The Universal Coping Mechanism

Commenting on other’s posts and ideas, it’s not hard to see that a lot of the reasons we use social media and technology is because we are using them as coping mechanisms.

When I am in the company of others, I try to always be mindful of how I am talking to them. Am I making enough eye contact? Am I supplying subtextual cues to let them know I’m listening? How can I contribute to the conversation? Do they want me to contribute to the conversation, or do they just need to be heard? 

I think about all if this when I am talking to them, but I am even more paranoid when I have my phone out. Sometimes, it’s unavoidable; you need to check your email, your notifications, your texts, etc. But you also need to be mindful that you are not simply playing with your phone because you are bored or disengaged in whst is happening around you. 

As an ADHD individual, it can often be quite hard to pay any attention to anything or anywhen, even when I am interested, so I need to have my phone in my hand or doing something with my hands, just so I can pay attention to what’s in front of me. It can look like I’ve checked out of the conversation, or like I’m being rude, but more often than not, I’m just trying to keep myself focused or centered.

More often than not though, I use my electronic devices when I am alone. Typically, as long as I am included in the conversation and my mind is being kept busy enough, I don’t touch my phone; or else I will lose track of the conversation. So I am typically a social media user when I am alone and I need to keep my mind busy, and the reason is pretty simple: I absolutely cannot allow myself to be alone with my own thoughts for too long.

Unless my mind is pointed in a specific direction (write this, think about this, look at this) I struggle a lot with depression and anxiety inducing thoughts. I’ve learned, like many, how to use technology as a coping mechanism to keep myself upbeat and situated within the correct headspace. It is, undoubtedly, an unhealthy coping mechanism, but it is one I and many other use, regardless. 

So it can be incredibly frustrating to find the line between healthy and normal online useage and where you stray into unhealthy online habits. It’s also frustrating when you can’t explain to people what you’re doing. I’ve gotten questionable looks from professors and teachers before when I had to mindlessly use my laptop to stay focussed o. Their lecture, or glares from people in public spaces when I’m trying to mind my own business on my phone, because I’ve had a bad mental health day and I can’t just relax and look out the window of the bus like I want to. 

Our obsession with social media has been, for me, an indicator not of poor communication or the decline of social skills, but where we are at from a mental health standpoint as a society. The amount of people that likely use their phones as coping mechanisms is, I’m sure, astonishing. If you went to one of the proclaimed “happiest countries” no doubt you would find that they use their phones and devices much less. Whether this is as a cause or effect of their evidently healthier mental status, is debatable, of course; but I would be inclined to believe that it is not because technology is unhealthy or bad, but because we are using that technology as a result of being mentally unhealthy.