Positive and Negative Effects of Technology on Mental Health

The effects of technology have made every part of our lives easier, from staying connected to friends and loved ones, to hailing an Uber, to watching TV, and even ordering dinner.

But, as our reliance on technology continues to grow, some have experienced the negative effects, such as addiction and obsession.

Continue reading to learn about the positive and negative effects, how it’s helped us stay active and connect with others, and how we can be more aware of our dependence.

Are You Obsessed? 5 Technologies and Their Impact on Your Mental Health

As technology impacts every part of our lives, it doesn’t mean that all of the effects have been positive. Below are five technologies and their positive and negative effect on our lives.

Effects of Technology

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#1: Fitbit and Other Wearables

Fitbits and wearables can be used as motivational tools to stay active because you can easily track your progress. But, they can also lead to feelings of inadequacy if you repeatedly fail to reach your goals.

For instance, one study found that pupils, ages 13 and 14, initially hit the 10,000 step goal. However, their physical activity was short-lived and declined over time.

Further, students didn’t want teachers to impose step or calorie-based targets due to the pressure and stress of reaching them. While this study was done with children, many adults have the same feelings of low self-esteem when they fail to hit their targets.

Fun Fact

In 2007 text messaging passed phone calls as the most used form of communication, eclipsing 1 billion daily messages.

#2: Alexa

Forget having to reach for your phone when now Alexa, and similar gadgets like Google Home and Apple’s HomePod, can respond to your voice. Now, everything from ordering dinner, reading the news, setting timers, listening to your favorite playlist, and connecting your smart home devices is only one statement away.

However, because Alexa doesn’t get angry if you ask the same question over and over or if you forget to say please and thank you, some parents have witnessed their children become ruder.

While this may start during interactions with Alexa, it quickly expands to interactions with people. However, many parents say that their children understand the difference between interactions with devices and those with people, and act accordingly.

#3: Venmo

Venmo, a service offered by PayPal, allows you to easily send money to others and is now accepted at some retail locations after you connect your bank account or credit card.

This has made splitting checks, paying back friends, and sending money extremely easy and less stressful.

However, it also hurts less to spend money, which makes it harder to save. Some financial experts, such as Dave Ramsey, recommend only spending cash because of the pain of handing over your hard-earned cash. With Venmo and similar tools, you don’t feel that pain, making it easier to spend more.

#4: Smartphones

Our smartphones have become an integral part of our lives, whether it be posting to social media, checking email, or texting friends, most of us have our phones near us all day and night.

However, the use of smartphones has led to some physical ailments, such as putting extra strain on our necks or leading to motor vehicle accidents. Some of the other issues caused by smartphones include:

  • Sleep disturbances: The blue light emitting from your smartphone can actually fool your brain into thinking it’s time to wake up. Many sleep specialists recommend avoiding your phone for an hour before going to sleep.
  • Barrier to good communication: As more of our communication takes place digitally, especially for teens who average 60 texts a day, some people are struggling to develop the ability to read body language and understand innuendos, both of which limit communication.
  • Obsession: Nomophobia (no-mobile-phone-phobia) is a real thing and continues to grow as we become more reliant on our devices for everything from staying connected with work and friends to finding the best place to eat.

Did You Know?

On average, Americans check their phones 46 times per day on average or 8 billion times per day as a country. This is up from 33 times per day in 2014.

#5: Social Media

As with everything, even technology, there are pluses and minuses to the medium. For instance, social media allows you to stay in touch with friends and family, especially those who live in other parts of the country or the world.

On the negative side, social media can lead to feeling as though everyone else is living exciting lives while you’re stuck at home, checking in on your friends and their wild adventures. This phenomenon is called FOMO, or the fear of missing out.

Positive Effects of Social Media

  • Socialization – staying in touch with friends and family
  • Positive impact on friendships – develop more trust and closer friendships
  • Empathy – learn and understand the perspective of others
  • Sensibility – teens are aware of the risks and seem more cautious of online interactions

Negatives of Social Media

  • Cyber bullying and harassment – people feel empowered to belittle others on their clothes, politics, or religion
  • Addictive – nearly 40% of users aged 18 to 34 check their social networking sites first thing after waking up
  • Jealousy – constantly comparing ourselves to others creating low self-esteem
  • Triggers more sadness, less well-being – Facebook caused less moment to moment happiness and less life satisfaction

Did You Know?

In 2017, 81% of Americans had at least one social media profile, compared to 24% in 2008.

Technology’s Adverse Effect on Mental Health

Technology in general, and the internet in particular, has actually been connected with the development of a number of mental health problems. While more research is needed, some of the most cited is internet addiction.

Internet addiction disorder shares many similar features when compared with other forms of addiction, such as withdrawal symptoms when online access is denied.

Internet addictions can be problematic because it can negatively impact academic and professional success, as well as one’s ability to communicate effectively in person.

