We’re really enjoying reading the articles, Annie Button, an independent writer has been sending our team and we wanted to share this one with you about how digital media affects our mental health.
There can be no doubt that digital media plays a hugely important role in our mental health. With many of us constantly connected via social media, games and other apps, it is unsurprising that it is such a contributor in both a positive and negative way.
It certainly can be argued that digital media in general is bad for our mental health. Headlines are constantly made relating to negative interactions online, from cyberbullying to online trolling, but it can also be argued that less newsworthy issues such as digital media reducing real-world interactions, can also cause issues.
Of course, not everything about digital media is bad for our mental health. But, it is worth looking at some of the challenges to better understand how they affect us and the strategies we can use to cope.
Sleep, stress and FOMO
Social media is a big player in terms of its effect on our mental health. It has been transformative for society, but it has also created a range of issues that can affect mental health. Possibly one of the large factors has been its effect on our quality of sleep. One study revealed that around 70% of people say they use social media after having gotten into bed. This might not be a problem in itself, but it has also been shown that heavy social media has been linked to poorer sleeping habits.
Indeed, around 21% of people say that they wake up in the middle of the night to check their social media. Poor sleeping habits can lead to fatigue, which can contribute to higher levels of stress.
Fear of missing out or ‘FOMO’ is often cited as a reason for individuals to use social media extensively at a time when they should be sleeping.
Cybercrime and mental health
It is unfortunately the case that cybercrime is a growing problem – and there may be no simple solution. Being constantly connected to digital media devices that are a crucial part of our personal, social and working lives also creates the potential for real challenges if we face a cyber attack.
It has also been argued that people with mental illnesses may be more vulnerable to cybercrime – in a sense, creating a potential downward spiral for those worrying about suffering from cybercrime. Cybercrimes can not only cause stress and panic in victims, they can also be financially costly, adding an additional layer of anxiety.
Victims also have a strong propensity to blame themselves or feel that they should have done more to prevent the crime after it has taken place. This can lead to feelings of guilt and shame that ultimately stop many victims from coming forward.
Remote working could make us more vulnerable
Undoubtedly, one contributing factor to the challenges relating to cybercrime and mental health is that we are sometimes more likely to be targeted in a work environment. Businesses are more commonly targeted for cybercrime as they can provide cybercriminals with more money, information and personal data than a single individual can.
However, as many more of us are working from home as a result of the pandemic, this has meant that there has been an added layer of risk in terms of a cybercrime happening to you. Thankfully there are steps that anyone can take to minimise the risk of being targeted with work-related cybercrime at home.
“If you’re a home worker,” advises Juliette Hudson of cybersecurity specialists Redscan “security protocols should include locking your workstation whilst away from your desk, preventing other household members from sharing your work devices, exercising vigilance before clicking and opening unknown links and attachments, and shutting down your machine at the end of each working day.
If you print work documents at home, it’s also worth investing in a paper shredder, which will help to prevent sensitive business data being seen by prying eyes.”
Digital media and addiction
Another factor influencing mental health surrounding digital media is the issue of addiction. The subject of social media addiction is still controversial, although it has been estimated that between 5 and 10% of the population meet the criteria for social media.
Additionally, other forms of addiction such as online gambling or the use of other gaming apps has been reported. People with addictive personalities can find themselves in a situation where they can not get away from the devices that allow them to gamble or overuse.
“Gambling can provide an escape or a distraction from real life which can be difficult and complex, and it may be the only time that individuals feel connected to the world,” explains Rebecca Mark for UK Youth “the paradox is that gambling, if not kept in check, will only act to exacerbate a person’s sense of feeling overwhelmed and add to any existing mental health issues.”
It’s not all bad
It should be stated that digital media is not a completely negative story from a mental health perspective. Digital media, for example, was extremely effective throughout and beyond the pandemic in allowing everyone to keep in contact via Zoom and other video messaging services.
Digital media also enables people to keep in touch with friends and family around the world and to find like-minded individuals with similar interests more easily. These can have a profoundly positive impact on mental health.
However, if any aspects of your relationship with digital media are negative, it could be time to speak to a mental health professional.