or she has a naturally sunny disposition or is predisposed to anxiety or depression. Even if you don’t tend toward melancholy, make sure to pay attention to how much screen time you’re clocking.

The next step for the research team is to study whether multitasking is causing problems with mood or if one’s mood leads to increased multitasking.

In the meantime, try setting aside your favorite screens every now and then for some kinder, gentler forms of multitasking — like bird watching while walking in the park, or laughing with a loved one while cooking a meal.

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