Technology has never grown more explosively that in the last few years. In particular, personal electronics have become significantly smaller and exponentially more potent within just a few years. Let’s also not forget the Internet, which brings unprecedented access to massive amounts of information for anyone around the world. Technology is disruptive by nature as it impacts every aspect of our lives, and psychologists are starting to realize that even our minds can be affected.
“There is also little doubt that all of the new technologies, led by the Internet, are shaping the way we think in ways obvious and subtle, deliberate and unintentional, and advantageous and detrimental.” Jim Taylor Ph.D. said. Technology promises excellent potential, but it can also be costly, especially when misused. Hundreds of articles and research studies already point towards the detrimental effects of technology on our physical health. Of growing concern is how it may also affect our mental states. By knowing what it can do to our minds, we can become better prepared to take safeguards.
A general discussion of how the modern world affects health is incomplete without considering the Internet. Having the world’s knowledge within your reach is an immensely democratizing process. People now have the freedom to learn almost anything they want, given the millions of webpage online. It allows people to learn about the newest and most effective ways to take care of their bodies and minds. In this manner, the Internet gives people a massive opportunity to improve their lives.
However, this also acts as a two-edged sword. The massive amounts of data can lead to information overload. People can become overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information, which can lead to higher stress levels. Overload is also demotivating, and this numbing effect can lead to people losing their ability to think critically and to analyze concepts deeply.
A noteworthy aspect of modern technology is social media, which allows people to post and read real-life updates about their lives. Such a level of freedom gives people a lot of room for self-expression. The online space is also sometimes used to vent out frustrations, giving people relief through catharsis.
However, social media makes it very tempting to make comparisons. When people start to compare themselves to other people, they might feel inadequate even though there might not be much justification. Constant comparisons can erode self-esteem. The heavy use of social media implicates the development of some mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety. “The rise and growing significance of social media has caused an influx of mental health concerns, such as low self-esteem, depression, and anxiety. Now is the time to start paying attention to how social media is influencing your life choices and mental health.” As Brie Shelly, MS, LMHC, RYT explains.
Another concern when it comes to technology is its tendency to be addictive. Internet content provides quick feedback and almost instant gratification. Many websites are meant to attract attention as much as possible, as this is the method by which companies entice people to try their services and products. All in all, this makes the Internet the perfect avenue for promoting addiction. “As adults, we have leveraged technology to accomplish amazing things in our lives: we do our work, manage our social lives, consume news and entertainment, even make new purchases for the holidays, all with the push of virtual buttons. Despite being cognitively mature, emotionally resilient and capable of delaying gratification, we struggle to set limits on our own usage.” Jyothsna Bhat, PsyD elaborates.
Addictions are inherently harmful, as they take time and energy to sustain. It’s not uncommon to observe people who spend most of their waking hours in front of a gadget. This addiction prevents them from allocating more time towards other activities, such as face-to-face interactions.
Using Technology Properly
As shown above, technology presents both opportunities and threats to mental health and well-being. To reap the maximum benefits while minimizing harmful effects, people should find ways to use the technologies at their disposal correctly.
For instance, setting time limits can help prevent many of the mental health problems discussed here. These limits should be more strict towards children, who are more vulnerable due to their young minds.
Proper etiquette also applies here. For example, set times such as during meals where phone usage should not be allowed except for emergencies. Taking regular breaks from personal electronics can also be a refreshing experience, as it will enable you to rest without relying on gadgets.
Some people benefit by limiting their usage of their social media accounts. Many have specific periods where they take a break from social media, giving themselves time to focus on more productive activities. Others remind themselves not to compare while browsing.
Amazingly, there are software solutions that allow people to manage technology better in their lives. For example, there are browser extensions that can limit access to specific sites based on schedules that you set. Others give you a consumable amount of time for Internet usage daily, setting off alarms whenever you approach your limit.
What’s important to note here is that technology is not inherently harmful to your mental health. When used correctly, it can form a part of a healthy lifestyle. The key here is discipline and moderation. Take control of your digital life before it starts to control you.