Social Media & Technology: The Impact on Mental Health
By Jane Sandwood
Thinking about a healthy lifestyle to aid mental health often focuses on diet, exercise, and sleep – and with good reason. All these factors have been proven many times over to impact on an individual’s mental wellbeing, as well as their physical health.
However, it is also important to look at behavioural factors. The enormous growth of technology, smartphones, and social media in recent years has also been proven to have an impact on mental health, with studies finding positive correlations between high ‘smartphone addiction’ scores and depression levels, anxiety, and sleep quality.
Technology in your day
Be mindful about your technology usage and think about how you can manage it better. Now, this doesn’t mean you need to go off-grid and shun everything powered by electricity, but you can achieve a healthy balanced lifestyle by doing things in moderation. Think critically about your technology usage during the day and what you can do to make less stressful.
- You might not be able to avoid technology at work, so be sure to schedule in regular breaks away from your desk for a short walk or chat with a co-worker.
- Reduce email stress by setting aside blocks of time to deal with them, rather than responding to each one as it comes in.
- Try switching off your phone – work or personal – for a few hours in the evening or at weekends, to reduce the temptation to be constantly checking it.
There are several different programmes which you can add to computers or smart devices which monitor and restrict your usage of other apps, helping you to disconnect more fully.
Sociable or stressful
Social media is a particular facet of modern technology which can have a big impact on mental health. While great for connecting friends and family around the world and enabling sharing of photos and videos on a huge scale, it can come with a price. A study carried out on undergraduates in Utah reported that Facebook use is linked to participants’ impression that other users are happier and more content about life.
Becoming fixated on the physical appearance, material possessions, or life experiences of others in comparison to oneself can exacerbate many mental issues including depression, anxiety, and eating disorders. This doesn’t necessarily mean you should deactivate all your accounts, as the ease of contacting friends and family for support is a great tool. Instead, reflect on your usage of different platforms and maybe take a break from actively posting, liking, or commenting, and use direct message functions instead for a while.
Effectively combatting mental difficulties is a different process for everyone. Adopting a holistic approach and reviewing diet, exercise, and sleep patterns is a good place to start – and while technology and social media are unlikely to single-handedly cause mental issues they can certainly exacerbate the problem, so being mindful about your usage of those platforms is also advised.