The world of technology at present day is nothing short of amazing…right?
I was born in 1989, so I am considered a millennial. Like many millennials, I was right there as many of the great advances in technology were born: From the first text message to MSN Messenger, the crazy changes in cell phones to “smartphones”, and of course – video games. (Also, I was part of the first Pokemon wave, not just all this Pokemon GO anarchy that’s shutting down highways and causing kids to walk into parked cars– but I digress.)
All of these advances were supposed to elevate the experience and accessibility of human communication. Never in any other period of time as a human race have we been this well in touch with each other…
But strangely, we’ve never been more distant.
One of largest components of anxiety (particularly social anxiety) is day to day communication. Everything we say is analyzed. Being able to speak to an individual face-to-face, or at the very least, over a phone call, helps me keep my anxiety at peace. When we interact face-to-face, we can see and hear certain cues–like facial cues– that are void when communicating through technology alone.
This lack of cues is enough to make anxious minds race. It’s a carousel that you can’t escape. Most of us have phones, email, and likely at least a few social media accounts, whether it’s Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, or any other social apps you can think of that lack these essential cues. The fallout of these cues among advancements in technology have had incredible ramifications in the world of Anxiety & Depression.
Let’s get into the obvious category where technology breeds anxious behaviour: dating. Before I continue, if you haven’t read the book Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari, I would highly recommend it. He covers the topic of technological advancements and the current state of communication amazingly and gives a hilarious take on it that makes it an engaging read from start-to-finish.
Technology was supposed to help us in the world of relationships, but in my opinion, it’s done the polar opposite. Take Tinder for example. Don’t like what you see? No problem, swipe left. Oh, this person is gorgeous? Great, swipe right. There’s nothing nerve-racking about that choice. People are being judged almost solely on their appearance. This person knows nothing about me until a potential match happens, and even then, we can only start to communicate through text. However, again, texting with an anxious mind can be a disaster.
A very good friend of mine has a rule he lives by when it comes to dating and regular conversations, and it’s mind-blowing considering the time we live in: If you are on a date or with friends to catch up, put your phone away. Ridiculous, I know! Who does that anymore? Trust me, try it. Immediately you’re put in the position of having to truly engage one-on-one. What’s beautiful about this is that you actually start to see people for who they are. You see their body language. You actually talk. You engage on a much deeper level. I’m only speaking for myself here, but to talk face-to-face and be able to see what people actually mean though genuine mannerisms, expressions, and verbal cues is incredible.
A kiss, hug, or even a thoughtful compliment mean much less than they used to, because we have become somewhat desensitized to them due to the constant attention received and vied for through likes, faves, retweets, and comments on our social media platforms of choice. Many of these photos have been filtered so we look our absolute best–all in the hopes of generating likes, to generate our self-esteem. This isn’t us, though; we seemingly always have makeup on, hair coiffed perfectly, and are constantly wearing our best clothes, even first thing in the morning.
This is my real morning face. I did not consume alcohol or party. I went to bed at 11pm on Saturday. No perfectly combed hair. None of my best clothes. Just this real, handsome, perfectly-imperfect me.
As a generation this lack of communication, empathy, and regard for real conversation has made us numb, confused, and very anxious. Even though everything is supposed to be instantaneous, we have the ability to say, “I’ll text them later”, or even worse, completely ignore someone. Technology can be a great asset, but let’s not forget to communicate effectively and take time out of the day to check in with ourselves and others. Take my friend’s rule for example: put your phone down when you’re with friends, family, significant others etc., and watch how it changes your everyday relationships. Simple changes like this can go a long way in not only restoring human communication, but also helping with mental health disorders. We are humans after all, and verbal/non-verbal communication is the basis for all interactions. If we turn back the clock just for a bit each day, we can thrive in this technologically dominated world.
Now that you’re done reading this, consider closing your laptop, putting your phone down and getting outside today when you have a chance. It’s a beautiful place out there.
P.S. One aspect of technology that has helped the realm of mental illness is outreach programs. For those who are uncomfortable speaking out, but require help just like anyone else, there are resources out there. A couple that I like are Kids Help Phone and the Mental Health Helpline.
About Joel Wheeler
Sales Manager for a local supplement company by day, free thinker and mental health advocate by night. Joel has become outspoken about his day to day struggles about mental health and has brought him to Healthy Minds Canada to share his stories with the hope to help others and offer support.