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Electronics & Wellbeing
The past few decades have seen the creation of many technologies that significantly improve our lives. Social networks allow us to stay in contact with friends and family. Search engines let us access seemingly limitless information. Video games provide new and interesting forms of art. However, these technologies can also bring a great deal of harm to people and society. Social networks have caused many to substitute meaningful connections for superficiality. The internet provides as much misinformation as it does knowledge. And video games have become an addiction for numerous people. Unfortunately, technology companies are rarely held accountable, with little action being taken to reduce these risks. However, there is a lot you can do to minimise the harm for you and your family.
Some of the biggest negative impacts of these technologies are on physical and mental health. In 2018, the World Health Organisation (WHO) added gaming addiction to the International Classification of Diseases. Too much screen use takes people away from work, education, socialising, exercise, and other activities necessary for their wellbeing. In addition, social media sites like Instagram and TikTok can often distort people's views on how their lives and bodies should look. This can lead to body image issues and shame over one's lifestyle. Particularly for young people, social media and online video games expose users to cyberbullying, which is highly damaging to mental health. Another issue with these technologies is how the algorithms on many social media sites have been shown to push people towards extremist and harmful content. Examples include neo-nazi groups, extreme sexism, or conspiracies that encourage violence.
Many of these issues are not inherent to these devices and services but depend on how they are used. As difficult as it can be, you get to choose how often and in what ways you engage with these technologies. It can help to reflect on what you genuinely enjoy doing on these devices and then limit yourself to these activities in healthy doses. Generally, activities which connect you with others and require your active input will be more fulfilling than those which are passive and solitary. It can also help to reflect on what things trigger unhealthy technology use and take extra care in these moments. If you know you overuse your phone before bed, for example, place it in a different room and read a book instead. One of the best things you can do is train yourself to stop and consider "is this what I really want to do right now?", every time you engage with these devices.
What you can do:
Limit your engagement with these devices to a healthy level. Set reminders to keep you aware of how long you are spending with these technologies, create "device-free" times throughout the day, and even delete the app or sell the product if necessary.
Use these devices in ways you know will improve your wellbeing rather than damage it. For example, replace solitary and passive activities (scrolling your Instagram feed) with active and social actions (messaging friends and family).
Write to politicians, sign petitions, and use your vote, to encourage greater regulation for these tech companies.
To learn more, watch The Social Dilemma on Netflix and check out the Center for Humane Technology