Tech - the good, the bad and the mental health
I often find myself losing an hour mindlessly scrolling through social media. Afterwards I usually feel deflated.
I also experience phantom vibration syndrome, when I think my phone is vibrating and isn’t.
I’d wager this is far from an unusual experience.
It’s not all bad though: technology means I’m connected 24/7 to my friends and family and to a world of information. It lets me do things that used to take massive amounts of effort at the click of a button.
So, with many of us becoming heavy users, is tech actually good or bad for our mental health?
I contacted a load of tech businesses when I was writing this article to find out what the people on the coal face thought.
Eileen Brown is lead consultant at Amastra media marketing.
She says: “The ‘long hours’ culture and requirements of many tech roles mean that we spend a lot of time apart from our families.
"When we’re home we’re expected to be on-call or available at unsocial hours – all of which can take its toll on mental health.”
Eileen’s advice is to assign fixed hours to look at our work devices – something which has recently become law in France. I’d suggest this is also a good idea for social media and tech more generally.
Carl Martin, who opened up on his struggles with anxiety and loneliness as an entrepreneur, believes that the situation is even more serious than that.
His tech start-up The Wurqs is – somewhat ironically – trying to make it easier for people to step away from tech.
“I honestly believe that digital addiction will be the developed world’s next major health crisis,” he says.
“Access to all that information and connection is obviously wildly exciting but also dangerous.”
Eileen Brown of Amastra media marketing
Michelle D’Israeli, a security consultant for Capgemini who’s had depression and anxiety for her entire life, agrees that it’s not all tech’s fault.
“It is tempting to blame tech for damaging mental health, when tech only mirrors what humans do to each other and themselves," she says.
"It’s not tech that’s the problem, it’s society.”
We need to make sure we’re using tech responsibly and build up an awareness of the dangers and the safeguards – particularly when it comes to young children who are growing up using it as second nature.
In the same way that we might tell a child that too much sugar is bad for them, or warn a teenager against driving a car too fast, people need to know that tech will give them huge potential but just because it doesn’t necessarily present a physical danger doesn’t mean it’s harmless.
Realistically tech is progress, so we shouldn’t cut it out completely – it’s too late for that anyway.
The key is to make sure that we’re the ones that own tech and not the other way round.
Read our special report on mental health and get extra content in the digital magazine below