Putting Phone In Silent Mode May Actually Increase Stress: Study

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Some people put their phones in silent mode thinking it can help them avoid distractions. But for those who have FOMO (fear of missing out), it can actually increase their stress, researchers have found.

Smartphones have undeniably become a constant presence in many people’s lives, but many tend to get bothered by the non-stop notifications. As a result, some people put their phones in silent mode to stay away from distractions.

“But, will silencing notifications help users feel less distracted or more preoccupied with what they will be missing out?” the researchers wrote in their paper published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior.

For their work, the researchers collected data from 138 iPhone users. Some 42% of them had their phones on vibrate mode, 8% had their phones in silent mode, while the rest simply kept their audio alerts on for four straight days, HealthDay reported.

Participants also completed a survey to see if they have FOMO and had the Screen Time tool on their phones to monitor their usage. Essentially, FOMO is the “worried feeling” people have that they may not be experiencing the things people are. This is especially caused by scrolling through social media.

Interestingly, the researchers found that those who had their phones in silent mode had the tendency to pick up their phones to check for messages more often than those who had their phones with the audio alerts on or in vibrate mode. They also logged the highest time spent on social media compared to those whose phones weren’t in silent mode.

This was especially true for those with high FOMO and NtB (need to belong), the researchers said, adding that the simple act of silencing the notifications appears to be more “psychologically distressing“ for these participants.

The results shed new light on the impact of the simple matter of putting our phones on silent, especially among those with high FOMO.

“Our findings offer new insights into understanding the relationship between notifications and mobile phone usage, especially how the sound and vibration cues of notifications assuage users’ uncertainty and fulfill their informational, social and environmental surveillance gratifications,” the researchers wrote.

So instead of muting all notifications completely or using features like the “Do not disturb” function, which may even be “counter-productive,” as per the results, the researchers recommend that those with high FOMO customize their notifications. For instance, they may keep notifications from close friends and family.

Dealing with the root of FOMO likely requires more than just altering people’s relationship with their phones, HealthDay reported, citing experts who were not involved in the study.

While easing one’s FOMO may not be easy to do, the Anxiety & Depression Association of America has a few recommendations for overcoming it, such as admitting that one has a problem and “acknowledging the insecurity,” limiting one’s time spent on social media — perhaps by setting aside a specific time in the day for it — and practicing mindfulness.

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