Our lives are almost 100% digital these days, especially in the current circumstances – we talk to our friends and family via technology, we work via technology, we keep up to date with the world via technology, we exercise via technology. It’s infiltrated every aspect of our lives, and while the convenience is great, it does come with risks – fake news, advertising, trolling, exposure to excessive negativity are just some examples, and sadly some of this content is extremely damaging to our mental wellbeing. It can also put our physical wellbeing at risk, as misinformation can cause us to make unhelpful decisions when it comes to our health, examples include following dangerous fad diets, or buying fake medication over the internet because our favourite influencers advertised it.
As adults we may think we have control over our digital interactions, but these apps are designed to be addictive and in truth we often have very little or no control over the content that we are exposed to. These issues have been very sadly highlighted by the recent news that a video of a person appearing to take their own life was shared on TikTok and could be viewed by anyone. As TikTok is marketed towards younger people, many parents have raised concerns about how to keep children safe on these apps, but it’s not just our kids who need protecting. Unfortunately, it is a constant battle to stay safe and well online because technology is evolving so rapidly that the measures to keep people safe simply cannot be implemented quickly enough.
Less extreme examples can also have negative effects if not properly managed. Many mental health professionals have spoken out about the rise in self-esteem issues, especially in younger people as we suffer from ‘comparison-itis’. Seeing the ‘wonderful’ life that others are living, can leave us with a feeling of not being good enough, even though we know logically that what we see on social media is only part of the story. The trouble is that our brains often fail to make that rationalisation in the moment, and even a quick glimpse of a seemingly charmed life of a good friend can cause us to spiral.
Add in instances of hateful trolling, and controversial fake news, and it is easy to see why so many people are struggling to manage their digital wellbeing. It’s become such a problem for some that they have elected to withdraw from social media entirely. However, as we highlighted earlier, technology also has many benefits in our lives. It does help us stay connected, it enables us to work more flexibly, it allows us to learn and develop our skills and knowledge, and it provides us access to helpful resources to help our mental and physical wellbeing. The key is finding the right balance for you.