Mental Health in the Digital Age

By Brynna Pawlows

Do you feel pressure to immediately respond to texts, emails, and other digital communications? Has a group chat ever stressed you out? You’re not alone. Our phones, social media, and other digital spaces, are designed to be used as much as possible. Reliance on digital communication and recreation has only increased since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. While digital spaces and social media are largely unavoidable, they are not entirely negative. In fact, they can be joyful and unifying.

Tricks to be Intentional in Digital Spaces

If you find yourself scrolling through social media too often, consider frequently moving your social media applications on your home screen frequently. This creates less of an automatic physical response when you check your phone, and will likely help you be more intentional about social media use.

Create a “throwaway” account for a “safe scroll.” Follow posts and accounts that bring you joy. These posts can be cute animals, beautiful architecture, cooking videos, etc. This decreases the stress of scrolling often rooted in passive intake of news, negative reactions from others, and exposure to graphic or triggering images.

Limit your notifications to necessary communications, i.e. messages regarding an upcoming event, calendar reminders of birthdays or doctor’s appointments.

How a Therapist Can Help

Tips and tools can be helpful to reduce levels of stress associated with digital spaces, but it is important to explore why digital spaces and social media uniquely impact each individual.

For example, if someone is struggling with stress or anxiety from checking work emails, a therapist can help navigate better boundaries regarding the workplace. If you find yourself posting photos and compulsively checking for likes or favorites, a therapist can help you navigate the role that validation plays in your life.

Behavior often functions to meet a need. Psychotherapy can help you identify what needs are being met in healthy and/or unhealthy ways in regard to the intersection of your mental health and digital spaces.