Our current world is characterized by increased connectedness not necessarily because people have spent more time on their personal relationships, but because we have effective, all-encompassing tools that bring people together (virtually), and that is technology.
The Power Of Technology
According to Statista, 3.5 billion people worldwide are internet users as of 2016. That is around 45% of the population across the globe. As of the same year, 2.1 billion people already have smartphones, and this number is expected to go up to 5 billion just next year, in 2019.
Also, 47.6% of worldwide households have been reported to own computers. These statistics show the magnitude of technology’s reach and influence in today’s society. Much of how we go about our daily lives have been dependent on our technology usage.
While we know that technology has permeated our everyday lives, have we been conscious of its effects on our health, particularly mentally? Are we even aware that it has already impacted the way we think, make decisions, perceive one another, and live our lives?
Yay: How Technology Helps Us Be Better
According to Medsphere Systems Corporation, we have around 800 mobile applications that are dedicated solely to the improvement of mental health. These apps provide platforms by which knowledge sharing is permitted and encouraged. “The apps also allow for privacy and confidentiality and can be a safe space for individuals who may be too ashamed to admit their mental health issues in person or who may feel that they will be negatively labeled or stigmatized by others.” Sal Raichbach, PsyD LCSW added.
People get to learn more about the symptoms of various mental health problems such as anxiety, depression, addiction, and alcoholism. Technology is giving us ways to take care of our psychological health right at our fingertips.
Aside from being just a platform for information dissemination, technology also provides a way to bridge the gap between patients and healthcare professionals. There are mobile applications, which automatically connect patients to mental health experts who can help them address their issues even beyond office hours.
To take it a step further, technology has paved the way for the creation of mental health support groups wherein people get to battle with their mental disorders collectively. Technology has made connections easily possible.
Technology also promotes the concept of telehealth, wherein patients can consult with healthcare providers through their mobile phones in a video conference format. This method has increased the accessibility of healthcare and has expanded the reach of mental health professionals drastically.
Patients also get to enjoy the benefits of cost savings, more comfort, and better scheduling as against having to meet with medical experts physically. Technology is changing the way by which medical services could be delivered in a very innovative way.
Nay: How Technology Could Make Us Worse
Like any other innovation, technological developments in mental health also have its fair share of disadvantages. In a study conducted by AsapScience, social media use affects the physiological functions of the brain. The immediate gratification that we experience from being likable in the virtual world causes the brain to rewire and to desire for the same satisfaction over and over again. This flow is similar to how the brain responds in a case of addiction, which could eventually lead to depression, anxiety, and even insomnia. “Sleep can restore your mind and body. The immune system repairs itself and the brain rests and recharges while you sleep. Without enough sleep, you can’t function at your best.” Dr. Aaron Kaplan, PsyD, Clinical Psychologist reminds everyone.
Excessive exposure to social media also causes the reduction of white matter in areas of the brain that are in charge of regulating our emotions and decision-making skills. As a result, people can have tendencies to be bipolar and emotionally unstable. Some have also become indecisive and fickle-minded.
Another negative impact is the multi-tasking that happens through the use of multiple electronic devices and applications decreases the brain’s ability to focus. Not only does this shorten our attention span, but it also hinders us from retaining useful information for more extended periods of time. “Balancing technology use with other aspects of daily life seems reasonable, but there is a lot of conflicting advice about where that balance should be.” Christopher J. Ferguson Ph.D. in clinical psychology.
Undoubtedly, technology was created by man for us to do our daily tasks easier and be better in our activities. It was intended to complement a man in his routines, and not the other way around. By knowing the pros and cons of using technology and its many forms, we are reminded to be careful in our electronic use so as not to compromise the more important things in life – particularly our mental health.