Link between social media and mental health issues

Studies have also shown a link between depression and the use of social media sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

For instance, one study from 2013 found that younger adults who used Facebook frequently tended to report feeling less happy than those who used it less. Another study of high school students found rates of depression tended to be higher among those who regularly used social media sites.

Why?

Some experts feel that for some people, social media sites can trigger feelings of low self-esteem. That’s because users may see others and assume they are more successful, beautiful, intelligent, and enjoying life more than them.

A recent study from Duke found that the higher use of technology is linked to increases in attention, behavior, and self-regulation problems for adolescents already at risk for mental health issues.

Add It Up

On average, we spend more than four hours a day on our smartphones. That is a whopping 1,460 hours a year--about 61 total days!

Social Media Usage

According to a social media study by the Pew Research Center, 69% of American adults use at least one social media site on a regular basis, with women at a slightly higher percentage (73%) than men (65%).

Of course, Facebook is the most common, with 68% of American adults using it and 74% of users checking it daily. But it’s not the only site getting significant visits every day.

For instance, both Snapchat and Instagram have at least 60% of users checking it every day and another 21% of users checking it every week.

FOMO and Social Media

This amount of checking on the status of our friends and other people we follow on social media has led to a new phenomenon:

  • FOMO: Fear of Missing Out

Though many people joke about their addiction to their smart phones and to social media sites in general, many psychologists warn that it is a serious issue and may have negative effects on our psychological well-being.

For instance, FOMO can lead to:

  • Anxiety about not being included
  • Feelings of inadequacy
  • Posting more often and sharing more personal details, which may lead to more cyberbullying
  • Cyberbullying may lead to lower self-esteem
  • Over-committing, or trying to do more than you actually can

Social Media Addiction

Scientists have discovered that using social media results in the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that is released when we expect or receive a reward. This at least partially explains why receiving “likes” and comments, as well as other interactions via social networking sites feel so rewarding.

And, though social media addiction does not share all of the same features as drug or gambling addictions, studies have shown that quitting social media can lead to similar withdrawal in those who use social media sites often.

The dopamine release is partly to blame for this, but so is the fact that being active on social media activates specific brain regions in processing and anticipating rewards, which motivates us to stay active, which leads to more anticipation, which continues to the circle of staying active on the various platforms.

Social Media Worries

In a recent study by the American Psychological Association (APA), 48% of millennials reported that they worry about the negative effects of social media on their physical and mental health.

Positive Effects of Social Media

While FOMO can affect people on social media, there are plenty of positives about the various platforms. As mentioned earlier, Facebook and other sites make it easy to stay connected to family and friends, especially those who live in other parts of the country or the world who we’re not able to see on a regular basis.

This ability to stay connected can be a positive contributor to the mental health of many people. These conflicting reports about the positive and negative effects of social media, and technology in general, may have to do with the individual’s outlook on the platforms, what they’re trying to get out of their time on social media, and one’s ability to control FOMO.

As a result, psychologists recommend limiting social media usage and trying not to compare your life to those of others. This is because many people only show a positive representation of their lives, or what they want others to see.

Tips to Avoid FOMO

At some level, FOMO hits us all at one point or another. It’s hard not to see your friends on vacation when you’re stuck in the snow and not be a little envious, or to see all of your friends at a party while you’re at home and not think about how much fun they’re having and why you’re not.

When these feelings set in, it’s important to take a step back and realize that what’s important is your overall well-being. Here are some tips to keep that in perspective:

  • Decide what’s truly important and focus on that
  • Slow down
  • Understand you can’t have it all
  • Don’t chase the illusion of happiness
  • Savor the moment

Integrating these tips into your daily life can be challenging. However, it’s important to understand that taking pleasure in the process and not going through life as a series of obligations can lead to heightened levels of relaxation.

Positive Effects of Technology

Technology does have many positives, including improving daily life for the better and allowing people to take charge of their mental healthcare.

Some apps and computer programs provide services and information to clients in a more cost-effective way, especially in rural and underdeveloped areas. This includes:

  • Apps that promote mental wellness
  • Educational resources
  • Online conversations
  • Virtual classes on issues of mental health issues

Technology also allows mental health counselors to reach their patients at their convenience and on the platform that is best for them. For instance:

  • Using social media to reach younger patients
  • Relying on texts and video calls in between meetings
  • Promoting new apps through social media

Though not drastically, one study in 2013 actually showed that online sessions were more effective than one-on-one meetings.

What Is Digital Responsibility?

Digital responsibility, also referred to as “digital citizenship”, is the informal guide to how internet users should act online.

This includes how they should manage online relationships, provide personal protection from online attacks, and accept the personal responsibility for online actions.

Some of the behaviors most frowned upon include:

  • Bullying
  • Not respecting the opinions and feelings of others
  • Not protecting personal information
  • Commenting in ALL CAPS, which implies shouting
  • Stalking

How Has the Development of Technology Positively Affected Our Wellness?

Technology has made every aspect of our lives easier, even if it has led to some negative effects. The entertainment value alone has increased our ability to play games, watch great movies and television shows, and keep up with the latest news and gossip.

