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Woman with cell phone showing the relationship between technology and mental health

Digital Age Anxiety: The Relationship between Technology and Mental Health

By: Kristina Murr

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Have you noticed your anxiety levels dropping when you have the chance to step away from technology for a few days? Maybe you feel especially calm when you are hiking or camping. Perhaps you recently vacationed in an area with poor service, and you felt centered and present while “disconnected.” Or maybe you took a purposeful social break over a random weekend at home. When the work week started again, you quickly realized that your tech habits contributed to your stress levels.

According to a study by Science Daily, since the release of smartphones, mental health concerns have increased in children and young adults. The rate of adolescents reporting symptoms of major depression in a given year grew by 52% from 2005 to 2017. In adults ages 18 to 25, symptoms of major depression grew by 63% from 2009 to 2017.

Our over-reliance on technology and social media seems to be causing an anxiety crisis. Why does life in the digital age make us feel so anxious and stressed? Let’s look at the relationship between technology and mental health and examine how anxiety and social media might be related.

Feeling Like You Should Always Be Available

Before practically everyone had a smartphone and a reliable internet connection at home, there was no expectation that you would always be “available.” You didn’t feel guilty if you let a phone call go to voicemail. Plus, you weren’t expected to stay connected with your boss or coworkers when you weren’t at work. Projects could always wait until the next day. Now, you always have your phone in your back pocket, and so do all of your friends and coworkers. Therefore, you can’t help but feel anxious if you don’t immediately text someone or answer your manager’s emails after business hours.

Viewing Other People’s “Highlight Reels”

While some people will post about tough times and setbacks on social media, it’s far more common to share the highlights of life. But this can give you a skewed perspective on other people’s lives. It might seem like everyone is thriving except for you. When you have a bad day, you log on to see your friends’ happy posts, which only makes you feel worse. Deep down, you know that no one’s life is perfect all the time, yet social media warps your perception demonstrating the downside of technology and mental health.

Constant Exposure To Negative News

Chances are, you spend a lot of time viewing positive, aesthetically pleasing content on social media. But there’s another side to extensive screen time. You also see countless negative articles, videos, posts, and comments every single day. At times, you feel like the future will inevitably be bleak, even when everything in your day-to-day life is going just fine. The negative content you see online can affect your mood, leaving you feeling anxious, depressed, and pessimistic.

Pressure To Build A Certain Image

When you use social media, you can find yourself becoming hyper-conscious about everything you post. Nowadays, it can look like everybody is trying to build a “brand,” even if they’re not an influencer or business owner. Years ago, you might have posted a funny photo with your friends without considering what other people would think. Now, you end up thinking carefully before you share anything because you worry about maintaining a specific “image.” Thinking before you post isn’t a bad idea, but it can also become a fixation.

Craving Instant Gratification

Lots of people have become accustomed to instant gratification because of technology. When you post something, you quickly receive notifications from your friends and family who “like” the post or leave comments. If you send an email, you’re used to hearing back from the person within a few hours to a full day at most. When you’re searching for the answer to a question, you can find it quickly. This can hurt your attention span and capacity for patience.

Are you struggling with anxiety that you suspect is linked to technology usage? Have you noticed the relationship between anxiety and mental health in your own life? A therapist can help you build healthier habits. Reach out to us to learn more about scheduling a session.

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