The Digital Age and Impact on Mental Health
Updated: Mar 13, 2019
It doesn't take Stephen Hawkins (RIP) style intelligence to realise the digital age is having an impact on our wellbeing if you didn't realise you must be an idiot. Our mobile phones are no longer phones they are for; email, shopping, news, social media, finding food and navigating - at the very least. I even have a clue app for my period and I can sync it with my friends so I get notified of their time of the month too (how exciting)! I have a friend who's able to track her ex on ‘find my iphone', no stalking injunction can protect from that.
When we look wider into the modern world, outside of phones we find ourselves submerged into a place of digital adverts on the tube, arguments on forums with people 1000s of miles away and Alexa home hubs that tell you "it's going to be ok" when you start crying (true story)". My dad's car fucking opens as he walks towards it! And when it comes to the world of viewing its exciting to know that I can rely on Marie kondo to tell me how to fold and use porn for some great sex tips (I'm joking, it's actually destroying our sex lives).
Society thrives off modern technology and yet it leads to so many accidents and detriment. As a practitioner, if I had a pound for every person who had asked me about the meaning of a text, well I wouldn't be writing this blog right now (FYI I expect kisses and a heart emoji). My friend recently sent me a message using Siri which came through as a very sinister "we'll talk about his later", I was so disarmed I felt the need to call her and ask what was wrong - Siri had the power to make me anxious.
How many times have you had the experience of the accidental email trail you cc'd someone into or were cc'd into. The uni essay you deleted and those internet purchases that are far to easy to make. My housemate advised I should warn against the failings of internet shopping through the use of my own experience. Over the past year I have managed to order a knitting pattern instead of an actual toilet roll doily (don't ask why I was buying a doily), a piece of printed material with my housemates face on rather than a shower curtain, a weight lifting belt instead of leggings and 20 tablespoons, not teaspoons, twice.
Even offline you're not safe, you use the self-checkout at Tesco and then realise you've accidentally stolen your prosecco (honest). Then just when you think you're ok you try to send the location of your new favourite coffee shop to a friend and Google maps brings up your ex as the first suggested contact, with his big face staring back at you. Fuck you google.
Whether you like it or not technology is one of the biggest stressors in life. The digital platforms we have access to create poor work-life balance, Social balance and when phones are removed we get anxiety and withdrawal. This type of anxiety even has its own disorder, nomophobia (2). In this world, we seemed to have lost the mantra that often less can equal more. Easy access creates an expectancy of immediacy in all areas of our life; food, knowledge even sex.
To quote Matt Haig;
"How can we live in a mad world without going mad…is the world heading for an emotional breakdown?" (1)
Do we actually need to "Switch screens of to switch ourselves back on"? (1).
When we look at what stress actually is; the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them, we could argue technology is one of these pressures. Your phone creates a demand even if you don't know it, constant noise and visual stimuli in the external world creates a demand too. In a sense, the brain can never switch off. This is why mindfulness is so useful in a busy world, it gives our brain a rest that it wouldn't otherwise get. In today's world we literally have to find a quiet space because this no longer naturally exists, that's why being out in a natural calm environment is so good for you.
This piece was written for International Women's Day 2019 where the theme was ‘about balance', reflect on your balance, has technology taken over? What could you be doing instead of six hours a day of scrolling, tv watching and outside of work hours working.
1. Haig, Matt (2018) Notes on a Nervous Planet, Canongate Books.
2. Seunghee Han et al, Understanding Nomophobia: Structural Equation Modeling and Semantic Network Analysis of Smartphone Separation Anxiety, Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking (2017). DOI: 10.1089/cyber.2017.0113