Since we've entered the information age, technology dominates most of our everyday lives. The internet is ubiquitous and computers are involved in almost all kinds of jobs.
The days of being able to get away with technological illiteracy are over. To function in society, you need to be comfortable using computers and smartphones.
Technology now allows us to communicate better than before. But is it making us less social?
There's a growing amount of evidence that it's causing psychological problems such as reclusiveness, depression, and anxiety. Here are seven social and psychological ways technology cause problems.
1. Text-Based Communication Is Difficult
Text-based communication is actually a terrible way to communicate. Communication is about so much more than just words. When you talk to someone face-to-face, your brain is constantly analyzing the mannerisms, reactions, and facial expressions of the people you're talking to.
When you talk on the phone or on a VOIP call, you can't see the person but you can still infer a lot from things like inflection and emphasis placed on certain words. When you communicate through text, all of this is lost.
This can lead to conflict due to misinterpretations. It can also lead to anxiety because you can't quite figure out what the other person is getting at.
Thankfully, technology enables us to address this problem. When you do a video call using software such as Skype, you can clearly see the face of the person you're talking with. This allows you to pick up on visual cues you would otherwise have missed.
2. The Court of Social Media
In the past, if you were “exposed” for something publicly, only people in the immediate area would know about it. In the event that your good name was well and truly ruined, you could just move to the next town over and no one would have any idea who you were.
These days, however, word can spread incredibly fast on social media. If you get a bad reputation, it could follow you everywhere, even to another continent.
Since social media can have such a devastating impact on your reputation, people have become more cautious over how they project themselves. Because of social media, the gap between the self we project and who we actually are is increasing. This can lead to a lot of stress and anxiety about your “true self” being revealed.
3. Comparing Yourself to Others
Thanks to social media, every day is like a high school reunion. You stay connected with so many people from your past. You can easily see what they're up to and compare their achievements to your own.
Before social media, you'd probably only stay in contact with a handful of people from your high school era. Nowadays, you can see what more or less all of them amounted to in life. It's too easy to start comparing their achievements to your own and to cast judgment on yourself.
4. Technology Allows You to Avoid Human Contact
In recent years, it's become possible to completely cut yourself off from the outside world. Internet shopping means you can order anything you need directly to your door.
If you need food, you can order takeout or groceries. If you need clothes, you can order clothes online. It's even possible to work a job from home.
Cutting contact with the rest of humanity has its conveniences but also its downsides. Living life as a shut-in can have serious consequences.
Lack of sunlight and lack of human interaction can cause you to suffer some serious psychological effects. For example, shutting yourself off from the outside world can result in depression and anxiety.
5. Sleep Problems
Technology, such as smartphones and tablets, are notorious for disrupting people's sleep cycles.
One of the reasons for this is because these devices emit blue light. This is light that resembles that of the sun.
When you look at your smartphone in the evening, your brain interprets the blue light as sunlight. This confuses your brain and makes it more difficult to get to sleep.
It's not just blue light that can disrupt your sleeping pattern. How many times have you said to yourself: “I'll watch just one more video” and the next thing you know, it's 3 a.m. and you're watching a dog that says “I love you?"
6. Loss of Work-Life Balance
Technology has put the power of a computer workstation in the back of your pocket. For a lot of people, this means you can do your job wherever you are.
Unfortunately, this means many employers expect their workers to be “always available.” It's not uncommon for people to expect replies to emails at all hours of the day.
A lot of jobs even require you to be “on call” 24/7. This causes anxiety and makes it harder to make plans. You might plan to see a movie with friends, but end up having to cancel on them due to needing to respond to work emails.
7. Fear of Missing Out
Many studies have suggested that social media isn't good for you psychologically. The majority of social media users are probably aware of that fact, but they still keep signing on.
So why do they do it? One of the biggest reasons is they're afraid of missing out on something. A lot of events are organized through sites like Facebook, and if people are out having fun without you, you'll almost certainly find out about it through Facebook.
Information Age Technology in Moderation
There's no doubt that information age technology has improved our lives, but it also has a dark side. If you immerse yourself too much into it, it can end up having a draining effect on your mental well-being.
So take a step back and make sure you're not adding more stress to your life. Evaluate each piece of technology and weigh the pros and cons. If there are more cons than pros, you may want to reevaluate having it in your life.
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