For most of us, our lives are fully immersed and integrated with the technology that surrounds us. Tablets and computers with everything from Facetime to Facebook and Pinterest to Pinball, there are thousands of apps, shows, games, and messengers available at our fingertips. With all this technology embedded in our day-to-day lives, the question of how our mental health is being affected is a crucial one in order to continue to maintain a well-balanced emotional state.
So what role does technology like social media and reality TV play on our mental state? Here is some information about how three different prominent technologies can affect your mental health.
According to an article on the negative effects of technology by Healthline, social media, while widely regarded as a way to feel more connected to a wide network of people, can lead to feelings of social isolation if an individual spends high amounts of time on social media. According to this study published in 2017, people with high social media usage had more than three times the likelihood to experience perceived social isolation. In addition to perceived social isolation, many social media users express feelings of inadequacy after spending prolonged periods of time on social media due to increased self-criticism and comparison to others online.
Not all social media impacts are negative though. It is a widely-known fact that for people suffering from mental illness, a support network is one of the most impactful factors. Likewise, for people who are home-bound, travelling, or living far from loved ones, there are many far reaching positive affects as well. Social media allows for increased communication with those you care about, establishing new connections based on shared interests, emotional support from a wide network who has experienced similar feelings or trauma, and even learning new skills.
Here are a few guidelines to make sure that social media is being utilized in a positive way in your own life.
If you are just scrolling through posts, the likelihood of increased feelings of connectivity is low. If you see something you like, commenting and otherwise engaging with the person who shared it will offer more fulfilling connection and increased mental health benefits.
It can be easy to pull out your phone when you’re waiting for the movie to start, when you’re out on the town, or even when you’re bored with your mother-in-law’s lecturing. Although it can be an easy habit to pull out your phone and scroll throughout the day, you can further appreciate the life going on around you and decrease feelings of inferiority by restricting your time online. Whether it’s restricting your time on Facebook to time when you are alone, or enacting a time limit, it is important to keep your social media consumption restricted so it does not distract from life around you or overwhelm you emotionally.
While social media helps increase connectivity, there is no substitute for hearing your best friend’s voice on the phone or hugging your cousin. Studies show that social interaction is rewarding to mental and physical health, particularly when it is personal.
We love them and we hate them. Movies can be used as an escape from life, and can even be addicting. Just as anything, it is recommended to moderate the amount of time spent watching movies to avoid increased likelihood of feelings of depression, anxiety, and overall despair.
They can make us cry, laugh, and scare us. Because of this, movies are can also be used as an emotional release, which overall has been shown to be beneficial to mental health. Cinema therapy is even a real therapy that some mental health professionals prescribe. Movie watching has many additional benefits and you can find more out about the science behind cinema therapy here.
As Nelson Mandela said “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Being educated about what is going on in the world is crucial, especially in a world as rapidly changing as today’s world is. However, too much time listening to the news can feel overwhelming and even hopeless, leading to increases in depression, anxiety, and other mental ill tendencies. We recommend exercising caution and taking in news in moderation. For example, during the current (2020 COVID-19) pandemic, seek news just long enough to get the most up to date information to keep yourself and your loved ones safe, and then turn it off. This helps prevent additional and unnecessary stress.
If you still feel stressed, we recommend scheduling a time you can think about it, research it, and develop a management plan to help you feel better. Once that time is over, implement the information and plan you’ve worked to develop, do your best to put the news out of your mind, and shift your focus towards other things.
Is there another technology you feel affects your mental health or another strategy that helps you leverage technology for positive mental health? Let us know in the comments below!