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Technology and Mental Health: An Unorthodox Relationship

Technology, specifically through the lense of social media, has been used to leverage the conversation of mental health for years.  Although technology and social media have always gone hand- in-hand, technology and mental health have not. It wasn’t until recently that the conversation on how technology affects mental health has come to the forefront.

This is due to the fact that many scholars and mental health advocates have expressed their concerns about social media and the negative stressors they inhibit. One of the most notable arguments was done by social media expert, Bailey Parnell. In her 2017 Ted Talk, she discussed the four main stressors of social media and it’s negative impacts on our society.

Recap on 4 Stressors:

   1. Highlight Reel

Have you ever heard of people only showing their “highlight reel”on social media? Well, if you haven’t, it simply means that people only post and showcase the best parts of their life.

Yes, the baby is smiling for the camera, but two hours before was screetching bloody murder for his mom to feed him. The couple at prom might look cute and in love, but thirty minutes later fight over how long it took to take the “perfect” photo.  The examples are endless, but the reality is too brutal to post on social. Hence, why people choose to choose their “reel” life over their real life.

2. Social Currency

What do we value the most on social media? Bailey Parnell goes on to tell us that the likes, shares, reactions, and comments have become what is known as a “social currency” in today’s age. This is because we hold value in these features, which were essentially invented for validation purposes. This concept is linked to mental health, because if we don’t get the validation (social currency) we feel we
deserve, it leads to feelings of worthlessness, sadness, and depression.

3. F.O.M.O (Fear of Missing Out)

Bailey explains that this stressor actually comes from social anxiety. It causes people to have biological reactions, or withdrawals.  This comes in response to the fear of missing an experience via social media, especially ones we cannot be a part of.This can be from stalking your ex and his new girlfriend to Keeping Up with the Kardashians.  We all have a need to stay up to date with what is going on in our world.

4. Online Harassment

With technology, bullying has been taken to another level. Using social media, bullies and online trolls can target just about anyone from children to celebrities. This stressor has led a lot of victims, especially young children, to have mental health issues. Some cases have even lead people to self-harm or commit suicide. Schools have now taken preventative measures to block social media from their technology to protect students from this issue.

Check out the video below this article for the full talk.

Along with Bailey’s argument, it is important to note that technology and social media has become a registered addiction.  According to the Addiction Center, psychologists estimate that as many as 5 to 10% of Americans meet the criteria for social media addiction.

When technology started to evolve in the 90s, it was the internet and e-mail that took us by a storm. Now, technology has become such an integral part of our lives that social media is now the primary mask it wears to normalize its daily use.

Regardless of your personal stance, social media and technology has allowed the topic of mental health to come to the forefront. This taboo topic is now a globally recognized issue.

The question is, how are we going to keep pushing the envelope? How are we going to continue making strides in the mental health category? We don’t know the exact answers, but what we do know is that we must work with and for tech, rather than against it. Despite not being able to eradicate the negatives of tech, we can optimize the positives. How? Well, that can start with you. 

Use the hashtag #mentech to tell us how you use technology to optimize your mental health.

Check out the full Ted Talk that inspired our blog topic below: