In a world that’s been en route to becoming a human-digital hybrid for some time, this past year has undoubtedly expedited the process. Areas where technology has become an accessory, like classrooms and boardrooms, have shifted its status to necessity. And while the innovation has allowed many of us to continue being students and employees, electronic devices also come with their own set of stressors. If they’ve got you bogged down--we’ve got you. Here’s everything you need to know about tech anxiety and what to do about it.
How Screen Time Affects Your Mind
There’s a reason why more recent versions of the iPhone boast features like the screen time like nighttime mode and a screen time tracker. As much as we like to ignore the potentially damaging effects of our phones on our minds, doing so puts us at higher risk of mental illness.
Let’s look at different aspects of technology use and what separate roles they play in mental stability.
It’s common knowledge that sleeping soundly at night equates to a sound mind. Some people are innately good sleepers, but that tendency can get derailed by external factors, like too much screen time before bed.
The blue light emitted from smartphones, computers, and other devices suppress the release of melatonin, the sleep hormone. And the more time spent scrolling, the greater than delay. If gone unchecked for too long, mental health problems can start to arise.
According to Harvard University, lack of sleep increases the risk of developing major depressive disorder and anxiety.
The good news is that insomnia from too much screen time can be reversed. The answer is simple, but the practice might take some unlearning. Decrease electronic use before bed and prioritize calming activities like reading and putting together a sleep routine.
When we spend time on social networking sites like Facebook and Instagram, we get a glimpse into the lives of people we know and strangers alike. Scrolling through our feeds, we see edited images, photo journals of people’s carefully curated daily eats, and more.
It’s fun to sneak a peek at how our peers and idols live, but measuring highlight reels against our realities has some adverse effects.
An article published by Chou and Edge depicted social networking sites’ potential impact on undergraduate college students’ perceptions of their peers’ lives. The study, which observed 425 students, reported that many felt that others were happier and that their lives were not fair.
The commentary on the study elaborates on the results--
“One of the reasons why time spent on SNS may be associated with depressive symptoms is the fact that computer-mediated communication may lead to the altered (and often wrong) impression of the physical and personality traits of other users.”
For those already prone to depression and anxiety, the distortion and its effects on their mental health may exacerbate.
More technology means more stimulation. Having an electronic world at our fingertips not only means convenience when it comes to research and new ideas but never getting bored. Sounds nice, right?
Turns out, having so many options available to us can become a liability--especially when it comes to concentration.
Though not to be confused with it, children and adolescents who are regularly exposed to screens might begin to show symptoms that mimic ADHD.
A Quick Look At The Bright Side
Though many of us thought we couldn’t possibly spend more time on devices than we already do, it’s become necessary to do so. It’s not all bad, though. Going remote certainly has its draws. Some include--
- Flexible Work Hours
- Significantly Reduced Commute Time
- Learning New Ways To Connect/Adapt
Among the more apparent upsides to using technology more regularly is continuity. Communication through platforms like Zoom and Google Meet has enabled some of us to continue working despite stay-at-home orders.
For those who live solo, technology has provided them with some face-time with peers through school and work but family and friends. Social interaction is integral to maintaining mental health. Without our screens, it wouldn’t be possible.
Still, most of us may agree that multiple Zoom calls in a row or even one lengthy meeting without a break are exhausting and can cause mental disquiet.
So What Is Techziety, Exactly?
We’ve gone through some longer-term effects of constant technological use, but what about some more acute and noticeable mental health changes?
Techziety, or tech anxiety, is characterized by intense anxiety or emotional responses due to the overuse of electronic devices. The name might sound funny, but those who have experienced it know how upsetting it can be.
Who Gets Techziety?
Now more than ever, our grades and livelihoods depend on screens. And our standings within these institutions are as good as our WIFI connections. Because of that, people with certain occupations can be more susceptible to a tech-induced spiral.
Let’s take teachers, for example. When relegated to teaching from home partially or full-time, using platforms like Zoom and Google Classroom, some hiccups may occur.
Students aren’t able to connect or might simply choose not to show up. Teachers get kicked out of meetings, sometimes multiple times per class, leaving their remaining students lying in wait. Being a tech wizard wasn’t a part of the job description before, but it is now.
Instead of performing to a room of faces, many teach to a sea of black boxes. In hybrid settings, where students are both online and in the classroom, they must focus on things like camera angles to make themselves accessible to everyone.
Of course, academic professionals aren’t the only ones at risk for techziety. Captains of industry, therapists, doctors, etc., can all experience tech anxiety.
What Does It Look Like?
Agitation and fear derived from tech stress is ultimately an expression of anxiety. With that, there are instances of uncertainty that cause intrusive thoughts to arise. Questions like,
- What if my device malfunctions during an important meeting?
- What if I get knocked off of Zoom while facilitating?
- What if I don’t have access to the proper technology?
- How does my space look over video calls?
All of these concerns seem reasonable. But when they start to impede on one’s ability to show up and meet obligations, it’s cause for concern.
Techziety could look much like Generalized Anxiety Disorder, with symptoms like--
- Failure to attend meetings
- Trouble Concentrating
- Fatigue or Disrupted Sleep
Getting A Hold Of Your Techziety
Whether your techziety was predated by pre-existing mental health concerns or is new to you, knowing how to self-soothe is essential to managing it.
Calming Yourself Before The Storm
When our anxiety is triggered by something concrete, planning ahead is a great way to get ahead of it and feeling in control. For techziety, this type of brainstorm is completely doable. Here are a few ideas to get you started!
Invest In Some Good WIFI or Technology
If communication is central to your career, that means being consistently accessible is too. That sounds like a given, but it could seriously impede the latter, causing some serious stress without good WIFI.
If paying for top tier WIFI isn’t in the cards for you right now, try negotiating with your boss! It’ll help you relax and be more present during the workday.
Create A Contingency Plan
As much as we might invest, sometimes, we just can’t control connectivity. If one platform isn’t working, schedule a back-up meeting on a different one, making for an easy fix and transition.
When Techziety Takes Over
So, the worst has happened--or so it seems. We all have mishaps, but feeling responsible when things are out of our hands can be challenging to sit with. And if you already struggle with chronic stress and worry, techziety can exacerbate it. With that, it’s time to think about treatment options and coping mechanisms.
Stop The Spiral
If you’ve gotten kicked off of Zoom or accidentally put yourself on mute during that big presentation, you’re not alone. We’re all still adjusting to a technically centered work/school space, and there’s a collective understanding of that.
If you can, remind yourself that people are kinder than you think and have likely gone through something similar recently. And if nothing else, it’s not the end of the world, your career, or your academic standing.
Talk To Someone
If tech stress is beginning to get to you, consider talking to a therapist or other healthcare professional. Not only are they going through the same thing, as things for them are remote, but they’re skilled in finding soothing solutions.
It might even be helpful to schedule a standing appointment after that weekly Zoom meeting!Try TMS
If you’ve been suffering from long-standing, debilitating anxiety, techziety is likely pushing you over the edge. Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation is typically used for treatment-resistant depression. Did you know it’s effective in treating severe anxiety too?
TMS isn’t directed at situations that cause anxiety but can make sufferers feel well-equipped to handle them. How great does that sound?
Techziety is not a medical term by any means. Still, it can give comfort in naming something that so many of us are experiencing--even the most seasoned techies. With that, it’s important to be patient during the adjustment. Take time to plan, soothe, and figure out what works for you! It’s all part of the adjustment.