The digital world here and it is here to stay. Digital technologies like social media platforms with their algorithms, online gaming, social TV, streaming services, Virtual Reality, Artificial Intelligence and smart tech redefine how we live our daily lives. We use digital technologies to connect with people close to us and to make new connections. We use digital technologies to work, study and to entertain ourselves. The boundaries between our real, offline life and our online reality are very blurred. It can be challenging to draw a clear line between our digital and other identities.
Digital disruption with the free access to information and spaces to network, open-source and open knowledge movement are threatening the existing power systems. New economic models emerge around the value of personal data leading to increasingly closed, algorithmic platforms. Our data ownership, privacy and online identity become challenging to protect by local laws.
Digital innovation is fast and still not very well regulated. Its results are widespread and increasingly more comfortable to access. The current mainstream narrative around digital technologies focusses mainly on the negative impact of digital technologies on our lives. We are posing questions and suggesting answers based on myths instead of solid research and critical thinking.
The digital revolution started a while ago, but the term “digital wellbeing” entered the public discourse only recently. As our digital landscapes mature, we are beginning to experience familiar challenges. We see the abuse of underrepresented groups, attack on public figures, problems with proving facts, the privilege of access to tech or information and many more. While some of us benefit from digital technologies and functional digital literacy, others feel increasingly overwhelmed, left behind, used or targeted. We start to think about our wellbeing concerning those new digital tools and landscapes.
Now, more than ever, it is imperative to consider for a moment how all those established, and upcoming digital technologies impact our lives and our mental health. Instead of relying on tech companies or mainstream media, it’s time to ask ourselves critical questions. It’s time to decide how we want to use new technologies effectively while caring for our wellbeing.
Digital technologies have a wide range of effects on mental health. Cyberpsychology and digital anthropology are relatively new, with their results still often ignored by the mainstream media. The publicly quoted research in this area is often biased, conducted on small samples by companies wishing to promote their agenda.
The world of mental health has its challenges too. The Fives Ways to Wellbeing Report published in 2008 was commissioned to focus mainly on individual actions. However, it did mention the importance of organisational and societal factors: workplace conditions, nutrition and natural environment. And so many mental health professional struggle in finding the right balance between the unified, clinical approach and a more tailored, systemic, relational model.
Balanced, informed and non-judgemental discussions about good mental health are new. The language used in mainstream media is still often very negative. We always prefer labelling the individual who fails to conform, instead of celebrating the individual differences. We focus on being broken instead of questioning our reality. We live lives that are objectively speaking safer and more comfortable than ever before, yet we do not feel happy. The idea that we are all different and unique is almost unacceptable. The idea that we are entirely reasonable and that our behaviours are a healthy reaction to an unhealthy world is not apparent. It is revolutionary.
In the meantime, as digital users, we are left to figure out the best way forward for our wellbeing without much digital literacy or guidance. It’s overwhelming, new and threatening. Many of us are tempted to follow the mainstream trends and give up our active choice to tech companies instead. No wonder that many of us think we are doomed, but in fact, we are OK. We can figure this out and make the digital technologies work for us.
Normalising public conversations might take some time, but we can start thinking critically on an individual level. Digital technologies are an essential factor in how well we feel and function. We begin to think about our wellbeing differently – as a healthy reaction to an unhealthy reality. Our digital wellbeing might be our chance for a thriving, balanced life. The idea of good digital wellbeing starts with exploring what good mental health means to each of us individually. Voxel Hub was set up to help you do just that.