Generally speaking, the word ‘progress’ is usually identified as being positive, successful, a natural result of capitalism at its finest. The very fiber upon which our founding fathers created our great country rests upon the idea that we as a society will progress into the future, and that it will be good. Dramatic changes over the last 50 years have taken place within the landscape that is society, culture and humanity.
The modernization of our current world has been an amazing thing. Through it we have broken new ground in technology, science, communication, health and many more areas. But, is all this advancement always a good thing? A marked trend that has been identified is that as the pace of our daily lives quickens, and we become more and more connected (or disconnected depending on perspective) from our peers and the world around us, we are becoming as a whole more anxious and depressed.
Various factors are at play when discussing a topic of this magnitude, so in this article we will focus on a few major focal points that hopefully the average American reader can identify with. Our mental health is important, and it is vital for all of us to stay informed on how our daily intake of media, news, technology and the like affects us, sometimes without us even realizing it.
How Media Dictates our Moods
Media is defined as “the main means of mass communication” and includes things like news outlets, the Internet, publishing platforms such as newspapers and also the newest contender, social media. As we become an ever more technologically advanced society, access to all these forms of media has become much easier than it was in the past. As a result, natural evolution has taken place to the point where journalists and authors have pinpointed exactly what their readers want, and how to grab their attention and keep it.
As you may have noticed, the majority of news we see on a daily basis involves major calamity. Whether it is a local gas station burglary, three-alarm fire or corporate scandal, media outlets are consistently flooded with negative stories highlighting humanity at its worst. As a result, we as the reader take this information in, process it and allow it to transform the way we view the world and ourselves. Mainly, readers find positive and uplifting news stories to be boring, or just run of the mill, and actually prefer to be presented with stories that are a little more thrilling. As exciting as this practice may be, the effects are not very positive, and we have seen them unfold right in front of our eyes.
Technology Twists Our Reality
We as humans have a tendency to believe that very shocking things, like plane crashes for example, happen much more frequently than they actually do. The reason for this is due to the fact that psychologically these types of events, like school shootings and natural disasters, stick out in our minds a little bit more than say, a record high rainfall. Increased media broadcasts of these events, as well as just generally more accessibility to the current news, also leads people to believe that we are on one big downward spiral, and as time goes on things are getting worse and worse. I am not in a position to say whether or not we as a society are actually on any kind of downward spiral at all, but I can argue that we are able to watch it much more easily now, and that can lead to us perceiving it that way. This perception is what breeds the anxiety and depression we see so commonly today.
Now, I’m not suggesting we grab torches and pitchforks and head out to the nearest channel 5 news station, because they are providing a service that, fortunately or unfortunately, there is a demand for. What I am suggesting is that all this increased media coverage and ‘Negative News’ should be taken with a grain of salt. I have to remind myself frequently that nobody is perfect, and just because there are tragedies that happen in the world doesn’t mean we need to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Meaning, things aren’t all bad. Just as often as terrible things happen in the world, examples of someone helping their fellow man or woman shine through. As someone who has struggled with anxiety and depression, these ways of thinking have been hugely beneficial for keeping my head above water when it seems the whole world is sinking.
Do Cellphones Foster Connection or Isolation?
Another marvel of the last generation has been the widespread adoption of cellular phones as a means of communication and information. We have taken a huge step in a very short period of time since the advent of cellphones, and now we are able to communicate with people at the drop of a hat, regardless of distance or location.
In theory, this technology seems to be wonderful. But in actuality, and I can speak from personal experience, what at some points is an amazing tool for connecting me to the big wide world can at other times feel like a shield that I am vulnerable without. The ease in which I notice myself pulling my phone out of my pocket whenever I feel uncomfortable in social situations is frightening. All those times alone in a restaurant or waiting in line are now filled with us awkwardly pulling out our phones, not really looking at anything in particular, but unable to interact with the outside world either. It is a sad kind of purgatory, and I am just as guilty as anyone else. This form of isolation is extremely conducive to creating depression and anxiety.
Practicing Mindfulness with Technology
A tactic I have found to be effective at combating this is practicing mindfulness when it comes to cellphone use. I have seen wonderful effects as a result of a few simple things. By putting my phone away and allowing myself to feel uncomfortable just doing nothing, I become more comfortable over time. I also notice that opportunities to meet new people or engage in polite conversation arise more frequently when my eyes aren’t glued to a screen, which absolutely promotes feelings of self-worth and self-esteem and can combat those icky feelings of anxiety and depression.
Obviously this is not a comprehensive list of every cause of anxiety or depression we can find in our modern world, but a small snapshot into a few of the major benefactors and some tips to getting ourselves out of our own way. Yes, times are changing and it can seem difficult to keep up, but that’s no reason for us to get discouraged. As we adapt so do our coping mechanisms-as long as we continue to improve ourselves daily. Anxiety and depression are real issues that deserve respect, though with proper care and treatment they do not have to be as disabling as they once were.