By Jimmy Warden
Technology has come so far, so fast. It has helped us improve society at many levels. It has also made parts of us weaker. Specifically, the ways that we communicate, how we receive and distribute information, and the amount of quality sleep we get. These have tremendous effects on our well-being.
Now that most people above the age of twelve have a smartphone, there is no longer a need to talk in real-time. Seriously! Instead, we just text each other about what we’re doing, where we’re at, and whether or not we’re enjoying our time. We can post pictures of ourselves and the people we’re with to show people what we’re doing and who we associate with.
When we return home, there isn’t a need to have a person-to-person conversation about what we did. Instead, the conversation happens while we’re out and about through text. Instead, conversation happens over Facebook or Instagram comments or Snapchat replies.
So what happens when people return home? There may be a quick exchange about how things went, but then everyone returns to their devices.
The same could be said for receiving and distributing information. Anyone can release something on the internet that can be found by anyone with internet access regardless of whether it’s fact or truth. There aren’t enough fact-checkers in the world to rid the internet of fake news, so it is important that we understand where we’re getting our information from, and if that source is reliable. Because information can be looked up in milliseconds with a simple Google search, people often settle for whatever is the first website to pop up, regardless of its reliability. As a result, we don’t always get true answers to our searches. This creates rampant spreading of misinformation, and people who disagree with each other become polarized.
Effects on well-being
Using our devices at the rates most of us do creates a dependence on them. Specifically, a dopamine dependence. Because most of what we want in our social and intellectual lives can be found in a three-inch by eight-inch phone screen, a 12-inch tablet or laptop, a desktop computer, or a television screen, we use them a tremendous amount. The more that we use them, the more we feed our dependence. The more that we feed this dependence, the more dopamine we get flooded with. This dopamine flood forces us to engage in these behaviors more.
A like on our post that makes us feel good? Dopamine. Every time we find what we’re searching for on Google? Dopamine. Every time we receive a text from the person we were hoping to receive a text from? Dopamine.
The big challenge is we can’t always be high on dopamine. There have to be points and times throughout the day when we replenish our dopamine levels because dopamine creates our actions. It is motivation. Dopamine releases every time we feel motivated and take action. No matter what that action is. Because technology is so easy to access, it can deplete our dopamine systems quickly. The quicker dopamine lowers, the quicker we feel anxious and depressed. The quicker we become inactive in life.
Technology screens are full of blue light. Blue light has an effect on our sleep because it suppresses melatonin, a hormone that helps us get to sleep and stay asleep. So when we use screens close to our normal bedtime, we will have a harder time getting to sleep at the time we usually do. Less sleep can have effects on our daily performance and our mood. When we do not get enough sleep, we have a harder time staying alert and regulating our emotions.
Tips for Healthier Technology Use
- ) When you’re in a room with people, have a conversation with them (To focus, genuinely listen to those talking, I promise, they’re interesting!).
- ) Check the credibility of your sources before sharing information (.org, .edu are often credible. Definitely a bonus if there is research cited in your source).
- ) Plan to spend time away from devices (Weekly, daily, or as often as you see fit. Gotta replenish the dopamine for stable moods!).
- ) Try to consistently stop screen usage at least an hour before bed (Perhaps couple this with your time away from your phone?).
Try to focus on one of these things and see how it goes. It just might be helpful!