Caring for our Mental Health in the Tech Age
The rapid advances in technology that we’ve seen over the years have ample benefits; after all, the phone you hold in your hand to read this article connects you and I in ways that we’d never have been able to connect 50 years ago. But along with the good, we may find that the fast pace, the constant stimulation, and the over-connection that comes along with the Tech Age can cause strain on our mental health, too. Today, let’s consider the pros and cons of technology on our mental wellness, and consider how we mind put boundaries around our use to protect it.
First, we explore the benefits of technology for our wellbeing.
Above all else, it’s clear that we are now connected in incredible ways that would have been beyond comprehension just a few decades ago. The fact that we can video-call a loved one at the press of the button, or seamlessly work across the country from our coworkers, or even connect with likeminded strangers on an alcohol reduction app, is simply remarkable.
And we know that connection to others is an integral part of our wellbeing. Isolation, loneliness, and disconnection are leading contributors to things like depression and anxiety. Now we can read a stranger’s story on Instagram about how alcohol became a struggle for them, connect through direct messages, and open up a whole new relationship with someone who you relate to on a deep level. Incredible! We’ve learned how to relate to each other, to empathize with one another, in a whole new way.
Technology has also improved our access to information. Entire movements are now formed online, as ideas get passed between strangers with ease. People in remote places of the world are now able to use the Internet and learn about things like democracy, we can make the same pork pies that Paul Hollywood used in a Great British Bakeoff technical challenge, and we can learn yoga from instructors halfway around the world. New skills are never more than a click away; “there’s an app for that,” as they say.
Along with increased access to knowledge, we’ve seen an incredible expansion of ideas and information. New scientific research proliferates, software helps undiscovered creators bring their gifts to life, and we continuously evolve our understanding of the world as new information is presented to us. (For example: the “sober-curious” movement hardly existed a few years ago, and now it’s rapidly gaining momentum.)
And yet, there are drawbacks. As we appreciate and use technology in ways that expand our lives, we also often find ourselves being used by technology. A few of the ways technology may harm us:
Just as we have increased our connection, we’ve decreased the quality of much of that connection. Data shows that young people, who live their lives primarily online, report feeling more alone and disconnected than any generation before them. We forget how to sit around a dinner table without checking our phones, we find smalltalk unfamiliar, and we find ourselves living with increased social anxiety. We see others’ highlight reels, the curated version of life, and begin to doubt our own self-worth. We see the truly dark side of this connection, too, in the unkind messages shared from behind a computer screen. These can range from hurtful to downright violent.