As technology becomes more and more a central point of our lives, people have become increasingly concerned with technology use’s effects on our emotional wellbeing – especially social media. The data is confusing. Some studies suggest adolescent use of social media can increase mood and anxiety disorders1. Other studies suggest that social media use is not predictive of mental health challenges2.
Concerns don’t end with social media. Blue light emission from our electronic devices have a harmful effect on our circadian rhythm (body clock), leading to sleep disturbances and more. (If this sounds like you, I have a video on how to reset your body clock.)
The truth is, technology isn’t going to reverse or even slow its development, and these relationships aren’t going to do away. These studies address the symptoms, but the broader question is: how can we build an emotionally-healthy relationship with technology?
First, let’s get some definitions out of the way.
What is Emotional Health?
Emotional health is a person’s ability to identify, process and act upon feelings in specific circumstances and over the course of time. Emotional health incorporates emotional intelligence and emotional resilience. Let’s unpack those two concepts.
Emotional intelligence is the awareness of one’s emotional state and those of others – especially in response to external stimuli. Have you ever been around someone who, especially in the face of immediate adversity, clearly knows how to carry themselves and interact with others? Emotional intelligence is an extremely important aspect of leadership at all levels.
Emotional resilience, on the other hand, concerns one’s ability to adjust to circumstances and recover from emotional setback. How well do you respond to bad news? Do setbacks and acute stress send you down a dark road? How quickly can you return to your fully-functioning state of mind?
Does technology harm our emotional health? It depends on our relationship with technology. If technology gives us a way out, a way to disconnect from truly processing and feeling into where we are in life, if it gives us a way to push aside our wellbeing. That irresponsible kind of escapism is absolutely harmful.
On the other hand, you found Plantie because of technology. You’re reading this article right now because of technology. It can’t all be bad.
Like anything, the correlation between technology and our emotional health resides in our own relationship with technology.
Here are five ways to make technology work for your emotional health:
1. Morning and evening routines
A great day starts the night before. Place your phone in a room other than your bedroom. Benefits? Less blue light exposure before bed leads to better melatonin secretion, allowing you to sleep more soundly. When you wake up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, you won’t have the mental stimulation from notifications or the urge to check social media. When you wake up in the morning, engage in a morning routine that puts YOU first. Maybe spend 10 minutes outside with the sun on your face, sit down to meditate or pray in a designated location, and/or try journaling. (If you don’t have a journaling system, you can try mine out at https://drkjournal.com – it’s totally free.)
Once you have completed your morning routine, you’ll have taken charge of your day. You will have owned your mind space. Then, and only then, do you pick up your phone. Checking your phone last thing at night and first thing in the morning is an easy way to give away your power and send you down a path of stress and poor emotional health.
2. Designate times for technology detox/offline hours
Try putting your phone away for two hours. If you notice any jitters, fear, or anxiety, that might be a sign that a tech detox may serve you well. Remember, our tech should serve us. We shouldn’t be used by our tech.
3. Be intentional with your tech usage
Here’s an example. I use social media for my business. Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok especially are only for my business purposes. As a result, I have a “no scroll” rule. If I see a post before I scroll, I’ll engage in it, maybe. Outside of that, my headspace is too important to risk. Now that might not be the solution that makes sense for you, I get that. My point is, make a set of rules for yourself. Who do you follow? Is there someone whose posts consistently make you feel bad about yourself? You have my permission to unfollow them. Only follow people who inspire you to be the best version of yourself. Your time and attention is too precious to waste on anyone else!
4. Find things that inspire you offline. How can technology amplify that inspiration?
Maybe you love hiking. What if you invested in a nice camera so you could learn how to take amazing nature photos or make inspiring videos while you’re out in nature? This is an example of taking an offline activity and using technology to enhance it. Pro tip: when we serve other people, we take the focus away from our own negative states of mind and focus instead on the joy of being a positive influence on others. What if your newfound love of photography led to a new career because everyone loves your photos? Live in wonder, my friend!
5. Focus on what you can control. Fill your time and attention with people who inspire you.
This is an extension of rule No. 3. All of us have two non-renewable resources: time and attention. When we give away our time, we never get it back. When we give away our attention, we never get it back. Don’t waste your time and attention on people and ideas that drain you. You are the average of the five people and ideas you spend the most time with. Allow your technology usage to serve you in becoming the person you were born to be. Learn through amazing resources like Plantie. Watch inspiring YouTube videos. Meet incredible like-minded, growth-oriented people in Facebook groups.
We often find ourselves focusing on things we can’t control and allowing ourselves to feel miserable for it. Technology makes that easy to accomplish. If you’ve read this far, I know this is resonating with you. So declare right now to yourself that you are committed to your own personal growth, and use technology only to serve that mission.
I believe in your greatness.
About Dr. K, Emotional Health Mentor
Stop chasing joy. Begin living in wonder.
Dr. K helps high-achieving professionals and entrepreneurs end burnout.
Follow him here:
- Website: https://drkarthikramanan.com
- YouTube: https://drknmd.video
- LinkedIn: https://linkedin.com/in/drkarthikramanan
- Instagram: https://instagram.com/dr.karthikramanan
- O’Reilly M, Dogra N, Whiteman N, Hughes J, Eruyar S, Reilly P. Is social media bad for mental health and wellbeing? Exploring the perspectives of adolescents. Clin Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2018 Oct;23(4):601-613. doi: 10.1177/1359104518775154. Epub 2018 May 20. PMID: 29781314.
- Berryman C, Ferguson CJ, Negy C. Social Media Use and Mental Health among Young Adults. Psychiatr Q. 2018 Jun;89(2):307-314. doi: 10.1007/s11126-017-9535-6. PMID: 29090428.