adjusting to life online

Adjusting To Life Online: How Technology Can Help and Hinder

COVID-19 has made us all aware of how essential our social connections are for our health and well-being. Many of us are now facing a reality where we are disconnected from our support system and even our daily routines have been disrupted. Technology has been the proposed answer to help us overcome and cope with the social distancing that is needed to control the spread of COVID-19. Technology can indeed help us stay connected to our family, friends, and support networks during this time. However, technology also has its downsides in that it can also make us feel more isolated and when we allow it full rein, we may become consumed with fear. While of course, social media platforms have numerous benefits, especially now, they have also been linked to a number of challenges including contributing to an increase in anxiety, depression, and addiction. Although technology may be our ‘savior’ during this time, it is also important to remember its place in our lives, and the balance needed for optimal mental health.

A Social Creature

As humans, we are wired for connection. We depend on others from the moment we are born to the day we die. In our evolutionary past, being separated from our community could actually lead to death and thus understandably, the idea evokes great anxiety and depression, the roots of which remain in us today. However it seems at times that we live in a culture that willingly denies this need for connection in favor of individualism and the belief that the way to happiness is through materialistic wealth.

We continue to try to fill the hole that results from a true disconnect from our tribe.

How does this relate to technology? Technology allows us to believe in a fictional world. We may have connections through social media on platforms like Facebook and Instagram but often we have no living connection to the people whom we “like” and “follow”. This connection is constructed in a false reality and thus does not actually fill the hole we feel inside. Not surprisingly, we try to fill it with substances and possessions.

A Wake Up Call

COVID-19 has made us even more aware of our need to connect as many of us are no longer afforded the opportunity to overlook its presence and power in our lives. There is a way that we can utilize technology during this time to form true relationships, but it takes being willing to be vulnerable and reach out to connect. We are all suffering right now from social connection deficiency, and the antidote is fostering genuine connections.

Here are some ways you can use technology to form genuine connections which will help you reduce feelings of anxiety, depression, and the desire to numb.

Gain Inner Knowledge:

Whether it’s watching a new TED talk, or re-watching your favorite, use the time you have to invest back into areas of interest or self-discovery.  This is especially important while you may have this time to consider your role in many relationship conflicts, and to practice new ways of being with one another.   Instead of scrolling through fear-mongering news, harness the power of the internet to enlighten yourself with courses on mindfulness, health, and well-being, or even seek out a therapist to begin online sessions.

Reach Out:

Take this time to connect to people either online or on the phone. Send them a message inviting them to connect. Send this message to people you know in real life or would like to get to know.  Often we are all waiting for the other person to make the first move, as it takes a great amount of vulnerability to suggest something so courageous. Reach out to people not just through text messages, but move to have a conversation either on the phone or through a video chat platform. They even have apps now that allow you to have a “house party” with different people with technology. 

Have an Actual Conversation:

Challenge yourself to call a few old friends or maybe work to connect with some acquaintances you would like to get to know better. Work up to an actual conversation topic about something of interest to you both, rather than re-hashing the latest breaking news about the virus.  It’s important to know how those in your life are reacting and feeling about what’s going on, but it’s equally vital to try to break out of the monotony of day-in and day-out. Perhaps share the knowledge from your online class, or share about what you’re gaining from your new mindfulness practice.