Technology and Mental Health

by  Andi Daniel, Technology Coordinator

May 30, 2023

You have probably heard that computers, phones, social media, and other apps are bad for your mental health. That can definitely be an issue as many things in our lives can affect our mental health. In general, too much of just about anything can be problematic. There are various ways in which technology can adversely affect us but there are great things that technology can do for us.

Physical Effects

All electronics can cause eye strain and the type of light emitted by the device can interfere with sleep. Some phones and tablets have the option to set a blue filter on the screen to help at night and you can generally adjust the brightness of the screen. You can also purchase blue light blocking glasses if you are experiencing eyes strain. If we spend a lot of time looking down at our phones or tablets, we may feel strain in our necks and backs. We tend to lean forward when we are at our computers or slump in comfy chairs when watching movies or series. Watching screens also keeps us sedentary and it is easy to get involved in binging a series, following several links one after the other, or scrolling through Facebook, Instagram, and other social media apps.

Psychological Effects

Comparing yourself to what you see on social media apps can be detrimental to your wellness and mental health. We often want to show the world the best of ourselves and our social media reflects that. It is easy to compare your life with what others post on their accounts. We see vacations, good food, workout videos, weight loss milestones, and other things that can make us feel like we don't measure up. Excessive use of social media can also lead us to isolation. It can feel like you are connecting with others but you aren't getting that feedback when you are scrolling through an app. That's not to say you can't cultivate relationships through technology - before email and phones, people communicated via letters - but you still have to work at maintaining those relationships. I have found some wonderful people on social media that I feel are friends even though we may never meet each other in person.

It is also easy for us to insulate ourselves from differing opinions online. Your feeds are curated based on what you look at, click on, and watch. Ever notice how you are searching for something and all of a sudden you are getting ads for that thing? The algorithms are tracking your visits and even listening to you if you have your microphones on our you have an Alexa or Google Dot or another similar device. This can give you a skewed perspective of the available information because you aren't seeing things that you might not agree with.

Technology isn't all bad, though. As I stated above, we can make new friends and stay in touch with our friends easier. Many health care providers offer telehealth services. This expanded in the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and some providers continue to use it. This is extremely helpful for people in very rural areas who might not have access to providers where they live.

Sometimes, it is helpful for our mental health to stay organized and there are many apps available. Some allow you to share calendars with others and some can remind you of tasks you need to finish or appointments you need to attend. It is especially challenging to keep track of appointments and activities when you have several children that you are shuffling form place to place. Many providers have apps that will help you see your medical history, schedule appointments, and connect with your providers.

There are also many apps that are designed for people in recovery or to help manage your mental health. MyMHCP is a place for you to develop and access your recovery plan easily. The Veterans' Administration has a list of apps, some of which are available for anyone such as CBT-i Coach, Mindfulness Coach, and PTSD Coach. There are even apps for people in 12 Step programs.

Many apps are free or have free trial periods so you can test them out before buying them. Free doesn't always mean poorly executed. Some of the best apps are free or quite inexpensive. Try them out and see what works best for you!


Leave a Reply