An Expert Tells You How Technology Influences Your Mental Health
What is technology?Technology is the application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes. Technology has definitely made many aspects of our lives convenient; these aspects are shopping, researching, getting a job, and staying connected to friends and family.
However, how many of us know about its impact on our mental health?
Let's take a deep dive to find out the positive and negative effects of technology on our mental health:
Why Is Technology A Bane?
1. Use of Technology Associated With Mental Health Conditions
In recent times, many researchers have associated social networking with several psychiatric conditions like depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem. A study (2012) conducted by Pantic suggested a positive correlation between time spent on social networking sites and depressive symptoms. A well-known psychologist- Ethan Kross conducted a study in 2013 to understand the relationship between a certain social media platform use and subjective well-being. He found that young adults who have higher social media use tend to undermine their subjective well-being and life satisfaction.
Chou and Edge published an article stating that the use of a certain social networking site is linked to participant’s impression that ‘others life is happier’ while feeling ‘life is unfair’. However, an important point to consider is perceiving others as more successful or happier does not necessarily result in depression. Technology use may have a negative impact on the mental health of those who already have certain depressive predispositions or psychiatric vulnerability.
2. Technology Can Have An Adverse Effect On Your Self-Esteem
Recent studies have given contradictory results on the influence of technological sites on mental health. Some studies suggest that constant self-evaluation, comparing oneself to others, competition can take a serious toll over one’s self-esteem. However, on the other side, a study conducted by Gonzales and Hancock suggested that the use of a certain social networking site may actually enhance self- esteem. In spite of several years of research, the data remains to be inconclusive of the influence of technology and social media websites on self-esteem.
Why Is Technology A Boon?
1. Technology Offers Access To Mental Health Services
Psychologists can use technology to reach those underserved or rural parts on the map, where it is difficult to conduct the traditional one-on-one counselling due to lack of resources. In the past decade there has been a boom in studies suggesting that online counselling can be a viable option especially for those who are unable to access face-to-face mental health services.
2. Technology Can Help Predict Depressive Disorder
Social networking sites can be very useful in early detection of depressive symptoms. A researcher designed a unique application which is proven to be capable of evaluating symptoms of depression in individuals. Study also showed that a depressed social media user may have characteristics like fewer friends and location tagging. Since these traits can be quantifiable, they could also be valuable predictors for possible future depression screening.
3. Technology As An Adjunct To Therapy
We all use ‘Apps’ (Applications). Many New Age mental health applications are now available on our smartphones that are aiming to create an environment of mental well-being. Applications that are currently available in the Play Store aim to help people deal with their anxiety, increase positive emotions, and improve attention and awareness through relaxation and meditation. Most of these applications are backed by scientific research. These applications can be of great help and work adjunctive to therapy for various disorders like depression, anxiety, OCD, stress, and eating disorders.
In conclusion, the influence of technology is vast and varied on our mental health. While on one side it brings us countless advantages in terms of reaching every nook and corner of the country, on the other side it can also bring about feelings of depression, anxiety, and loneliness in people. It has become incredibly crucial for us to differentiate and to choose our social media usage judiciously.
“For our mental well-being, it is important for us to be mindful of how technology and social media use makes us feel”, says Dr Kern. She recommends a good question to ask is ‘are you okay being separated from your technology for a few hours, or do you start to feel anxious?’ If the answer is ‘no’, then it probably is a good idea to disconnect from your electronic device for a while and reconnect with those around you.
It is also important for us to be mindful of how technology makes us feel. If you ever come across a phase, where social media posts or stories make you question your worth, or make you feel inferior, it’s time to STOP. Technology’s main purpose is to offer its practical uses, however, it is important to curb its usage when it starts doing more harm than help.
These signs indicate that technology has an adverse effect on your mental health:
- Feeling inferior/ sad when looking at other people’s life.
- Social media being only mode of entertainment on most days.
- Irresistible urge to share things online.
- Feeling disconnected from friends and family offline.
- Spending most of the day online and feeling restless/ anxious when not online.
Mansi Thakker is Psychologist and Outreach Associate at Mpower – The Foundation, Mumbai.