Technology and Anxiety: A Real World Issue

Walking here: Rewarding. Spending lots of time at the screen? Not.
For me, staring at the computer screen is an out for my fight against anxiety. To date, I can say that it’s not very successful because my anxiety is out of control, that the computer generally takes up most of my awake time when I am at college. Right now, I managed to finagle some of my time away from Facebook, and put it into writing a journal, but that primal urge to give into my narcissistic self bugs me when I see the “1 Message” icon at the top of Facebook’s enticing blue and white dashboard. Something you should know: I am not a psychologist. Nor, do I pretend to be one. The following observations are my own and merely reflect my experience with technology and anxiety.

The most sophisticated computer invented to date can crash and burn when it is required to process a lot of things at once.
I bring this topic up, because I think few people realize how anxiety and fear rule their life. Anxiety in little doses is a good thing, it keeps you from forgetting things, it keeps your conscience happy and it allows you to run on autopilot. Anxiety made a lot of sense when humans had to fight and kill animals on their own, and make everything they needed to survive. When the animal charged, a fight or flight response (I later discovered this is usually accompanied by an adrenaline rush) told a person what they should do. The key point in what I am saying is that fear triggers these reactions.

In 2013, though, there are no charging animals that will eat you, and chances of your starvation are not likely. However this fight or flight instinct gets triggered all the time by all sorts of fears. Often, these are the kinds of fears that aren’t even worth all of the attention they garner. For example: “I forgot to email back my resume to a recruiter”, or “Why did the guy in front of me send a friend request? We only said Hi,” are the kinds of things that we don’t understand, or are concerned about, and our brain takes that fear of the unknown and turns it into an adrenaline rush. This happens way more often than we think, because everything is designed to bring stimuli to us quicker than it ever has before. And, as a result, we feel generally sluggish when it comes to managing our time, because we have to deal with this adrenaline that makes us doubt ourselves and become panicky. When I examined Wikipedia for more information, I was alarmed by what I saw:

Prolonged stress responses may result in chronic suppression of the immune system, leaving the body open to infections. However, there is a short boost of the immune system shortly after the fight or flight response has been activated. This may have filled an ancient need to fight the infections in a wound that one may have received during interaction with a predator.

Immunity issues? If what I am having is a fight or flight response when I interact with online social media platforms, this might cause me more and more trouble.

I’ve got news: Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and any other website or tool you use to connect to people online are designed to put as much new information out there that is intriguing or concerning to you as they can. This is because, this fear brings us back often, and with others eager to join as well. Chances of this changing in the next few years are very low.

Oh, how you taunt me.
My suggestions? Limit screen time. Get up and walk around. Write something, read a good book (a lot of people think technology has rendered this irrelevant, but I disagree), stay busy and talk with friends in real life. If you feel that you are just looking for a shortcut, then do yourself the favor of editing your news feeds: prune negative friends from what you see daily. This will help reinforce more positive messages that don’t make you doubt yourself, and trigger fear responses.

My ultimate suggestion? Confront your fears and anxieties in the real world. If you become comfortable with yourself, you won’t really care what anyone thinks, and you’ll become more likely to appreciate the things in life that are truly beautiful. In reality, social media is a great tool to make connections, but that’s because everyone else buys into it. If you want to buy into it, you may find yourself being led to the parts of the internet that these companies want you to see, and they might not even remotely align with your personal goals.

Side note: I did actually click the “1 message” icon, and of course, it was just another announcement about something I don’t care about. Proof that although I understand what’s going on, my mind doesn’t believe it. This is often referred to as cognitive dissonance.