Technology has become ingrained in American daily life on a variety of levels. Just going through a regular day, consider the various high-tech instruments you use. In the morning you may use your phone or desktop computer to read the news. Then you head off to work using a GPS app to map the best route and avoid traffic. Depending on your job, you probably use technology all day. Office computers, digital food delivery apps, email, calendars, virtual meetings, finally strapping on your sleep tracker when you go to bed – technology can be a disruption (whether good or bad) and is here to stay.
The Good News
Experts agree, technology use is neither ALL good nor ALL bad. Internet use in general was designed to make our lives easier, and it does in many ways. People find mental health information and services and maintain connections with loved ones. The bridge between mental health and technology became even more the norm during the pandemic when reports of depression and anxiety rose by 30%. During this time technology helped mental health services be more accessible, less costly, and less stigmatizing.
Even the use of social media sites like Facebook and Instagram are helpful when the experience is positive. We know that having a strong social network is associated with positive mental health and well-being. Routine social media use may compensate for diminishing face-to-face social interactions in people’s busy lives. However, according to a 2019 study, each 10% increase in negative experiences elevated social isolation feelings by 13%. Experts caution that information and interactions must be investigated to be sure they are credible, and that user privacy is not put at risk.
The Not-So-Good News
The research on the negative influences of social media is on-going and likely to increase along with the nation’s use. Concerns include: the addictive nature of social media and it’s disproportionate influence on teens; the decrease in truly social behavior and increase in isolation; the link between social media use and depression and anxiety; and the effect of social comparison with a toxic positivity found to be wide-spread.
Another drawback to social media use is the sheer number of hours people spend online when they could be doing other things that may benefit their mental health. In fact, a 2016 survey of Americans between the ages of 19 and 32 suggested people using between 7 to 11 social media platforms are more likely to experience depression and anxiety than people using between 0 and 2 platforms. And a group of research participants that limited their use of Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat to 10 minutes a day per platform showed significant reductions in depression and loneliness.
Ways to Cope
The important word when coping with social media and other online platforms is boundaries. Continually assess how social media is affecting your mental and emotional health. Make sure you are not doom scrolling, look for positive messaging. Consume information only from legitimate and credible sources. Consider limiting your time online-and scroll with intention and keep your comments positive.
At Rose Hill Center, we understand the importance of healthy social media use. That’s why our residents use their cell phones and tablets just like at home, during non – therapy hours. This allows residents to practice appropriate technology use, a skill they can take with them when they return to community life.
Social media has gotten a bad reputation, but using it is an individual choice-and using it in a healthy way it up to the individual. It is up to the user to monitor their own time online, and follow healthy guidelines to stay safe when navigating the digital world. Remember, it’s OK to turn off your devices, disconnect from the virtual world, and connect in person. And be sure to avoid negativity- limit screen time, unfollow negative people, and don’t read negative comments. Be sure to check your boundaries, and balance your time spent online with time in nature or with loved ones.
For more information on digital wellness: