Our phones, laptops, and social media accounts are like our very dear yet slightly two-faced best friends – we can’t live without them, yet they drive us insane!
Now first things first: I’m not saying that technology is “bad” or that we should go back to a time when we lived without it. Not at all. In fact, I’m a HUGE fan of technology! It’s pretty much the backbone of our entire society, and I’m all here for it.
But (you knew there was a but!) – technology can come with a slightly dark side, especially when it becomes so pervasive in our daily lives.
And that dark side goes by a name you’re all familiar with: ANXIETY.
So in this article, I thought I’d illustrate the 5 main ways that our devices fuel our anxiety levels. It may be tempting to turn to technology to keep us entertained during social isolation – but as you’ll soon see, too much of it may come at a cost to your mental health.
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Just want to let ya know: The information and tips on this website are from my personal experience with anxiety and are not a substitute for any type of medical, psychological or health advice.
There is always help out there, and you can find a mental health professional locally, through your doctor, or through an online directory like this one. This is a link to a great article with affordable therapy options and this is an affiliate link to a great online therapy option. If you are in a crisis, I have a list of help hotlines here. You are not alone!!
1) Wiping Out Uncertainty
When was the last time you went somewhere new in a city without first planning out the route on Google Maps?
I use Google Maps religiously, so I always know exactly where I’m going, how much time it’ll take me to get there, and when the next bus comes. It’s great. I know exactly what to expect.
And it’s not just Google Maps that takes away uncertainty like this. Before going to a party, we can see how many people will be attending on the Facebook event. Before heading to a new restaurant, we can check the reviews on TripAdvisor. Before going to a café, we can look online to see how busy it is.
This is all super useful. But at the same time, it conditions us to being certain of everything.
In turn, we may notice we get overly anxious when we’re confronted with situations that we can’t control or predict – which are of course an inevitable part of life!
2) The Fear of Real-Life, Face-to-Face Interaction
Imagine if you could “edit” your speech while you were talking to someone.
Aside from being time-consuming (and a bit Black Mirror-ish), this is essentially what we’re doing when we text. When a physical screen becomes the medium for communication, we can take as much time as we want editing our message.
Instead of having an awkward in-person confrontation with someone, we can spend an hour crafting the perfect response. Instead of going through the nerve-wracking process of asking someone out in person, we can just send them a well-worded and witty proposition through Messenger. We can hide behind our screens and compose.
But real-time, face-to-face face communication isn’t going anywhere – so we have to be comfortable with it!
Getting too comfortable communicating through a screen can make us feel more socially anxious when the screen is replaced with a real live person.
Related Article: Top 10 Things to Remember if You’re Struggling with Anxiety
3) The “Compare and Despair” Trap
We all know of Instagram’s insidious way of tricking us into thinking that the perfectly curated “highlight reel” of photos that we’re shown on the app are a representation of real life – every perfect outfit, perfect holiday, perfect meal.
We know that these photos aren’t “real life”. But even though we logically know this, it’s easy to forget when we’re going down the rabbit hole of scrolling through photo…after photo…after photo…after photo.
When we’re wrapped up in the present moment, our brains have a difficult time separating fact from fiction.
Example – we know that movies aren’t “real life” but we still get invested in the story. It’s the same thing with Instagram. We know that the photos aren’t “real life”, but we still compare ourselves and our lives to the idealized images that we’re shown.
And with constant comparing comes constant anxiety. Anxiety in the form of, “my life doesn’t look as perfect as that – am I not good enough? Am I doing something wrong?!”. Head-ache.
4) Disconnecting, Unplugging, and Switching ‘Off’
Even on a less “mental” level, technology can have a nasty habit of making us feel physically anxious as well. I like to refer to it as a “technology hangover”.
You know the days when you just spend hours in front of a screen? Maybe you’re having a FRIENDS marathon on Netflix, or maybe you’re just feeling particularly inspired and have spent the whole afternoon typing away your next big novel. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing, but for some reason you feel a bit shaky afterwards. A bit unsettled. Like you’re in a weird fog and you can’t seem to disconnect and fully return to reality.
Looking at a screen for long periods of time often has the after-effect of making us feel a bit jittery and anxious.
The reason behind this is that the blue light emitted from our screens actually delays the release of melatonin and increases alertness. But like one too many cups of coffee, sometimes this alertness isn’t such a good feeling.
5) Too Much of a Good Thing
It’s nice to have choice. It’s nice to have access to millions of blogs, websites, documentaries, audiobooks, podcasts, and online courses. We can learn about basically anything we want. All we have to do is choose something we’re interested in, and click. Sounds like a dream.
While having access to all these resources is truly incredible, it also makes it easy to become overwhelmed with too many good things to choose from.
We feel anxious that we may have chosen the “wrong” thing. I love using Skillshare, for example, but I have to admit that even though I’ve started a figure drawing course, I can’t help but feel that little tapping in the back of my mind reminding me that there are so many other courses out there – should I be doing those instead? Is there something better out there? Am I missing out on something?
This “decision paralysis” can make us feel so confused that we end up doing nothing rather than doing something – fuelling our anxiety even more!
As much as it can be tempting to spend social isolation plugged into your devices, it’s important to know that it may definitely come at a cost in the long run.
Remember: moderation is key!
The healthier of a relationship you have with technology, the healthier your mind will be. If your anxiety levels have been on the rise during social isolation, I encourage you to challenge yourself to go for 24 hours without any screen-time! Just switch all your devices off, and see if you notice a difference in your mood (and check out this list of self-care ideas for other ways you could spend your time!).
If you’re looking for more tips and tricks on how to incorporate more stress-free living into your life, check out my free resources self-care resources! I consistently add new awesome journal exercises, daily self-care trackers, calendars, and more!