Screentime, self efficacy and being in a flow state

Screen time, self-efficacy and being in a state of flow

This is the eighth in my series of posts about the impact of social media and screen time in on our wellbeing, communication  and our ability to make rational decisions.  This post takes about two minutes to read.

The posts have been inspired by the book “Offline”, written by Imran Rashid and Soren Kenner.  

In the last section of the book the authors explore self-efficacy and flow theory and how infinity scrolling is time lost – a scattered, disengaged and fragmented stated. To learn about the world around us and about ourselves requires engagement and energy. We remember things better when we are present. We learn new ways of navigating the world when we are present. And we are happier, when we are present.

Does too much screen time impact our self-efficacy and our ability to be in flow?

The great psychologist, Bandura, worked in the area of self-efficacy. What does this mean? And how does it relate to screen time overload?

“how well one can execute courses of action required to deal with prospective situations”

People with high levels of self-efficacy tend to:

  • See challenges as tasks to be mastered
  • Become deeply engaged in activities
  • Are committed
  • Bounce back from setbacks

Bandura’s research points to these areas as being developable.  With self-awareness and practice we can learn more about our biases, strengths and emotional triggers. We can become better observers of our own internal narrative and become consciously aware of whether these help us or hinder us. We can step back for a moment and consider how we wish to be in the world. What sort of a person do we want to be for our friends, colleagues and family? With greater awareness we can practice becoming the person we aspire to be.

All of these things require focus, energy, curiosity and diligence.  Too much online time, spent drifting, may rob us of these things.  

We can develop greater self-efficacy through:

  • Mastery (repetition with fine attention to doing things better each time)
  • Social persuasion (modelling and enjoying group connection and encouragement)
  • Recognition of our own emotional state and how this impacts our performance
  • Finding ways to express ourselves emotionally and to learn and grow from what these emotions mean
  • Developing new emotional states (through healthy nutrition, connecting with positive people, exercising and so on)

Being in flow

Finally, the book introduces the “Flow theory” of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. He’s one of the godfathers of positive psychology. And his flow theory also helps us understand the adverse impact of too much screentime.

When we are in flow states we are:

“strong, alert, unselfconscious and at the peak of our current abilities.”

His research points to elevated personal wellbeing when we are in a state where we are gently striving. This is one where we are learning new things, slightly outside of our comfort zone and expanding our minds, connecting with people in new ways and learning new skills.  

This can often be the very opposite of closing into ourselves online, in a filter bubble, surrounded by a wall of mirrors, reflecting our conditioned likes and beliefs.

Being in a flow state has multiple benefits including:

  • More positive emotions and optimism 
  • More satisfaction with our life
  • Being more motivated 
  • Performing well academically  
  • Performing well at work 

To be in flow we need to be aware and not be mindlessly drifting. Being in flow means to be self-aware of our underlying strengths, goals, interests and motivations. It means to gently challenge ourselves and try new things. Flow theory points to wellbeing being enhanced through trying new things and is undermined when we repeat the same things again and again.

Takeaways from this post 

  • Mastery – set aside some time for you each week to practice something you love
  • Social persuasion – if you feel passionate about something join a group to find out how you can learn more and how you can give back more
  • Finding ways to express emotions – if you are experiencing challenges at the moment spend some time documenting your feelings.  The next stage might be to reach out to a trusted friend, therapist or coach to explore your emotions and whether they illuminate your values and goals (and perhaps some of the real or perceived barriers to you attaining your goals) 
  • Developing new emotional states – which activities or lifestyle choices enhance your mood state?  Reach out to friends or new groups to enjoy these things with other people

Share these insights with friends and colleagues