Anyone who has spent late nights scrolling through their social media feed or grinding on video games knows one thing is true: Technology can be a good thing, but only in moderation. Like too much of anything, spending a lot of time on the internet or social media can lead to unhealthy consequences. Since May is mental health awareness month, we thought it would be a good time to remind ourselves of the importance finding a healthy balance when it comes to using technology.
Social distancing on social media
The global coronavirus pandemic continues to test our own personal resilience. While most of us are sheltering at home, we’re also relying more and more on technology for work and staying connected to family and friends via virtual conferencing and social media. But too much social media can be a bad thing, too.
The more scientists study social media use, the more they find negative side effects:
- Young people who use social media more than two hours a day tend to rate their mental health as fair or poor compared with less frequent users.
- Occasional users of social media are almost 3x less likely to be depressed than heavy users.
- People who restrict social media use to a half-hour a day have significantly lower depressive and anxiety symptoms.
If you’re someone who finds periods of abstention reinvigorating, you may want to add a digital detox to go along with New Year’s resolutions and Sober October.
Data loss blues
When you spend a lot of time on a computer, it’s only a matter of time before you lose something important. It could be financial documents, or an album of precious family photos, or maybe a big work presentation. Worse yet, you could have your entire system taken over by ransomware. Stressed yet? You’re not alone. We asked IT pros what they would rather lose than their data and here’s what they had to say:
Things IT pros would rather lose than data:
- Internet connection
- Cell service
- Internal organ
- Wedding ring
- Robot lawnmower
That’s right. Bacon! Kidding aside, losing data can be stressful. And many businesses don’t survive after major data loss. That’s why using strong cybersecurity solutions, like cloud-based antivirus, is so important, as is backing up the important files and folders on your computer. Do it for the sake of your data, or do it for the bacon, but just do it! You’ll thank us.
Technology never sleeps
If you think it’s hard for those just using technology, think of the people who have to work in technology. If you’ve ever thought about a career in tech, you better like the night shift. Technology never sleeps. The best time to perform upgrades or installations is late at night when most users are offline and there’s less traffic on the network. Want to launch a new website? Midnight is probably the best time. But all this late-night system testing and debugging can lead to loss of sleep and, in turn, an unhealthy dose of stress.
And it’s not just tech pros doing tech things late at night. If you’re up late scrolling your feed and posting comments, you may not be sleeping as well as you should. The blue light from phone screens and computers reduce your levels of melatonin, which is the hormone that controls your sleep. And lack of sleep can lead to several harmful side-effects, including:
- Anxiety, insomnia, depression, forgetfulness
- Impaired thinking and slow reaction time
- Increased risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke and diabetes
- Sleep apnea, low testosterone and decreased sex drive
- Skin lines, dark circles under the eyes, weight gain
So, avoid using tech too close to bedtime if you can. Reduced stimulation works wonders for good sleep habits. The news will still be there in the morning.
There’s an app for that
It’s not all doom and gloom when it comes to technology and mental health. In fact, advancements in health technology are emerging at a rapid rate. One area of progress is apps that help people with mental health issues. The National Institute of Mental Health has identified several promising trends, including:
- Apps that provide tools for managing stress, anxiety and sleep problems
- Cognitive remediation apps that help people develop thinking and coping skills
- Illness management apps that put trained health care providers in touch with patients
- Mindfulness, meditation and relaxation apps
Resilience online and offline
It’s a measure of our personal resilience when we’re able to persevere through something as disruptive as coronavirus. Having social media and the internet can help. But we have to be mindful to avoid overdoing it. We also have to be careful to protect the digital devices we’ve come to rely on with appropriate cybersecurity. That’s cyber-resilience. And it can do wonders for your peace of mind and your overall mental health.