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This Phone Setting Is A Surprising Stress Trigger, Study Finds

Sarah Regan
Author:
June 28, 2022
Sarah Regan
mbg Spirituality & Relationships Editor
By Sarah Regan
mbg Spirituality & Relationships Editor
Sarah Regan is a Spirituality & Relationships Editor, and a registered yoga instructor. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from SUNY Oswego, and lives in Buffalo, New York.
Image by BONNINSTUDIO / Stocksy
June 28, 2022

If you've ever put your phone on silent mode in an attempt to quiet your notifications (and your mind), you might want to reconsider. According to a new study published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior1, silencing your phone might actually have the opposite effect.

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Researching whether or not to put your phone on silent.

For this study, researchers wanted to know how silencing our phones actually affects us. After all, functions like "Do Not Disturb" sound pretty enticing, offering us a solution to the endless stream of stress-inducing notifications—right?

To find out, researchers analyzed Screen Time data from 138 iPhone users, specifically looking at their ringer settings. Roughly half of the participants kept their ringers on for four consecutive days, while 42% of the participants had their phones on vibrate, and 8.7% had them on silent.

And before those four days, the participants also filled out a survey about whether they experienced FOMO (fear of missing out) and/or NtB (need to belong) so the researchers could look for links between phone usage and certain personality factors.

What the study found.

Contrary to popular belief, it turns out silencing your phone may not offer the solution to stress people are looking for, at least according to this research.

In the study, those who silenced their phones spent the most time on social media and picked up their phones to check for notifications significantly more than those who did not keep their phones on silent.

And as far as personality variables, FOMO appears to exacerbate the urge to pick up the phone when it's on silent, with the study finding that those who experience FOMO had both higher screen time and increased feelings of stress from silencing notifications.

As the study authors explain in their research, "Silencing notifications for [those with FOMO and NtB] appears to be more, rather than less, psychologically distressing," adding, "Results also suggest that many current solutions for mobile phone overuse, like the 'Do not disturb' function, may be counterproductive."

The explanation, the team says, is that hearing the chime or vibration of a notification satisfies "informational, social and environmental surveillance gratifications," as well as eases the stress of uncertainty that comes from a silent phone—particularly in those who experience FOMO.

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The takeaway.

If you're not typically one who experiences FOMO, keeping your phone on silent may not be a detriment to your stress levels. But if you do tend to feel FOMO, and you notice you're picking your phone up constantly when it's on silent, you might be better off sticking to your ringer.

Sarah Regan
Sarah Regan
mbg Spirituality & Relationships Editor

Sarah Regan is a Spirituality & Relationships Editor, a registered yoga instructor, and an avid astrologer and tarot reader. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from State University of New York at Oswego, and lives in Buffalo, New York.