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 the 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, say to only spend cash because of the pain of handing over your hard-earned cash money. Because now, you don’t feel that pain, making it easier to spend more.

#4: Social Media

As with everything, even technology, there are pluses and minuses to the medium. For instance, you get 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.

#5: Smartphones

And finally, the one we can’t live without. 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?

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

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.

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!

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. Our lives overall will 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.

Earning a clinical psychology graduate degree can teach you how to provide therapy to those who have developed some type of technological dependency and the methods and best practices used to treat them.

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