Technology is something that is becoming increasingly popular in the everyday lives of individuals across the globe. It certainly comes with many benefits – allowing us to contact friends and family in other countries, work from home, access the internet almost everywhere we go. However, is this always a good thing? This article will have a look at some of the downsides to technology in relation to mental health, as well as some tips for cutting down on daily screen time.
Statistics have shown that a whopping 75% of individuals think that technology has a negative effect on their mental health, with 40% of people believing they would be happier if they spent less time on social media. This shockingly increases to 65% for young people. This is clearly an issue and something that is affecting the lives of so many.
In what ways can technology influence our mental health?
Due to the vast content of technology, there are a whole abundance of ways that it can have an impact on our mental health.
1. Anxiety and depression
Technology means that we send messages to others instead of communicating with our voices. This can mean that messages or comments can be misinterpreted or misread due to a lack of nuance that human communication usually has. Therefore, often leading to feelings of anxiety or worry if messages are left unread or not replied to.
Additionally, there are many forms of disrespect that can take place through technology. People are less likely to worry about the consequences of their word choice when leaving a message or comment via technology. If someone is on the receiving end of this, it is likely they will experience feelings of low self-esteem, low confidence, and ultimately more likely to experience symptoms of anxiety and/or depression. Of course, this will not be the case for everyone, and it will depend on individual experiences.
Technology provides us with an instant response for almost anything we want – have a question? Type it into a search engine. What to message someone? Go ahead and send that message – they might even receive the message and reply in a matter of seconds. This instant feedback that we have gotten so used to on a daily basis means that we are becoming impatient with those things in life that take time and require us to wait. This can be detrimental to our mental health, leaving us feeling stressed and on edge when we are not getting that immediate response that we so badly crave.
3. Sleep problems
I don’t think it is uncommon to leave your phone and next to your pillow when you go to sleep at night. This might seem convenient for any last-minute messages that pop into your head before you sleep or the second you wake up – however it is actually likely to have a negative impact on your wellbeing. If you are subconsciously waiting for a notification to pop up whilst you are trying to get to sleep, it is likely that you will be left feeling on edge and anxious and therefore will not go into the deep sleep that your mind and body need, reducing your high-quality sleep.
Not only this, but the endless scrolling, email checking or Netflix binging before bed will also make you feel less tired and ready for sleep. The light emitted from the screen will send signals to your brain telling it that it is time to be awake and therefore the necessary chemicals will not be released to induce tiredness to allow you to sleep.
A lack of sleep can contribute to feelings of anxiety and depression and will certainly reduce your ability to battle any other symptoms of mental health issues you may be experiencing already.
So how can I reduce the negative impact of technology on my mental health?
One of the best ways you can limit the negative impact of technology on your mental health is to delete apps that make you feel sad, worried, on edge, overwhelmed, or any other negative emotion. This can provide you some respite and stop you from viewing content which negatively impacts you.
Another good idea is to mute notifications and sounds to reduce distraction. This will also make you less likely to go on your phone or computer when you are doing something away from technology. This is a particularly good tip if you struggle to leave your phone alone at bedtime.
Linked to the point above, it can also be beneficial for you to turn off all devices at least an hour before you go to bed. This will give your body and mind a chance to wind down and recognize that it is time to sleep soon.
Finally, don’t forget that you can still communicate over a phone call or face-to-face. This will make you or others less likely to misinterpret the tone of a message and therefore it is less likely to cause an argument or upset. Tone of voice is a huge part of communication that is eradicated from messages and therefore something that we should try and use as much as possible. This is particularly important when discussing a problem.
As always, this is not a comprehensive list of the ways that technology might affect your mental health, and the ways in which any problems can be solved are also not listed here.
If you are concerned about your mental health, there is support out there for you. You can reach out to your GP or 999 if you feel unsafe. Aside from this, more immediate support can be found at Shout, just text ‘SHOUT’ to 85258 for free, confidential, and anonymous text support. If you feel your life is at risk, please dial 999.
This post is not to be used for self-diagnosis and if you are concerned about your mental health, you should always contact your GP or another suitable professional.