Too much screen time – thriving, surviving or shrinking?

Too much screen time – thriving, surviving or shrinking?

In this post we consider two ideas from the world of psychology which help identify some of the factors associated with thriving. The first is Banduras self-efficacy theory and the second is Csikszentmihalyi’s Flow theory.

The article takes about two minutes to read 

Bandura’s self-efficacy theory and screentime

Many of us feel we have too much to do and have too little time to do it in. And many of us have competing demands on our attention and conflicting priorities. Balancing the needs of our family, our own wellbeing, our values, our career, our organisations goals and values and the needs, goals and values of our colleagues is challenging. With so much going on we invariably drop the ball sometimes. Self-compassion and self-care is essential as we strive to perform this juggling act.

Sometimes we just have to act and deal with the consequences. But our ability to act as mindfully as possible is impacted by our stress levels, the level of data noise around us whether we have self-efficacy.

“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; and
  • 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 learn to step back for a moment ( a few seconds) 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
  • Developing new emotional states (through healthy nutrition, connecting with positive people, exercising and so on)

Being online obviously doesn’t mean that this time is always drifting and wasted time. Probably far from it.

When we are driven to seek knowledge, we might have high energy levels, lots of purpose and lots of drive. When we are in this state it’s worth taking regular breaks to make sure energy levels stay high and to ensure we don’t become overly fixated on one goal. Disappearing down the rabbit hole is a risk and before you know it your energy levels might be depleted, your balanced world view skewed and your self-efficacy (ability to act purposefully) potentially undermined.

And purposeless, drifting time spent on the infinity scrolls of Netflix, facebook and tiktok drains energy, robs time and deepens biases.  We might move toward mastery in an online game but we need to consider balanced self efficacy ie to what extent does one activity (being online playing games) rob our ability to execute actions in other important areas of our life.

Being in flow

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, one of the godfathers of positive psychology, developed his “Flow theory” over the last thirty years. When we are in flow states we are:

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

His research points to happiness being generated 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:

  • Enjoying positive emotions and optimism 
  • How satisfied we are with our lives 
  • 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. 

As with self-efficacy we need to consider the potential conflict between personal and organisational flow and consider whether our point of attention has value to us, our loved ones and our colleagues.   

We may be in a flow state online but to what purpose? 

Is our point of attention healthy for us? 

Does our version of flow online mean that we are less able to attend to helping our colleagues and loved ones achieve their own flow states?



Share these insights with friends and colleagues