Technology & Stress

In this week’s readings, I learned about the use of technology, more specifically social networking sites, on individual well-being and mental-health. In three articles, researchers found that geographically-explicit ecological momentary assessments (GEMA) through cell phones can detect real-time reports of movements and well-being of our population (Kirchner & Shiffman, 2016); information and communication technologies (ICTs) may develop and enhance ongoing stressors in the workplace (Ayyagari, Grover, & Purvis, 2011); and how the use of social networking sites (i.e. Facebook) are associated with mental health (i.e. addition, anxiety, etc.) (Frost & Rickwood, 2017). This research is valuable because as our society develops new technological devices, it is important to recognize how it effects our mental health and productivity in both social and work environments.

Over the past couple of years it has become obvious that our society is dependent on both technological devices (i.e. mobile phones & computers) and the applications that are vastly used within those devices (i.e. Facebook). For the most part it seems as if these devices and applications – social networking sites are beneficial to connect and with old and new friends/associates. However, recent research has explored the potential consequences from our technological advancements. Frost and Rickwood (2017) emphasize that the use of Facebook can have horrific effects on an individual’s well-being from dissatisfaction in a relationship to lower self-esteem to anxiety to depressive symptoms. Most importantly, the researchers illustrate how these effects may vary on culture – as Korean participants reported lower body satisfaction than American participants after viewing a Facebook profile and comments either promoting or discouraging to be thin to an underweight or overweight individual (Frost & Rickwood, 2017). They make it clear to us that this is not simply about labeling social networking sites good or bad, because participating in these networks can potentially be helpful for your mental health. For example, researchers showed that participants who had a psychiatrist on their Facebook friend list benefited therapeutically, as they perceived having more social support and reassurance from a health professional (Frost & Rickwood, 2017).

In Ayyagari et al. (2011), it was further supported that technology can lead to stress and increased stress in the work place (technostress) through a variety of stressors, such as: work-home conflict, invasion of privacy, work overload, role ambiguity, and job insecurity. The study showed that constant changes in technology in the workplace leads to stress as individuals that are not as technology savvy may worry about their job security. Ironically, this is exactly what I mentioned in last week’s post as my mother was stressed about a new computer program at her job which eventually led to depression, since she was scared to go to work and be embarrassed about not knowing how to work the new program. That being said, Ayyagari et al. (2011) described how technostress lowers productivity and job satisfaction.

Interestingly, after reading these articles I started reflecting on my own use of social media and some of the potential stressors that are associated with technology. I realized that I check all my social media applications (i.e. Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat) nearly 15-20 times an hour. While this may vary depending on how busy I am, it looks like I am addicted to social media. However, I’ve noticed that over the past two years the amount of social media content I produce (i.e. posting and sharing pictures) have significantly reduced. I tend to now use social media as a news site and to keep up with my friends rather than express my own beliefs or likings. This makes me interested in exploring how does technology impact stress levels on individuals who use social media to “keep up with the world” or “try to pass time” rather than as an outlet to express their beliefs or life events.

Recently, I watched an episode of Black Mirror (S3 E1 – Nosedive) which depicts technological anxieties in the workplace. In this futuristic world, somewhere in England, social media is directly associated to real life benefits and decision-making. Rather than receiving likes on a social media post, viewers rate one another’s posts/pictures out of five stars. The average amount of stars an individual receives is what they are represented as in life – so that an individual with a certain star average will be able to receive a loan, rent a car, get into specific restaurants, etc. While technology is exciting, this illustrates the extreme case of addiction to technology – to which a society use it to develop social statuses. In addition, this creates an environment where individuals are constantly stressed on how people perceive them and their social media posts. After watching this episode and reading these articles, I became interested in understanding how technology can potentially be used as a tool to control who we are rather than a platform of expression. We’ve seen this already in some cases with jobs and schools checking applicant’s social media profiles when evaluating their application. However, do you think it’ll ever come to a point where social media sites or certain technological devices will be required in our society in order to keep surveillance on the population?

One thought on “Technology & Stress

  1. Very interesting perspective, Jay! I think you bring up a particularly interesting point about the active versus passive use of Facebook and other social media platforms (i.e. posting, commenting, friending, etc. versus just reading and perusing). I’ve also found that I’ve become a much more passive Facebook user, but I wonder if my history as an active user as an undergraduate might have some sort of long-term effects. It seems like this is the type of study we may be doing in another decade or so, but it’s wild to think that a history of either active or passive Facebook use might affect our future social behavior.

    As a side note, I’m totally considering jumping back on the Black Mirror train since reading about that episode – so good!

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