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Technology & mental health

You are working towards your deadlines on a typical weekday, when suddenly you find yourself scrolling a random Instagram feed for a long, useless and irrecoverable time. The worst part of it is that it has happened before and it will happen again.

When thinking of technology as it exists nowadays, it seems easy to consider the dark and toxic side of it. Although technology has made positive changes in the world, as a tool for education, social interaction, work, and entertainment, excess and overuse will negatively affect your mental health in the short and long term.

Anything taken in excess is bad, be it a certain type of food, exercising too much or overconsuming alcohol. However, these are things which your body will have a negative reaction to, and quickly. They might therefore be easier to cut out over time. Technology on the other hand can play with your mind, and that is more difficult to control.

Some technologies such as social media were designed at first to bring people together and help users to connect digitally with anyone they wanted. Although the main use and purpose stays the same, plenty of new uses have been added to them over the years. Social media is part of people’s everyday routine these days and is used for nearly everything: finding any sort of information you want, communicating however you want, finding things to do, checking the weather: countless things. We use technology for everything, because everything is what it provides us.

Although these features can be seen as a positive, there are many effects caused by overuse of technology that can be detrimental to mental health. There seems to be an addictive component to technology that makes you want to use it again and again, whether you use it to play a game, interact with someone or shop online. These things can contribute to the user's change of life rhythm and routine, causing disturbed sleep, reduced physical activity or lack of face-to-face interaction with people. These habits tend to deteriorate mental hygiene.

Unfortunately, new generations are starting earlier with the use of technology, and teenagers are one of the main demographics becoming increasingly affected. Instead of reading a book in their spare time, the majority turn to social media, as a way to both escape from reality, or to involve themselves in another. Over time, technological usage as a form of avoidance and distraction tends to trigger frustration, loneliness and self-esteem issues.

How to start making a positive use of technology

If you find yourself using your devices more often than you would like, or more than you think is healthy for your mindset, setting a limit on your screen time or turning devices off altogether can be helpful. So too is leaving devices in another room while you get on with your working day.

It is important to prioritise activities like exercising, getting outdoors, meeting with friends (if you can), reading books or carrying out hobbies. Forcing yourself to do these things will make you feel better in the short and long term and reduce the amount of time spent on tech overall.

Many of us have become passive consumers, spending the majority of our time watching, listening, and scrolling, rather than actually doing. Keeping active not only physically but mentally by engaging in active pursuits such as reading, writing, drawing, exercising, etc., tends to be effective in preventing the onset of feelings of sluggishness, boredom and loneliness caused by inertia.

If you ever feel yourself becoming sucked into technology overuse, try doing something more active. There goes a saying that 'Mood follows action', which is a useful adage to keep in mind for when you get stuck in a digital rut.

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