The Internet, social media, and technology in general play a more sophisticated part in our lives than they ever have before.
While not an inherently negative phenomenon, this trend is reason enough for us to examine our relationship with technology, as well as the impact it can have on our mental health.
The Role of Tech in Our Lives Continues to Grow
As technology becomes increasingly advanced, it acquires an increasingly significant role in our lives. With the passage of time, we’re becoming more and more dependent on technology for work, recreation, administration, and so on.
Nowadays, thanks to technology, you can do almost anything from the comfort and privacy of your own home.
You don’t even need to go to the casino anymore to gamble; state-of-the-art websites and apps exist where you can play roulette online, as well as other games, like blackjack, slots, and more.
Thanks to technology, we can also watch countless movies and TV shows on the Internet, play video games, and listen to any type of music that we want, all for free.
Consider the fact that many of us now use technology for banking and financial administration, too. It’s also becoming increasingly normal to store and transmit personal information and documents online via cloud storage or similar means.
Plenty of us will turn to Google Maps for navigation, Airbnb to book our next holiday, and so on.
To cut a long story short; tech isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. In fact, likely, its importance and presence in our day-to-day lives will likely only continue to grow as tech becomes increasingly sophisticated and multifaceted.
Because of this, it’s crucial that we are aware of and understand the ways in which technology impacts our well-being and mental health.
The relationship between mental health and tech is perhaps the strongest and most relevant in the case of social media and the impact it can have on us.
Social Media, Tech, and Mental Health – What the Research Says
There is a range of different ways that we can attempt to analyze the relationship between mental health, tech, and social media, but this issue is something that is especially topical in the field of cyberpsychology.
Cyberpsychology is a sub-discipline of psychology that examines our relationship with technology, especially through the lens of human behavior and our interactions with the online world.
Research investigating the link between technology use and cognitive function has certainly raised alarm bells for some.
It’s been argued, for instance, that the use of cell phones and the Internet has a detrimental impact on how patient we are, as well as how well our memory functions.
And other experts argue that social media use in general can make us prone to a whole host of mental health issues, including anxiety and depression.
This is due in large part to the way in which the use of social media networks can stimulate a dopamine response in users’ brains, reinforcing a cycle of reward or pleasure in relation to the use of said social media network.
While, on one hand, you have the positive feelings associated with the ‘reward’ gained from social media use, the flipside can be feelings of low self-worth, comparing oneself unfavorably to others, and so on.
We may notice how many likes or followers another social media user receives and feel inferior, for example. Or we might compare our lifestyle to theirs and feel a sense of envy or jealousy.
Naturally, it’s important to note that social media isn’t an inherently negative technology, and there are positive sides to it, too.
Thanks to social media, it’s now possible to sustain relationships fairly easily with people in different parts of the world to us; something that previously was difficult, or, for many, almost impossible to do.
And social media allows us to connect and build a sense of community with others, too. We can find people with similar goals and passions to us and motivate one another; this can have a very positive impact on one’s mental health.
Younger People are Especially Vulnerable
Still, it’s important not to neglect the darker aspects of social media use, especially when it comes to the most vulnerable users of these services.
Teenagers and young adults are perhaps the groups that is most susceptible to being influenced or negatively impacted by the unhealthier aspects of social media.
This is especially true when it comes to areas like body image and self-esteem. During puberty and adolescence more generally, we’re developing, growing, and changing in a number of fairly fundamental ways.
This tends to make us far more impressionable to outside influence, so it’s important for young people to be educated on the negative aspects of social media and how it might influence their mental health and body image.
By making young people aware of these risks, we can empower them to make more informed choices about the ways in which they engage in social media, as well as help them to be more mindful of the impact it might have on them and their well-being.
This, in turn, can help them safeguard their self-esteem and create healthier boundaries with the kinds of social media they use and why.