I specialise in Real Talk and in this blog I’m going to talk about the digital elephant in the room. You know, the thing we don’t acknowledge or discuss… the reality that we live much of our lives now, in a fantasy place.
Yep with the internet and all that it brings to our lives, how often do we stop to consider what it also takes? At its best it is a tool for connectivity, efficiency, possibility, creativity, knowledge, opportunity, relaxation…
At its worst it is unreal pressure, relentless advertising, attention lassoing, intrusive, addictive, not to mention trolling and child unfriendly.
We have created something that we can’t control … Awkward!
The digital landscape has been absorbed into modern life so effectively that it can often feel like an extension of us, rather than a separate entity. Picking up the phone has become as natural as breathing; it can be done so distractedly as to be a motor response rather than a conscious choice. The way we use it is often commonplace and reactive and our access to it habitual and immediate.
Digital wellbeing asks, how healthy is our tech use? This is not just social media and emails but also our use of apps, streaming devices and TVs, even our photo storage, digital doorbells and thermostats.
Technology is essentially a piece of hardware, created with programming and coding and it all sounds very technical and scientific, so we can be fooled into thinking that it has nothing to do with our feelings. That’s an odd one isn’t it. It’s hardware, a small black box, what the heck has it got to do with feelings?
The internet is chock full of opinions, impossible imagery, life hackery, “Live Your Best Life” pressure, aspirational concepts, sell sell sell! It can leave us feeling conflicted, challenged, prone to comparing ourselves, our lives, with others. This tool of uber-connectivity can actually make us feel isolated and alone with depleted levels of self-esteem.
And it’s really hard to put down! Because phones are ace! The magic little everything machines in our pocket. So perfect and colourful and tidy and sequential and reliable and there’s always something in there for us to look at!
Even so, in recent months I’ve also seen a trend, of people pulling away from their usual habits and social media platforms, perhaps feeling the negative impact it has on their health and wellbeing, coupled with post-lockdown information apathy. We may have found that what we’re absorbing sensory-wise is reaching a level of overwhelm, that taking steps to distance ourselves from it has become a necessary coping strategy. However there is still so much positive we can glean from the digital world and long-term abstinence, for most, is impractical. So how do we strike a healthy balance?
Mental Health Awareness Week this year runs from the 9th to 15th May and centres around the theme of loneliness. To support this I’ve put together a talk about Loneliness, Connection and Digital Wellbeing. It will highlight how we can use our digital world to serve our wellbeing better and not the other way around. It will offer insights into how we can maintain connectivity without losing ourselves to the fast flow of information that is just a touch of a button away. Still the internet… but on our terms.
Emi Howe is a member of the Speakers Collective, Digital Wellbeing Specialist, author of The Body Hoax and a TEDx speaker.
She is passionate about unpicking our digital lives, how we use technology and the impact it has on our wellbeing. Emi talks frankly in the workplace about our online health and body image. She has also developed a primary school curriculum addressing body image and digital skills.
Emi was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer in 2012 and had four subsequent body-changing surgeries. She speaks about her experience, raising awareness in the workplace and shares how to offer support.