Being 'Digitally Available' Comes At A Cost, And It's Time We Talk About It

"I will aggressively turn my phone off for the whole weekend if I want to, thank you very much." This bold statement was part of a Twitter status that went viral in 2022. Ivy, the user who posted it, wrote, "Saw a TikTok about cutting someone off for not responding to a text for 2 days. Received a message myself at 11:30pm and then a followup in the morning asking if there was a 'deeper reason' I wasn't responding. This constant digital availability expectation is sickening."

With over 300,000 likes to date, the status clearly resonated with others who felt the pressure of being available online 24/7. Strangely, being overly available is often seen as a bad thing. Responding to a first date invitation too quickly could be mistaken for neediness, and following up soon after a job interview might make you seem like a desperate candidate with no other options lined up.

But when it comes to updating on social media or staying connected through texts, being available is the norm. Data from Pew Research Center found that 31% of Americans report being active online "almost constantly," and an additional 48% say they go online several times a day. Still, just because you see the notifications or scanned the text from your friend doesn't mean you're always available to respond — nor should you be. Here's why it's time to hit "do not disturb" on digital availability.

Texting back right away is burning you out

Leaving someone on read is often regarded as a passive-aggressive power move, especially in our constantly connected world. "Now, people know that you likely have immediate access to their messages. Not answering seems more like a form of intentional disregard, which could make people anxious to respond more quickly," Larissa K. Barber, a psychology professor and telepressure researcher, told Chicago Inno. If you're a bit of a people pleaser or just want to leave a good impression, you might respond swiftly to messages and emails.

If you take a long time to respond, however, you might be met with pushback, the way Ivy described in her Twitter post. Now more than ever, people may fire off a text in hopes of receiving instant support or connection, leaving the recipient feeling responsible for managing the sender's feelings. "That's a problem because it makes people dependent upon their phones and [on] others to regulate their emotions for them," Amy Morin, a psychotherapist and clinical social worker, explained to Insider.

Unsurprisingly, the pressure to always be on call (or, um, on text?) can take a toll. A 2016 study published in "Stress & Health" (co-authored by Barber) looked at the effects of telepressure on college students. It concluded that those who experience pressure to quickly respond to messages are more likely to report burnout, stress, and unhealthy sleeping habits.

Group chats rope you in and leave you feeling anxious

Group chats: The two-word phrase alone might be enough to make you shudder. While wrangling all your friends into one chat thread can be convenient, the pressure to remain engaged is dialed up when, say, seven people are waiting for your response instead of just one. And because so many people are participating, the non-stop pings can make you feel on edge.

"There's something uniquely anxiety-producing about group text chats due to the sheer massive number of messages, very quickly going from zero to hundreds of notifications in a matter of seconds," Becky Stuempfig, a licensed marriage and family therapist, explained to HuffPost. "When we see so much activity happening, it creates a sense of panic and often results in difficulty with separating from the phone due to fear of missing out."

For some, the stress can become overwhelming. To deal, one in six Americans immediately mute every group chat they're added to, and one in four mute them eventually, according to a survey conducted by the messaging app Viber (via Brit + Co). No matter how available your squad expects you to be, sometimes the only way to protect your mental health is by putting the group chat on the back burner and catching up on the conversation later.

Screen time can interfere with IRL time

No matter what time it is or where you are, you can reply to texts from a friend or "like" an acquaintance's social media post to show you've seen it. In these ways, it's easier to stay connected now than ever before. However, being available online can sabotage your social life offline. "Strangely, being always online can actually make you less socially active in the real world," psychologist Joanna Konstantopoulou revealed to Glamour. "If you feel like you need to make yourself always available for people on social media or via text message, then you may find you are less likely to engage with real-life events or find that you are always on your phone rather than living in the moment."

Next thing you know, you're phubbing your date or Sunday brunch squad — if you even meet up with them at all. A survey by Common Sense Media found that teens would rather text their friends than talk in person. Moreover, a 2021 study published in the "Saudi Journal of Biological Sciences" confirmed that social media use has a negative impact on face-to-face interactions.

Not all research agrees that technology is replacing IRL hang-outs, but if you're usually glued to a screen, you might not devote as much time or attention to those around you as people once did before the age of DMs and emails.

Your identity is shaped by your online interactions -- and not in a good way

Imagine if you deleted your TikTok and hopped off the BeReal bandwagon. Without leaving your mark online — no more public selfies, goofy lip-syncing videos, or posts about your pet — it can kind of feel like you're nobody. When you're always available in the digital sphere, you might end up creating a personal brand for yourself, whether intentionally or not. The photos you post, the types of comments you leave, and even the emojis you lean on in DMs are all part of a constructed identity. Yet your authentic self can be very different from your online persona.

"People often put the fantasy version of themselves online — the one they want to be or the one they want to sell," Jacqueline Donelli, a licensed medical health counselor, told Allure. "On the internet, we are who we want others to think we are." Being perpetually plugged in can start to blur the line between who you really are and who you are in cyberspace.

All this isn't so great for your mental health. According to, people who fixate on their digital image may be more likely to experience social anxiety, depression, and self-objectification.

Your privacy may be on the line

When you make yourself digitally available, who exactly are you available to? Let's be honest: Most of us are active participants in the same internet our parents warned us about years ago. We geotag our locations, post personal life updates in our Instagram Stories, and allow others to see exactly when we were last active online. In the wrong hands, this information can be used against us.

According to Keeper Security, oversharing online could cost you your physical safety, reputation, and social media accounts (if, for example, a follower uses your personal information to hack the account). And if communicating through texts is your go-to, your conversations might be screenshotted and forwarded to others.

Just as you would with your in-person relationships, it's crucial to set boundaries around who you're willing to connect with online. However, that can be easier said than done. "People often talk to me about a sense of obligation that they feel online," Jennifer Sadler, a licensed mental health counselor, shared with Allure. "Often, understandably, we feel like because we're putting ourselves out there to a degree, we're obligated to accept a friend request on Facebook or return a message to someone that is a stranger to us." Sadler suggests taking a step back and deciding which interactions — and from whom — you're truly comfortable with.

How to disconnect from digital availability

If you're overwhelmed with the constant flow of messages and notifications, small steps can help you unplug and reconnect with reality. Start by hiding your online status and setting your profiles to "private" when possible. This can make it easier to avoid communications from strangers or other people you don't feel comfortable responding to. Even for messages from trusted pals, it's okay to wait to respond. Designate a time each day, such as during your train commute or after dinner, to reply to any messages that came through.

If the pressure to be digitally available is still weighing on you, it may be time to take more drastic measures. While you might not feel ready to delete your messaging and social media apps, rethink how frequently you use them. Dr. Kaylee Crockett, a clinical health psychologist and clinical scientist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, suggests tracking how much time you spend on social media each day. "Compare this to the time you are spending on other activities that matter to you," she says. "If you don't like what you see, start setting limits for accessing your device or scheduling blocks of time for other activities that you care about."

Finally, consider rebooting your mental health with a social media break. Doing a digital detox for a day, weekend, or even longer can remind you how to make yourself available on your own terms, with or without technology.