HOW TECHNOLOGY MAKES US ANXIOUS

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Does the all-caps title make you anxious? It should. This article should make you anxious enough to pay more attention to the blurring of the real and virtual.

Technology is evolving at a rampant rate and it is hard to keep up with. This fast-paced change is also responsible for creating an anxiety-ridden society. Studies, magazines, articles and other people are telling us that technology is making us more anxious. But to what extent is this true? Who is to blame for the increase in the worsening psychological conditions in the individuals in today’s generation? The reason for this is the evolutionary shift to a much faster revolutionary change.

A new study of 1.1 million students ranging from 8th grade to 12th graders found that high school students who spent more time on screens and gadgets and less time engaging in face to face socialising, exercise or other non-screen activities were physiologically at a disadvantage and worse off than their peers. The study also found out that when children reported a shift to more screen-based activities, a decline in happiness followed, which implies a cause-and-effect relationship. The youth today is experiencing higher levels of stress, anxiety, depression and related conditions than they were a generation ago.

How does technology make us anxious?

Technology leaves us vulnerable: uncertainty is the root of anxiety. In some ways, technology takes away some uncertainty. Smartphones allow us to control and manipulate the world around us to a great, albeit limited extent, as a result of which we are much less prepared to navigating the real world, not manipulated by the push of a button. Because technology limits our experiences with handling uncertainty, we are less prepared to deal with ambiguity when it arises. The combination of a lack of experience dealing with small uncertainties with an expansion of big uncertainties as we grow, is what makes us feel anxious.

Technology allows us to avoid people and negative emotions and feelings: a downfall of technology is that it limits our interaction with people outside social media platforms. When we avoid people, our confidence is affected and we are unsure of how to handle things and we tend to think of ourselves as awkward in conversations. What we are actually avoiding are the uncomfortable emotions like awkwardness, anxiety and boredom which arise quite naturally when interacting with others.

On-screen communication is different as compared to face-to-face communication: The former allows us the comfort of reacting to things on our own timetable. And that allows us the time to craft a reaction. When we’re accustomed to taking our time to think of exactly what we want to say, we find it harder to talk to someone face-to-face and in the moment. When there’s less real-time experience to draw on, we remain shaky and uncertain, which in turn makes us anxious.

Public adoration or public shaming happens in front of everyone. And for teens and young adults still figuring out their identity and moral compass, managing social media can feel like a social crisis. Social anxiety is the fear of being revealed and judged as deficient in some way. Some people pretend to be something they are not, on social media. This leads to an increase in the gap between what we project and who we actually are, thereby increasing our anxiety about being revealed.

The solution to this is simple. Make time for face-to-face conversation. We have to teach ourselves and find a way to be more emotionally, cognitively, and behaviorally open and aware, we have to learn how to take the perspective of others, how to feel a little of what others feel, and how to stick with those feelings even when it gets rough.

We need to create a more accepting, mindful, values-based, caring, compassionate world, and we have to start right here, right now in our families, schools, communities, culture, nation, and world.

 

Feature Image Credit: Hugh Han on Unsplash

 

Anoushka Thakkar is a Research Associate (Mental Health) at One Future Collective.

 

References:

Walsh, Kristen. “How Technology Is Causing Anxiety.” PreparedU View | Bentley University, 17 Dec. 2015, www.bentley.edu/prepared/how-technology-causing-anxiety.

“The Unexpected Way That New Technology Makes Us Unhappy.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/get-out-your-mind/201409/the-unexpected-way-new-technology-makes-us-unhappy.

“How Technology Makes Us Anxious.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/how-be-yourself/201803/how-technology-makes-us-anxious.

 

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