But there have been plenty of other positive impacts, such as:

  • Tracking health, activity, and sleep
  • Staying up to date on news
  • Learning through apps
  • Staying connected to friends and family
  • Meeting new people
  • Tracking stocks and finances
  • Finding new places to visit
  • Ordering dinner and finding restaurants
  • Working remotely
  • Internet of Things
  • Self-driving cars
  • Hailing an Uber (or Lyft)
  • Finding a date or romantic partner

The list can go on and on, which leaves little doubt about the positive effects of technology. This trend is likely to continue and our lives overall should become easier and easier as AI and technology continue to change and grow.

How Technology Impacts Relationships?

One of the main ways that technology impacts relationships is that it has led to more offline interaction. For instance, if you meet someone online that you feel comfortable with, the next step is to meet them in person. If you hadn’t met online, you may not have ever met that person.

Some studies also show that people who interact regularly through social media, cell phones, and messaging discuss important topics with more people than other users.

This sense of community, especially the ability to create togetherness over long distances, is the greatest impact of technology, the internet, and social media.

In the past, if you moved to another city, the only way to stay in touch was to "reach out and touch someone" through phone or even by mailing handwritten letters. Now, you can interact with your friends in real time in many different ways such as video chat, which can help us feel closer.

How Does Technology Affect Us?

Undoubtedly, technology has had plenty of positive effects on our lives. We are a more efficient, connected society and are able to share our lives with the world.

However, always being connected does create problems that we didn’t have as recently as the 1990s. We have to be aware of how we interact with technology and if we’re becoming addicted to our smartphones or social media.

Learn How to Help Others Break Addiction to Technology

By pursuing a graduate degree, many students learn the skills and knowledge to help people break their addiction to technology and social media, among many others.

Depending on your goals and previous education, some of these degrees are:

Or, check out some of the graduate degrees and master’s degrees available from sponsored listings that strive to teach different ways to help those who have developed some type of technological dependency listed below.

Master’s in School Counseling Programs

Master’s in school counseling are focused on teaching elements of:

  • Psychology
  • Therapy and counseling
  • Education and training
  • Human growth and development

Through a curriculum based on research, analysis, and practicums, many master’s programs teach about fostering academic development, conducting group and individual counseling, and working with parents and teachers to support students.

University of North Carolina (UNC)

Based on the Strengths-Based School Counseling framework, the 14-month Master of Arts (MA) in School Counseling program at UNC starts in late May and ends in late July the following year. This accelerated option allows students to proceed through the program as a tightly-knit cohort and have courses that are solely focused on school counseling.

University of Southern California (USC)

For those aspiring to becoming school counselors in K-12 settings, the Master of Education in School Counseling (and Pupil Personnel Services Credential) explores relevant challenges affecting 21st century schools by focusing on the whole child through support of their social, emotional, and academic needs.

The program uses the professional competencies and standards through the analysis of critical research in various fields. Plus, USC offers three concentrations to focus your curriculum even more:

  1. College and Career Readiness
  2. Restorative Justice
  3. Trauma Informed Practice

Master’s in Applied Behavioral Analysis Programs

While pursuing a master’s in applied behavioral analysis, the curriculum strives to teach the techniques and principles that bring about positive change in behavior based on theories of how people learn.

These master’s programs explore the scientific study of learning and behavior to help students prepare to provide this support to those who have mental illness, autism, developmental disabilities, or other behavior challenges.

Simmons College

Designed to prepare students for leadership roles in the implementation, evaluation, and administration of applied behavioral analytic principles and methods, the Master of Science in Behavior Analysis uses an innovative curriculum that emphasizes the current research and the fusion of applied behavioral analysis with other fields.

To fit the needs of your schedule, Simmons offers a variety of options, such as an online program and evening class schedules.

Counseling and Therapy Master’s Degree Programs

While pursuing a master’s in counseling and therapy, your curriculum focuses on teaching how you can help your future patients in individual or group counseling settings, which may include people:

  • With emotional or behavioral problems
  • Suffering from mental health disorders
  • Coping with major life changes

Usually, programs offer a variety of concentrations tailored to a specific type of counseling, such as:

  • Substance abuse
  • Marriage and family
  • Art therapy
  • Rehabilitation

New York University

The counseling and therapy graduate programs at NYU are committed to generating, advancing, and disseminating knowledge related to all aspects of research and practice in counseling.

These principles guide the curriculum to include understanding people across the lifespan in cultural contexts, promotion of equity and social justice, and helping all people craft lives of wellness, health, and meaning.

Two of these programs are:

  1. Graduate Program in Counseling for Mental Health and Wellness
  2. Graduate Programs in Counseling and Guidance

Get Matched to the Perfect Program for You!

If these programs don’t interest you, use the form on this page to get matched to the perfect program for you.

Or, continue reading about the 9 Types of Mental Illnesses or the different Social Worker Career Paths.

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