Time to Switch Off – Technology and Mental Health
In our Time Management Training, we discuss the concept “Psychology before Technology”. We appreciate that in today’s world, technology has affected most aspects of our lives and due to the nature of most jobs, it has also added lots of benefits to our lives. However, it’s important to acknowledge the impact it also has on our overall wellbeing. Below, we’ll take a closer look at how technology influences our mental health and the importance of “switching off”.
A Culture of Narcissists?
Many analysts argue technology — and the tools to enjoy it — have created a culture of narcissists. Phone features help people alter their photos before posting them on social media profiles. The content online tends to be abnormally positive. We’re big believers in the “human, not superhero” Productivity Ninja skill. But we will admit, it can be hard to believe some people aren’t superheroes, judging by their social media profiles. People may not want to use the Internet to admit to others when things aren’t going well, or if they need help. Keep in mind just because their Instagram feed looks cheerful and happy, it’s worth to checking in with people to see how they’re REALLY doing.
Social media has given us the opportunity to stay connected with people near and far. But we can’t underestimate the value of human connection, rather than seeing what they’ve been up to on social media.
Bullying Becomes Harder to Escape
Before the days of the Internet, people usually found relief from bullying by leaving or avoiding the environments where it occurred. For example, if they dealt with school bus tormentors, they could at least find a small amount of comfort from the knowledge that they could go to home to escape.
However, the rise of cyber-bullying has changed the dynamics and severity involved. In addition to in-person bullying, persecutors target their victims through text messages, forum threads, social media posts and instant messages. Plus, since the perpetrators don’t see the individuals when harassing them online, it’s often easier for them to be bolder and harsher in what they say and do.
The effects of bullying are various and can be long-term — even for bystanders. Victims often become so anxious they lose interest in things they used to love, and fear going out in public. They might also start blaming themselves, especially if the perpetrators start focusing on things that seem to be at least partially within a victim’s control, such as weight or hair color.
We Might Feel Lonelier
The popularity of social media and gadget-based messaging apps gives people the impression everyone has more friends than ever and therefore we should feel less lonely. However, a study from the University of Pittsburgh found that’s often not true.
The research focused specifically on social media. It determined people who spent more than two hours daily on various social media platforms were twice as likely to have perceived social isolation than those who used them for a half-hour or less. The findings were even worse regarding social media frequency. People who went to social media sites at least 58 times per week were three times as likely to suffer perceived social isolation than those who visited the sites less often.
The researchers couldn’t nail down a cause for those results. However, they pointed out the way social media suggests everyone is connecting with each other could be a factor. It also doesn’t help that, as mentioned earlier, people tend to only post the most favorable content on social media. That makes viewers think the individuals they know apparently have fun, fascinating and perfect lives.
Changes in our Moods
Have you ever felt irritable when you heard your phone vibrate and couldn’t immediately respond to the notification? Maybe you’ve even had trouble falling asleep because you have your phone next to the bed and can’t stop using it. If those situations are familiar, it’s because they back up discoveries related to mental health research.
Scientists have found that mobile phones have addictive qualities that could eventually lead to mood disorders. Women and young people are reportedly most likely to suffer such consequences of technology dependence.
How to Unplug and Improve Mental Health
Although we’ve talked about various different ways, technology, can harm our mental health – it is important to highlight that it has also helped us make progress in many fields. When people use smart devices and the internet in moderation, and pay attention to how technology impacts them, it’s possible to avoid unpleasant outcomes. If you’re worried about spending too much time with technology, there are several things you can do to encourage a positive change. They include:
- Using apps that block access to certain sites for defined periods of time – for example, Forest
- Not keeping your phone by the bed
- Learning a new hobby that doesn’t involve using the Internet or gadgets
- Keeping your devices muted while engaged in non-tech-based activities
- Set yourself a screen-free day. For example in one of our Wellbeing Challenges we encouraged people to use Sundays as their screen-free day to truly unplug and be 100% present in the offline world.
By Lexie Lu
Lexie Lu is a freelance designer and blogger. She enjoys researching the latest trends and always has a cup of coffee in close proximity. She manages Design Roast and can be followed on Twitter @lexieludesigner.
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