You don’t need to look too far to find information about how social media is causing an increased or at least sustained momentum with regards to youth anxiety and other mental health concerns. There are several examples of tech guru’s working in the industry place limitations on themselves or their families. Despite much work being done on this topic, it is also contested (this article was published only two days ago!) by many who cite not enough research has been done to draw conclusions yet.
Many researchers are examining the effects of technology as they relate to distractedness and how app features are specifically designed to manipulate our brains. Tristan Harris talks about the extent in which tech companies “ethically steer people’s thoughts”. He discuss the business of technology and how all tech companies are competing for one thing: your attention.
In this Ted Talk, Harris discusses Snapstreaks and how the app is intentionally designed with your psychology in mind. Once again, the Internet is abound with articles and information about how Snapchat (the app I am engaging with for my major project) and Snapstreaks are addictive and relate to potential mental and socio-emotional concerns. (See also, My Bitmoji Gives Me Anxiety).
Harris founded the Center for Humane Tech and the Time Well Spent movement to encourage understanding of how the Internet is hijacking our society. In response, apps can choose to make more humane and ethical decisions about how to fight the attention addictions they create in the first place. Here is one example of how Snapchat is doing this.
Anya Kamenetz article “Your Kids Phone is Not like a Cigarette” argues that “when it came to tobacco, the solution was simple: Quit or don’t start smoking. That’s not the case here. Phones, tablets and other devices that have caused so much concern have more in common with cars than with cigarettes; unlike tobacco, they are essential tools that can be used in a healthy way”. So, we need to figure out how we use those tech tools in a healthy way.
I posted earlier this semester about how the Internet is Not the Problem. The Internet and it’s big business model which tracks and benefits from human psychology calls into question what we understand about society-technology dichotomy and brings many ethical concerns to the forefront. But to sit around and blame the Internet doesn’t help anyone. We need to continually be ultra-informed and aware about what is happening in the tech world. In this case, ignorance is not bliss. Ignorance can be potentially very harmful. Technology is transforming at lightning speeds and in order to care for our digital well-being, we need to stay caught up. Dr. Ribble’s 9 elements of digital citizenship includes the element of Digital Health & Wellness. Ribble makes the case that “Digital Citizenship includes a culture where technology users are taught how to protect themselves through education and training”.
Let’s work on maintaining our digital well-being together!
Where will you start on your journey of digital well-being? If you’re not sure, try some of these suggestions.