I'm going to take a shot in the dark and say you're probably reading this article on your phone or laptop, and I'm going to go even further and assume you were on some form of a digital platform before reading the article. Whether it's Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook, etc, the app is still in your background, isn't it? Let's clear all those apps you're not using from running in your background to give your phone a longer battery life and let's get into it.
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What is the digital world?
The personal digital world is explained as any presence you have online. It can be through your phone, laptop, and multiple different applications/websites. As the digital age continues to advance, it has become more integrated into our lives.
Some may argue we spend more time online compared to our real physical world. This makes sense as well, given the digital platform is used in many of our jobs, academic, and social lives. We answer emails, submit projects, contact peers and mentors, and even just socialize online.
The digital world has offered many benefits which no one can deny. It's a very convenient way to get a lot of things done and communicate with people from all over the world effectively. However, just as it has improved global business relations, opened up many new job opportunities, and made it easier to keep in touch with our loved ones, it has also come at multiple expenses.
The main one I want to talk about today is mental health.
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How has the digital world affected our mental health?
I can list the numerous phenomena and problems social media have brought to light and have caused to spike over the years of use which affect one's mental health: FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out), anxiety, depression, cyberbullying, self-esteem issues, and so much more. We've all read at least one or two things in the examples listed above, which has made us more aware and cautious of these problems that seem to creep up on us while navigating the digital world.
One thing I don't see much of is how social media might push us to take on more than we can handle. It leads to burnout. This is when we've exerted an excessive amount of energy compared to the amount we normally use.
This leads to adverse effects on our basic daily routine. Going to the toilet and brushing your teeth becomes a hassle, even getting a meal to eat becomes tough. We are not able to properly allocate the needed energy for each task we perform on social media because one of the things we know about the digital world is that it's fast-paced. This creates the illusion that there's more time to complete tasks, but in reality, the same 24 hours remain in a day, regardless of whether you're spending them online or not.
It's easy to say "Don't worry, I know how to evaluate myself and when to stop". More often than not, we're very ambitious when we say that. It's not that we're unaware, but it's as if we're postponing the acknowledgment of the problem and dealing with it.
Sometimes, it's really out of our hands. We can't simply go off the grid whenever we'd like to because we have responsibilities and affairs we rely on to survive. For instance, an online job may be your main income source.
This was especially prominent during the pandemic, and the pandemic, without a doubt, has increased our online presence. Given this, how can we include a healthy level of online presence in our daily routine without negatively impacting our mental health and jeopardizing our survival?
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How can we protect ourselves in the digital world?
Establishing limits is critical, at the risk of repeating myself. This is true both in person and online. It is essential to set appropriate boundaries for oneself when it comes to digital media, especially social media, which can be a source of peer pressure and anxiety.
We frequently worry about offending people if we tell them we don't have the energy to respond to a text or assist them in a time of need. Therefore, we must develop a healthy and regulated method of communicating our thoughts with others.
However, if you are truly surrounded by people who understand and value your well-being, they will be far more accommodating than you believe. And if they aren't, it's not a total loss, is it? The most important thing to remember when setting limits with others is to do so in a pleasant way.
Tone and how you express yourself are crucial. We must prioritize ourselves, but we do not have to be unpleasant about it.
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Another important component is not being hesitant to seek assistance. We can become so engrossed in our digital environment that we forget we have loved ones who can help us escape a rut. If we cannot find support from others around us, we should seek expert aid or use mental health applications.
Furthermore, you can keep a journal to track how you feel as you continue to interact with the digital world. It could include a record of what you are doing and how you felt while doing it.
Furthermore, controlling what you consume in the digital world has a significant impact on your mental health. Aside from school and work, consider how you entertain yourself. It could be something you're watching, a game you're playing, or just scrolling through social media.
All of these, without a doubt, impact how we think. If you enjoy watching tragic stories, you may find yourself thinking along those lines unknowingly. This is not necessarily bad, but it is something to be mindful of.
The way you think, whether consciously or unconsciously, impacts the activities you take part in and the attitude with which you approach them. So, consider which mindset is best for you.
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In conclusion, we are humans who deserve to take pauses so that we do not melt and cease to operate. Knowing how to navigate our mental health in the digital world remains a hazy line. The real world is still strenuous, so don't feel too awful if you don't know how to regulate your use properly. With practice and experience, you realize that nothing in the digital world is worth sacrificing your mental health for.