We all know technology is sweeping through society like never before. We're also starting to realize that computers and smart phones were just the start of what will continue to reshape human interactions and humanity for the coming decades. Some people hail technology as the solution to our grandest challenges, while other decry it as the cause of them.
In fact, technology is a lot like money -- it's a magnifier. It magnifies the good and it magnifies the bad. Unfortunately if we're not aware of it's affects on our mental health, it can lead us down a path of struggle and suffering.
Here are three ways technology is messing with our mental health and some ideas to combat them:
1. SPEED OF CHANGE
It's said that the only constant in our world is change. That's always been true, but modern technology is increasing the speech of change in society at an alarming rate. Think of the number of interactions you had with other humans just 5 or 10 years ago. Chances are there were much fewer of them and they were far more likely to be in person. We thought that improved technology would allow us to work less, when in fact we are working harder than ever. When's the last time you spent a weekend without checking work or school related email? In Canada, we are worse off than most in this respect, coming
3rd lowest on paid vacation time out of OECD countries.
Because our brains are locked in a fixed biological structure, we have a hard time adapting to our new reality every day. Our species is not used to life changing so much, so fast. Roughly 10,000 years passed between the Agricultural Revolution and the Scientific Revolution, yet just 300 years between the Scientific Revolution and the Industrial Revolution. Now we are in the midst of the technological revolution and it's causing stress and chaos for many of us.
HOW TO COPE WITH THE SPEED OF CHANGE
Adopt a Growth mindset. See learning and growing as fun, part of life and exciting. Study how to learn, expand beyond your comfort zone and get your friends on board. Learning and growing can be the most rewarding experiences of life. Rather than fight the changes going on all around us, embrace them and make them serve your higher goals and purpose. The ability to leverage our ideas and small groups with technology is greater today than ever before. Gone are the days where we are locked in a socioeconomic position. Our destiny is in the hands of those who leverage the changes. Be that person.
2. THE ISOLATION IT'S CREATING
People seem to be confused as to whether we are more or less isolated in 2015 than the time before social media and smart phones. We are more technologically connected, but have less connection. From The Mental Health Foundation Loneliness Report: "Our cities and public spaces are more crowded, but more of us are living alone. The percentage of households occupied by one person more than doubled from 6% in 1972 to 12% in 2008. More of us live alone since our population is ageing and we're having fewer children.
At the same time, the divorce rate has almost doubled in the past 50 years. The number of lone parent households is rising. Because of careers or education more of us live further from our families and the communities we grew up in.
HOW TO REDUCE ISOLATION
Make the extra effort to connect with people in person. Coffee chats, meet ups over fresh juice, sports, hobbies and long dinners are all great ways to connect and nurture strong relationships. In our busy lives, it feels more difficult to put the effort in to meet in person, but that's only because we compare it to texting and Facebook chatting. When we meet in person, we get inspired and refreshed in a much more powerful way and can use that extra energy to perform at a higher level and feel great.
3. THE IMPACT OF INTERNET ADDICTIONS
Internet addictions are real and can have very negative impact on our mental health. Beyond porn addictions, social media addictions and gaming additions have swept across society at alarming rates. If we look at social media alone, it's found that 18% of social media users can't go a few hours without checking Facebook and that it's estimated that the average American spends nearly one quarter of their work day browsing social media for non-work related activities.
HOW TO REDUCE OUR RELIANCE ON SOCIAL MEDIA
Cutting off social media cold turkey is one approach, and it works for some, but that also cuts us off from a major part of our network and the broader world. Instead, we can be aware of our usage and make sure social media is serving our needs and not the other way around. If you're still struggling to get a handle on your usage, try out a website blocker tool like Freedom.
It's clear that technology is not all good all the time. Now that you're aware of the potential negative effects of technology on our mental health, make sure to apply some of the strategies above and share this article with a friend for your own accountability. Progress is always easier with support!
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