I would like to preface this article by saying I am not a mental health expert. My knowledge is mostly limited to the ins and outs of marketing. Whatever I say in this article is mostly based on my opinion and experience. If you need any help with your mental health, I would suggest you connect with the United for Global Mental Health organization. They are experts in this field.
Over the past few decades, our use of technology has transformed and many of us spend a significant proportion of our time behind screens. Mental health concerns among children and young adults have increased four-fold since the introduction of smartphones and between 2005 and 2017, the percentage of adolescents experiencing significant depressive symptoms increased by 52%.
Social media has also proven to have significant detrimental impacts on mental health. Numerous studies have shown links between social media use and depression, low self-esteem, feelings of isolation, issues with concentration, sleep deprivation, and getting less physical exercise.
Hold your horses – nobody’s suggesting that you give up the internet full stop but doing a detox from time to time will work wonders for your peace of mind. Once per week, shut your electronics off and spend the day away from the digital world. If you can do it for longer than a day, even better.
Digital detoxing may seem impossible, especially if your work requires you to be online. As marketers, our jobs heavily depend on social media so it can be difficult to get away from it and focus on ourselves. You might be concerned that within a time, you’ll miss the latest trend or get out of touch. However, it’s not worth sacrificing your mental health just to be “plugged-in” constantly.
If you are lucky enough to work remotely, you can take your work with you to your dream location. That way, even if you can’t have a break from work, you can at least have a change of scenery (and as they say, a change is as good as a rest). No more sitting in a 6×6 cubicle merely dreaming about visiting exotic, faraway lands.
Being constantly on the move is not a feasible long-term solution for everyone, but this lifestyle lets you have a change whenever you need it. With that said, it’s important not to overdo it as solo travel can become isolating.
The idea of work-life balance may seem like an illusion. While some employers are willing to exploit their workers as much as the law permits (or perhaps even more so), more companies are becoming savvy to the importance of balance. Unhappy employees will underperform and/or look for opportunities elsewhere, and businesses know that.
If your employer is making unreasonable demands, it’s important to set clear boundaries as well as be aware of labour laws in your country. We have to be proactive with our rights.
Finally, there’s always the option to branch out on your own and work independently so you can set your own pace.
The effects of the Metaverse will be unprecedented. Over-use and even addiction to social media is already having stark consequences on mental health, and I can’t imagine what will happen when the digital experience becomes an immersive virtual reality.
The Metaverse will take digital addiction to the next level (according to one study, virtual reality is 44% more addictive than flat gaming). Rachel Kowert, research director at Take This said that the Metaverse could “negatively impact our ability to engage in non-virtual life, whether it’s self-confidence or belonging or social anxiety,”. The world of the Metaverse is not going to help with the mental health crisis that has come about during the expansion of the digital world.
Social Media – The woes of Toxic Positivity
“You should love yourself”, “You can be rich and famous like me if you take this $1000 course I’m selling!”
Social media has its way of making us feel useless, as if we’re not doing enough. We can always take steps to improve our lives, but social media creates guilt and shame because it forces us to compare our lives with others’. For that reason, it’s best to be selective about who you pay attention to online and make sure you consume content that makes you feel good.
How to Beat Digital Addiction
In many cases, digital applications are designed to be addictive, so below are a few tips that will help you distance yourself from the digital world. Taking these small steps today will pay off in the long run, even if they don’t seem easy at first. (Once again, I am not a mental health expert – these are just practical tips that are easy enough to follow.)
- Turn off push notifications – Every time a notification goes off, your brain releases a small dose of dopamine which makes you emotionally dependent on your phone. Try turning them off once in a while and if someone needs you urgently, they’ll call you!
- Track the time you spend online – You may spend more time online that you realise, so tracking that time is the first step in understanding what needs to change. Take note of how much time you’re spending on different activities (i.e., scrolling through social media feeds), and set goals for reducing the time spent on them.
- Find new activities – How about using your time to learn something new or develop a new, healthy habit that doesn’t require your phone? If you love animals, you could volunteer at an animal shelter. You could take some cooking classes, dance classes, or start going for regular walks. Just make sure you are solely doing these activities for your enjoyment and not turning it into a TikTok – you don’t need to record everything you do.
- No Devices – You do not have to go cold turkey when it comes to technology. Instead, you can start by restricting your device usage. For example, decide not to use devices while you are eating, or ban any devices from your bedroom and only use them in your dedicated workspace. (Whatever restrictions you set for yourself, make sure you follow them.)
- Socialise – Loneliness is one of the root causes of digital addiction and the pandemic has not helped in this regard. Socialising may seem difficult at times, especially for people who have relocated to a new area and don’t know where to start. With that said, there’s always a way to meet new people and ironically, this is one benefit of the digital world. Just make sure that if you use any apps to find social events, you don’t get sucked back into scrolling through social media feeds and breaking the restrictions you set for yourself.
It’s high time that we take a step back and reconsider our usage of digital platforms. We are becoming increasingly dependent on social media and technology in general, and I’m sure it’s not going to end well if we don’t each take steps to control our usage.
In my opinion, spreading awareness is a necessity but it’s just the first step towards improving mental health – we need to look for solutions and actionable steps that we can take, and we need to do so now.
In addition, mental health treatment is not easily accessible to the public in many cases, so it’s important to focus on prevention as much as cure by implementing steps to bring balance into our lives. This can involve socialising in person and enjoying the wealth of healthy activities that existed before the internet. Of course, the digital world has its place – especially for us as marketers – but we all need to maintain a balance for the greater good.