Are We Giving Ourselves Anxiety?

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I once heard a health expert say, “We no longer allow ourselves to get bored.” All I could think was, ‘Who would want to be bored?’ Therein lies the problem. The answer is ‘no one’ and what the expert was referring to was the amount of screen time we expose ourselves to.

On an average daily basis, we spend almost 1/2 of our time on our phones/tech/TV. We spend more time on screens than sleeping, and this made me realize something…

What if we were giving ourselves anxiety?

This week I came down with tremendous pain in my gut, apparently caused by anxiety. Which makes sense, I suffer from an anxiety disorder. What I didn't expect was that every time I felt anxious it was going to trigger this furious pain that made me want to call the ambulance. This however led to an interesting discovery.

I like to think of myself as a bit of a gamer. I love games, I even have them on my phone. On my way to work, however, I began to think about stuff I had to do with said games and the pain was instantaneous. I thought it was silly, to be anxious about a game… but games nowadays are rarely casual; usually, time management based and notify us of events continually.

It made me think back to that health expert. “We never allow ourselves to become bored.” I know that boredom was important for children, it helps them to be more creative and to have more inventive and artistic thinking… but is it really that important for adults to?

Needless to say, I deleted all my games. I immediately felt some relief. It made me think back to when my anxiety was at its worst. I was gaming then too. It wasn't casual gaming though, this was running an online group, administrating, running social events, accepting new members and banning troublemakers… It was a lot of work. Before that, I would play single player sandbox games. Games where there was no pressure to play and you could save and turn it off at any time. Now though, that's becoming less common.

I found myself starting out doing something to relieve boredom, but then I’d end up making my life unnecessarily busy. It would happen again and again after quitting so many gaming communities. It seems that marketers of media have finally pinpointed a major weakness in the human design. We want to belong, have esteem and feel successful. That's what's for sale now. Facebook, Candy Crush, Call Of Duty… you name it. If it's social and online, it demands and commands us. We're now being sucked into a vacuum for a market that tangibly doesn't exist and has no end. We want to belong, we want to be liked, we want to be winners. That's what drives the economy now.

And I think that's why so many of us have anxiety.

We NEED to be part of what's going on or we're weird. To be honest I stopped caring about being weird over a year ago and deleted my Facebook account. I saw what it was doing to me and I didn't like it. It seems now a lot of people are starting to feel the same way.

Facebook, like other tech and media companies, created a need that didn't exist. We have phones. We have email. Even some of us had MySpace. Why did we need Facebook? Oh, so you can meet up with old friends who are no longer in your life because you stopped being friends. That was essentially the purpose, to discover “New People". (Really more like stalk “old ones”.) The REAL purpose of Facebook is to create a medium which marketing data was not only accurate but readily available for businesses and marketing analysts. No, that quiz was not about what kind of pizza you are, it was to ask you about the things you like so you can be marketed to. We see the silly random things that happen and never question them because they entertain us and we’ve now created a culture of wanting to always be entertained.

Why be bored if you can be happy?

Entertainment is different to happiness. In fact, most marketing analysts have mislabeled “self-actualization” as being entertained. Self-actualization is of course directly related to being happy, but being entertained isn't being happy. It's being not bored.

Back to the expert again. Boredom is good for creativity, fantastic, so what? Well, self-actualization has everything to do with being creative. It's a longwinded term for being yourself. Being who you are so you can become happy. It's the top of Maslow’s pyramid of human needs. All these tech companies, media companies, game companies… they try to make you think that using their product will make you be yourself. Like your profile will show your true colors. It's garbage. Plain and simple. It's just another way to make money, and it's at the expense of our health.

We make ourselves anxious, feeling like we need to use these products or services like it's the ONLY way. You NEED Facebook; you NEED an iPhone, you NEED finance on things you love. There have been plenty of times where in order to participate in something I needed Facebook or an iPhone… I plainly said ‘no’. I forced people to call me. I forced them to text me. It was so liberating. I didn't care if I was weird. It's so great to be out of the machine. It was good to finally recharge.

We need to stop making ourselves busy. We don't need half the stuff that's pushed on us. It's about time we start taking our lives back; for the sake of our mental health.

Written by Luke Tumelty.