Age of Hatred? Heart of Stone Syndrome


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In this day and age we are very fortunate. With all the wonderful modern technological marvels we have that are making our lives easier, things faster and freeing up our time to do the things we really want to. Or are they?

I love modern technology. I love the fact that I can be plugged in anywhere, anytime and get real time updates when needed such as weather, baby sitter updates, family alerts and of course business updates. But..... that all comes with a price. There is also a negative side to all of this technology.

We are almost always plugged in. Go out in public and look around. Most people have their faces buried in a phone or electronic device when they are with friends or family. What was life like BEFORE these distractions?

Growing up in a time before social media, cell phones, computers and many electronic devices wasn't bad. In order to bully someone you had to actually say it to their face. In order to make an unkind statement, you had to have a friend tell this person, call them on your home phone or do it face to face. We did not have electronics to hid behind like we do now. The aggression factor has come on fast and furious. Now, children are not the only bullies.

Keyboard Warriors

Have you ever heard this term before? A keyboard warrior is someone who would say something mean, condescending, hurtful or down right rude because they can hide behind a keyboard and do it. There is no culpability, there is no human interaction to see how the person reacts to the statement just said so the person saying it doesn't need to feel bad. Most people feel bad when they say something and know it hurts another person, they can see the level of hurt based on the other person's reaction. With keyboard warriors, that isn't the case.

On social media, you can swoop in, say something unkind and then leave. Blocking someone after you say something horrible seems to be quite common place as well. There is a lot of aggressive behavior in the world these days, can screen time be to blame?

Screen time, can it lead to aggression?

According to Psychology Today, there are 6 main reasons (below) why they feel screen time is making people more aggressive. I realize this article is regarding children and teens, however, why can't it apply to adults?

1. Screen time disrupts sleep and desynchronizes the body clock.

Because light from screen devices mimics daytime, it suppresses melatonin, a sleep signal released by darkness. Just minutes of screen stimulation can delay melatonin release by several hours and desynchronize the body clock. Once the body clock is disrupted, all sorts of other unhealthy reactions occur, such as hormone imbalance and brain inflammation. Plus, high arousal doesn’t permit deep sleep, and deep sleep is how we heal. 2. Screen time desensitizes the brain’s reward system.

Many children are “hooked” on electronics, and in fact gaming releases so much dopamine—the “feel-good” chemical—that on a brain scan it looks the same as cocaine use. But when reward pathways are overused, they become less sensitive, and more and more stimulation is needed to experience pleasure. Meanwhile, dopamine is also critical for focus and motivation, so needless to say, even small changes in dopamine sensitivity can wreak havoc on how well a child feels and functions. 3. Screen time produces “light-at-night.”

Light-at-night from electronics has been linked to depression and even suicide risk in numerous studies. In fact, animal studies show that exposure to screen-based light before or during sleep causes depression, even when the animal isn’t looking at the screen. Sometimes parents are reluctant to restrict electronics use in a child’s bedroom because they worry the child will enter a state of despair—but in fact removing light-at-night is protective. 4. Screen time induces stress reactions.

Both acute stress (fight-or-flight) and chronic stress produce changes in brain chemistry and hormones that can increase irritability. Indeed, cortisol, the chronic stress hormone, seems to be both a cause and an effect of depression—creating a vicious cycle. Additionally, both hyperarousal and addiction pathways suppress the brain’s frontal lobe, the area where mood regulation actually takes place. 5. Screen time overloads the sensory system, fractures attention, and depletes mental reserves.

Experts say that what’s often behind explosive and aggressive behavior ispoor focus. When attention suffers, so does the ability to process one’s internal and external environment, so little demands become big ones. By depleting mental energy with high visual and cognitive input, screen time contributes to low reserves. One way to temporarily “boost” depleted reserves is to become angry, so meltdowns actually become a coping mechanism.

6. Screen-time reduces physical activity levels and exposure to “green time.”

Research shows that time outdoors, especially interacting with nature, can restore attention, lower stress, and reduce aggression. Thus, time spent with electronics reduces exposure to natural mood enhancers.

What can you do to help yourself?

What are some ways that you can break the cycles and reduce screen time?

  • Give yourself a time limit. Does that mean a certain amount per day, per hour, per week, per month? You decide. Set a timer and when the timer goes off, it's time to get up and do other things.

  • Hang out with people who make you forget you even have a phone, computer or social media account. Find friends who recharge your batteries, fill you up and make you want to go out and do fun things, not those that drain you.

  • Scroll by. If you see a topic that you know will not have a good outcome or can turn ugly, scroll by. Know your limits, know what triggers you and avoid those topics.

  • Go on an electronic fast. If you can't do an entire fast due to work, then go on a social media fast. No one says you have to be on social media. I see friends leaving it every day.

  • Get outside! Enjoy nature. One of the easiest and fastest ways I can lose myself is to go out and be one with nature.

We all have the ability to make choices for ourselves. If we don't want our kids addicted or on social media all the time, then we need to be better role models and not do the same. I hope you enjoyed this article, should you have questions or comments, please email me at melissa@sweetwillowspirit.com. Have a wonderful day!

Love and light,

Melissa

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