Why You Might Think Twice Before Muting Your Phone When Stressed

If we're trying to concentrate, we might think that muting our phone can help us focus. As it turns out, this may not be the case, according to a new study published in Computers in Human Behavior. Researchers compared how often iPhone users picked up their phones if they were on silent, vibrate, or audio-alert modes. Study participants who put their phones on silent mode were more likely to check their phones than those who had an audio or haptic alert.

What's worse is that those who had a Fear of Missing Out (FoMO) and a higher Need to Belong (NtB) were more stressed out if they put their phones in silent mode. According to a 2020 study in The International Encyclopedia of Media Psychology, we sometimes believe our phones are vibrating or that we're receiving notifications when we're not. In other words, our minds are on our phones much more than we think. This shows that putting your phone on silent mode might not be the best way to reduce stress, especially if you often experience FoMO. Instead, we might do better to address our FoMO.

How to reduce your FoMO

Take a look at your relationship with your phone and assess which social media habits might be unhealthy. To an extent, your phone can hurt your health because your mind is thinking about what others are doing on various apps. Some psychologists suggest that we can beat FoMO by accepting that we can't always attend every exciting event. We can also set limits for our social media scrolling and adopt a mindfulness practice (per the Anxiety & Depression Association of America). Even taking a one-week break from social media can reduce phone-related stress.

Researchers are looking into specific ways to reduce FoMO. According to a 2020 study in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, our type of FoMO will have a different remedy. For example, if you're picking up your phone because you want to check how others respond to your recent post, you can work on managing your expectations about posting on social media. If you fear missing notifications from specific people, you can establish a priority list of contacts to receive notifications. You can mute the contacts that are less of a priority. If you feel the need to have a continual conversation with others on your digital device, you can work on engaging in positive thoughts while you are alone.