Campus Mind Works, a wellness group that promotes mental health education and provides support groups through the University of Michigan Depression Center, spoke Tuesday night on the potentially harmful effects of a world increasingly dependent on technology.

This seminar, held in partnership with the College of Engineering and the Newnan LSA Academic Advising Center, was run by clinical staff affiliated with the University’s Department of Psychiatry. They provided information about practicing self-care in a digital world while allowing students to connect with others who may have shared similar experiences.

This seminar’s topic revolved around the harmful side effects of technology and not only how to combat these effects but how to limit and moderate the use of technology in life as well.  

Kristine Konz, a clinical social worker at the Depression Center, started the talk by explaining just how pervasive technology is and how we have molded our lives around it.

“We shape (our) environment and routines with devices,” Konz said. “When (we’re) tired and bored, (we) turn aimlessly to technology. (People) ages 18-24 check (their) phones 75 times per day.”

She explained how this addiction to technology also significantly impacts mental health as rates of depression and anxiety have increased by 70 percent in the past 25 years in young adults. An increase in sleep problems, low self-esteem and eating disorders have also been noted with the growing presence of technology in our lives.

This phenomenon has also been linked to the increase in cyberbullying, doubling in the last seven years, with increased instances of self-harm, suicidal ideation and, occasionally, suicidal completion. Konz explained this correlation by connecting more time spent on social media to higher rates of social isolation.

“(With) less face-to-face contact, social circles become smaller, even though more time is spent on social media,” Konz said.

Konz also went on to describe the consequences of social media in particular. She discussed the concept of information overload, too many virtual friends to stay in touch with and growing concerns over the lack of privacy on social media.

“(You) become a target after sharing personal data and employers do watch (your profiles),” Konz said.   

The seminar then went on to highlight the positive impact technology has had. Connecting with people from around the world, easy and immediate communication, real-time news and a heightened access to information were some of the benefits listed.  

Konz ended the seminar on a more positive note by prescribing ways to counter the overbearing influence technology has on people. She advised to disconnect from technology and use unscheduled time to check in with yourself and essentially become more in tune with your surroundings.

“Take time to interact with the world around, especially with nature, people and pets,”  Konz said.

LSA sophomore Julia Lauer explained how mindlessly using social media has been linked to a drop in overall well-being — especially when it is being used to passively consume others’ heavily-curated images and posts.

“Studies prove that simply scrolling through social media, passively, for 10 minutes can decrease one’s mood and well-being in the following hours,” she said. “If you aren’t using social media actively then you’re at risk for putting yourself in a lower mental state by exposing yourself to an endless stream of others’ ‘happiness.’ Definitely taking some time to realize this and adjust your social media habits to be an active user can help someone practice better social media engagement.”

Engineering junior Anna Learis, senior editor of Mentality Magazine, emphasized technology is actually not inherently bad in relation to self-care. However, it cannot take the place of real-life practices.

“While it’s definitely clear that increased phone use, more importantly, increased social media use, is often harmful to one’s self-esteem and well-being due to comparing oneself to others, at the same time this instant access to technology can be extremely helpful,” Learis said. “From meditation apps to apps that allow you to text with a therapist, there are so many new resources at people’s fingertips that weren’t there before. I think utilizing self-care resources like the apps and websites I mentioned above are a great start, but without incorporating real-life self-care, there’s only so much that virtual self-care can accomplish.”

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