The smartphones and social networks we’ve grown to love are increasingly linked to mental illness Image: Thinkstock
Navigating the Internet and looking after our mental health simultaneously can be a literal minefield full of pitfalls. But at the same time, our technology and the Internet are part and parcel of our daily lives, something that can't be avoided. Every now and then, we come across articles that tell us what terrible things are going on in the world or we come upon comment sections with scathing words that remind us how unpleasant the virtual world can be.
"Technology can have a negative impact — behaviorally, emotionally and cognitively. It is our personal responsibility to safeguard our brains and protect them hence from the detrimental effects of excess use," says Shefali Batra, psychiatrist and cognitive therapist from Mumbai.
We all have undergone the pressure to be perfect on social media, felt FOMO, dealt with nasty tweets from people. But how exactly should we be looking after our mental healt without going entirely offline, throwing our phones into the sea or living in the woods?
Here's how to spot the warning signs of technology affecting our mental health:
Talking about the problems of the youth's mental health, Dr Batra says, "Mostly, parents of those youngsters approach me who see poor scholastic performance, depression and aggression in their children owing to social media and gaming addiction. Children and adolescents also suffer from low self esteem, low self confidence and the inability to maintain real-world relationships after they've spent a good amount of time with technology and on building virtual relationships through social media sites and applications. Games such as the Blue Whale challenge crossed its limits in trapping vulnerable teenagers, alienating them from their peers and family and leading them to commit gruesome acts like self-annihilation."
Often seeing pictures of your friends on a foreign vacation or an unfavourable comment on your picture can often trigger negative feelings. To combat these feelings, here's what you can do according to Dr Batra, "On an individual level, teenagers and young adults need to realise that the digital world is virtual; it is almost like an illusion. The friends you make on digital platforms are not real and neither are the enemies or negative comments on a Facebook profile or Instagram picture."
When negative feelings arise out of digital content take a step back and follow the below:
(Dr Shefali Batra is also the founder of MINDRAMES and co-founder of InnerHour)