Technological devices have become integral to our daily lives. Their use is as habitual as waking up and brushing your teeth in the morning. Along with our devices comes a new form of self-management: maintaining digital wellness. How much is too much, and are we damaging our health?
Simply it’s balancing your time spent with technology and your time spent without it. Digital wellness is achieved when we manage to keep a healthy stability between the two. You have to maintain both online and offline connections to satisfy all your psycho-social needs. With devices being such an integral part of our day to day lives we need to keep reminding ourselves to prioritize time without them.
Unfortunately, online outlets may be feeding you misinformation on how to achieve a healthy tech/life balance. Here are some of the most common pointers that could actually be harmful to your digital wellness.
For starters, it isn’t for everyone. Humans have different technological preferences, mostly related to age. Cultural differences are also a factor that affects how people view technology, their relationships with their devices and consequently, the internet.
Older people have been shown to have felt “intimidated” or “anxious” when handling technology, because of the unfamiliarity of it all. For younger people, on the other hand, it offers unlimited possibilities.
Concerns are rooted in the dangers of anonymity and spread of information, as problems on privacy, cyberbullying, and explicit or illegal material become more concerning each day. This contributes to how a person sees technology.
Overarching advice given online about the responsibility you have over your technology may 1. not apply to your social group, 2. not accurately depict how much you actually use your phone, and 3. not take into consideration digital addiction and the fact that your usage is potentially a bigger issue.
Some things are simply out of our control when it comes to the digital age, and mindfulness is what’s really key.
20 years ago, this kind of advice would have been useful. But now it’s hard to escape exposure to technology and along with it radiation. Most of us use our computers all day, for school or work, and use our breaks to scroll through our phones. Unplugging has become more and more unrealistic with the incorporation of apps and screens into almost everything we do. Need transportation? Uber. Need to order lunch? Postmates. Need to make a call? I challenge you to do this one without your phone.
It isn’t advisable to simply eliminate digital use altogether because it isn’t what digital wellness is actually about. Digital wellbeing is taking into consideration a person’s physical and mental relationship with technology, and acknowledging that the relationship is there. It’s not the lack of technology that will save us but the balance.
Researchers think moderation is the solution. People now have to find out how they can relate to their devices in a healthy way. It could be through managing screen time, putting a blue-light filter to prevent eyesight damage, or being selective with apps and content. Eliminating a game app, or a photo editor you spend hours perfecting Instagram posts on. Essentially anything that isn’t making your life easier.
This goes back to the generational difference. Young people just have the propensity to multi-task, which can be a bad or good thing. In fact, developers take note of how people incorporate multiple screen switches into productive projects.
Older people tend to focus on one task at a time. That being said, this difference in workload tells you that in order to regulate digital use, you have to take control of your focus.
Switching screens should only involve tabs related to the task. Increase your own digital literacy by taking a tour around the application and learning to navigate through your device.
Researchers emphasize how important it is to understand your own context in order to develop digital wellness that fits you.
Part of it is understanding how many tasks you can do at once and how efficient you are with a particular workload. Focusing on one app just is not a ‘one size fits all’ solution.
This is not to say you should be sharing every intimate detail, but being honest online can actually enhance your real life. Creating an online persona or lifestyle that is wildly different from the one your living can result in a lot of pressure and self-doubt. Living up to a polished facade you’ve presented may be doing more harm than simply being honest about how bad your day has been on the internet.
The opposite can also be harmful. Oversharing and dramatizing problems that may not actually carry that much weight can inflate your issues. Receiving confirmation from followers or bullies on how bad a situation is can make it feel worse. Cyberpsychologist John Suler calls it “online disinhibition.” It is when a user has a tendency to say things in a more pronounced and intense way than in real life. However, it should not be treated as a person simply not having a filter, but something that is being considered in online healthcare. It’s usually due to pre-existing stress or anxiety.
Digital wellness does not aim for you to close yourself off or to show a false, ‘round the clock happy life, but to regulate your own anxiety and be mindful on not presenting it in a more exaggerated way online.
A big part of digital wellness is the abundance of health information on the internet, which can sometimes be a double-edged sword. On one end you do have the chance of learning more about your condition and whether it’s treatable at home. On the other hand, you may end up relying on self-diagnosis which can be dangerous. Furthermore many websites have a tendency of diagnosing your common cold as a life-threatening disease. Talk about unnecessary anxiety.
Research shows that there is a certain level of uncertainty about common symptoms and the intolerance for it that causes people to be more anxious about their condition than they really should.
Instead, use the internet to research and find a specialist in the field and book an appointment.
The great misunderstanding about digital wellness comes from the lack of individual representation. Wherein, people have to understand their own relationship with technology first before they can confront their bad habits, and eventually fine-tune them so they benefit instead of harm.
Despite there not being a silver bullet to solve our intensified relationships with our phones, two word’s you shouldn’t forget are: balance and moderation.