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What is the Digital World? Can it Harm Us or Help Us?

digital world, social media, what is the digital world

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What is the digital world?

As little as ten to fifteen years ago, things were different. I recall doing all of my classwork on paper and never thinking about the progression of the digital world. At that time, it did not yet consume us.

I remember spending time with friends and family and actually being present with them. Back then, people talked more. People craved socialization (as they do today), yet sought it out on an in-person basis.

Today, we often depend on devices for education and socializing. Many would agree that this is a good thing given our instant access to friends, family, knowledge and more. The flip-side of this coin, however, deals with a harmful aspect of the digital world.

So what is the digital world and can it harm us, help us, or both?

What is the digital world? – a place that can harm us?

We often think of the digital world as a potentially harmful place. After all, it’s full of materialism, comparison, and has been proven to cause stress and anxiety

The further technology develops the more enticing it seems to become, and each new invention effects society in unexpected ways. Who would have thought that the iPhone and Instagram, for example, would contribute to clinical anxiety and depression?

There are other specific ways the digital world can harm us, and we’d better study them so we can thrive in this technological age. 

 

The technological world can make us experience “present shock”

Media theorist Douglass Rushkoff coined the term “present shock” to describe how the internet is limiting our time and energy rather than giving us more of it. 

He describes how we live with devices practically (and sometimes literally) strapped to ourselves, making us continuously available for their beeps and rings. We often experience present shock in the form of “digiphrenia,” or the abnormal state of mental activity that results from the constant bombardment of digital information.

It used to only be air traffic controllers and emergency responders that were always on high-alert for incoming calls. Now many of us are living with this type of stress on a minute-to-minute basis. 

To Rushkoff, escaping present shock amounts to finding the “sweet spot between storage and flow, dipping into different media and activities depending on the circumstances.”

When online, people buy into social media comparison

Studies are confirming that social media can cause self-esteem issues. This mental neurosis is caused by social comparison via Instagram, Facebook, and other outlets that enable us to share every fine detail of our lives.

How do we avoid seeing our own lives through the lens of another? Some will preach that deleting social media from our lives entirely is the only way since we’re unconsciously and constantly forming judgments and comparisons all the time.

Instead of taking such an extreme approach, we can try a better approach— changing the way we think about ourselves and others. Here’s how to do so.

1.  Look deeply into the nature of happiness. We see a lot of materialism flaunted online. Are you hung up on the idea that happiness amounts to money or ownership? Ashley Whillans, a Harvard University professor, became interested in what actually brings people more happiness. Her research suggests that the answer is time. She writes that the “research suggests that giving up discretionary income to have more free time might promote happiness.” Ironically, by spending time scrolling on social media and comparing, we’re wasting our reserves of what will actually make us happier.

2 . See that every journey is a different journey. On paths in life, Robert Frost famously wrote: “I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” Wishing life to be like another’s is utterly pointless. We all face our own challenges and choose to face them in our own way and with our own mindset. It’s this mindset that determines our happiness.

3.  Value raw, in-person interaction. Why grow envious over someone’s Instagram or Facebook fame when you can live your own life decluttered from intruding messages and digital interactions? An in-person interaction (even just one!) is worth much more than most conversations taking place in the digital world.

What is the digital world? – a place of information overload

Have you ever experienced information overload? There are a couple of ways this is experienced. 

Often when searching the web, we’re overloading with conflicting information. We seek answers yet end up confused and with a headache. We yearn to know “the truth,” whether it be about a dieting choice, a travel destination, or a type of pet. The list goes on and on. Also while exposing ourselves to the digital world, we tend to be bombarded by distracting ads and information about what we should be doing. One term for these ads and enticing links is “clickbait”. Suddenly, we find ourselves clicking around and partaking in things that we didn’t go on the internet for in the first place. 

To end the confusion of information overload, we must use our devices as tools while not letting ourselves be the tools that get used by our devices. 

What is the digital world? – a place that can help us ?

There are reasons we should not disconnect from the digital world completely. While the digital world can harm our self-esteem and groundedness, it can also help us form meaningful connections and acquire important information. 

Online is a place to stay connected

Earlier I mentioned how the digital world can make us less connected. But note that there are ways to use technology to further connect us.  

Studies actually show us that online communication can improve our well-being in the same way that in-person communication can. 

I suggest using online communication for more personal interactions. This may look like staying in touch with a friend who’s living abroad, sharing experiences via pictures with your spouse, or Facetiming (i.e. connecting through live video on your cell phone) with a friend who is in need of emotional support. 

What is the digital world? – a place to learn all there is to learn

The internet contains copious amounts of information about everything. Today, people are using the internet alone to learn instruments, languages, and entire subjects such as engineering and math.

To say the least, the internet contains all we need in order to learn what we wish to learn.  But what about information overload?

The key to effectively navigating through the internet is to remain focused. Instead of getting side-tracked by ads and other nuisances, we should remember why we are on the internet and stick with it. 

As for the confusion surrounding conflicting information— the key is to use reputable sources that test information in unbiased ways. It’s also important to test information for yourself to see how it works for you. 

What is the digital world? – a place that can support your wellness

Instead of getting locked into using the internet as an escape, use it to support your goals and health. You can learn to use the internet in a way that preserves your energy and makes you feel alive and connected. 

Reading articles such as this one, having meaningful conversations, and learning something new without falling for distractions are all ways to harness the digital world in a helpful way.

So what is the digital world? The digital world is a place that can harm or help us, depending on how we decide to use it. 

Looking for more insights? Visit the TelMD Upstream Blog.

Let’s Make Wellness Contagious!™

digital world, social media, what is the digital world

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