The Impact of Technology on Mental Health: Navigating the Digital Frontier for Well-Being
In our ever-evolving society, the digital world has become integral to our daily lives, no matter who, what, and when. This digital era impacts the way we perform tasks, communicate, and access data, and while technology has done a great deal of benefiting us, it’s also cost us our mental health.
The intersection of mental health and technology is important due to the potential accessibility and technology-based treatment options of mental health services. Technology has been providing support to people suffering from mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and much more. On the contrary, technology also contradicts its benefits, as the concern of social media pressures and excessive screen time exacerbates mental health issues.
The Positive Side: Apps, Online Resources, and Virtual Therapy
Let’s discuss the positive side of technology. Numerous emerging applications, online tools, and virtual therapy alternatives are effectively alleviating stress and uplifting moods.
Mental Health Apps:
Essentially, mental health apps offer accessibility and convenience, but it is to be noted they are not a substitute for professional care. These software are designed to support mental well-being. These apps have a range of tools and resources that help effectively manage sleep, mood, therapy, and anxiety/stress/depression management. There is a plethora of apps that assist and contribute to physical, mental, and emotional well-being.
Apps such as Headspace, Daylio, BetterHelp, Happify, Sleep Cycle, Fitbod, and Sober Grid aid in therapy, counseling, mood tracking, anxiety management, sleep, depression, fitness, and even substance abuse recovery.
Online resources offer easily accessible technology support, providing valuable information, assistance, and a range of tools beneficial for mental health. The internet serves as a treasure trove of resources, offering accessibility, education, privacy, immediate help in crises, cost-effective options, and community support.
The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) offers extensive resources on various mental health conditions, treatments, and research, helping individuals understand mental health issues better.
Crisis Intervention and Helplines such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, or Crisis Text Line help to provide free and confidential support for individuals in distress or crisis.
Therapy and Counseling Platforms like BetterHelp and Talkspace are online platforms that connect users with licensed therapists for virtual counseling sessions, they also offer online therapy services, making mental health support more accessible.
Support Communities, like Reddit Communities (e.g., r/mentalhealth, r/depression) are online forums where individuals can share their experiences, seek advice, and find support from others dealing with similar challenges Or 7 Cups, an online emotional support platform that connects users with trained listeners for anonymous and confidential conversations.
Even online courses/workshops like Coursera and Udemy, these platforms offer a variety of courses related to mental health, including topics such as mindfulness, positive psychology, and stress management.
The Dark Side: Technological Challenges to Mental Well-being
Let’s now talk about the negative side of technology. The excessive use of technology, especially social media has increased mental health disorders, such as anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts. In several studies, teenage and young adult users who spend the most time on social media platforms were shown to have a substantially higher rate of reported depression than those who spent the least time.
Additionally, the use of social media increases the likelihood of cyberbullying, a survey found that over 50% of individuals who use social media experienced cyberbullying, which emphasizes the detrimental effects of technology.
Mirror, Media, and Mental Health:
Each one of us, realizing it or not, has been and will be continuously impacted by social media. While social media allows us to connect and express ourselves, it has been one of the main reasons linked to anxiety, depression, and feelings of inadequacy. We constantly compare ourselves to influencers, models, and big media stars we see on platforms. One of the main concerns worldwide has been body image and technology.
It’s a known fact that most eating disorders have stemmed from frequent exposure to idealized body images on social media which are contributing to body dysphoria in all ages. A study found that participants who spent more time on social media were more likely to report higher levels of body dissatisfaction and internalization of the thin ideal.
Navigating Short Attention Spans: The Impact of Social Media
Moreover, social media has lessened our attention span, with constant notifications, quick scrolling habits, and the instant gratification nature of technology has made it so our attention spans are significantly shortened. In my personal experience, I get extremely bored when I have to watch a video longer than 5 minutes, I always have to put it on 2x speed.
We also always need to respond right away to notifications or go on our phone whenever we get the tiniest bit of bored, we engage with multiple tasks simultaneously, and this can lead to continuous partial attention, contributing to stress and decreased ability to concentrate.
FOMO in the Digital Age:
Another personal experience I encountered because of social media was fear of missing out AKA FOMO. Social media has a knack for making us seem like everybody around us has perfect lives except us, this often leads to a tendency to feel anxious or fearful when observing our friends spending time together or going out while we are not included.
Unplugging for Dreams:
Sleep! Technology has ruined our sleep patterns. Whether it’s scrolling on TikTok, or Instagram, going on Snapchat, or even watching your favorite show on Netflix right before bed, this can disrupt sleep patterns. Poor sleep is also associated with mood disorders such as depression and increased anxiety. A sedentary lifestyle is also associated with social media and various mental health issues.
Conclusion and Tips to Create a Balance with The Use Of Technology
Alright, wrapping up this chat on how tech affects our heads – it’s a wild ride, isn’t it? Those mental health apps and online goodies are like superheroes for our minds, but let’s not pretend social media doesn’t throw some curveballs. We’ve all felt that comparison game and the late-night scrolling regrets.
So, here’s the scoop, especially for us Gen Z folks. Here are a couple of tips straight from the real-life playbook:
Find Your Tech-Free Zone: Create sacred spaces or times in your day where the tech takes a backseat. Maybe it’s during meals, first thing in the morning, or before hitting the hay. Having these off-the-grid moments lets your brain catch its breath and keeps you grounded in the real world.
Mindful Scrolling, Filter Your Feed: Social media can be a real mood-shifter, especially for us in the Gen Z crew. So, let’s be smart about it. Curate your feed to be a positive space – follow accounts that inspire you, and take breaks when the scrolling gets a bit much. Being mindful about what you consume online is a game-changer.
Create Tech Detox Moments: Build regular tech breaks into your daily routine. Whether it’s a walk without your phone glued to your hand or a few minutes of legit quiet time, these breaks are like a mental refresh button. Step away from the screens, take a walk, read a book – whatever floats your boat. They keep you sane, lower stress levels, and remind you there’s a world beyond the screen.
So, there you have it – your real-talk guide to keeping it balanced in this tech-heavy world. It’s all about making tech work for you, not the other way around. Here’s to a balanced, tech-savvy, and mentally awesome you!