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How Digital Distortion Magnifies Depression Symptoms

It’s long been recognized that “keeping up with the Joneses” is a big part of what keeps us all running the “rat race.” Those may be outdated phrases these days, but the condition of unhealthy envy they describe is alive and well.

It’s admittedly difficult to avoid noticing the outward appearances of your neighbor’s life—job, car, home, overachieving kids, and adventurous vacations—and comparing them to your own, concluding your neighbor must be better off and happier than you. This comparison game is rigged from the start. Media marketers work overtime to be sure you feel your life is lacking so they can sell you what’s missing.

Before the Internet, however, those we compared ourselves to were mostly flesh-and-blood people. They lived down the street or worked down the hall. It was at least possible to see them at their worst as well as at their best. And they numbered in the dozens at the very most.

Now we compare ourselves to thousands, if not millions, of virtual neighbors. And we see only what they allow us to see—photos of their pets, happy dinners with friends, the view from an exotic beach, kids getting academic awards, crossing the finish line at the Boston Marathon. Most of this is posted by people who are “friends” in name only. It’s a giant understatement to say that all this adds up to a man- aged and distorted view of who people really are and how they actually live. And that’s before we account for perceptions created by advertisers that can be grossly manipulative, misleading, or outright false.

Those suffering from depression are already poised to believe that their lives don’t measure up to the lives of others. The Internet provides persuasive “evidence” they’re right about that.

While much of what you see on the Internet presents an overly rosy view of reality, millions of other sites peddle the opposite extreme: nonstop doom and gloom. It’s an alarming parade of war, famine, political strife, social injustice, and environmental catastrophe. Spend much time there, and you’ll be convinced the world teeters on the edge of calamity and collapse every second of every day.

I believe a steady diet of “digital distortion” is harmful to anyone’s mental health and magnifies depression symptoms. It rarely leads to healthy or effective political engagement on important issues. In fact, exposure to “doom porn,” as it is sometimes humorously called, simply reinforces feelings of powerlessness and despair. That’s why, to a person struggling to overcome serious depression, it’s positively toxic. Turning off the spigot and cleaning up the digital sludge is an essential step toward recovery.

If you are struggling with depression, anxiety or stress, The Center • A Place of HOPE is here to help. Our team is skilled at navigating these sensitive issues. For more information, fill out this form or call 1-888-747-5592 to speak confidentially with a specialist today.

Ten Questions to Ask About Your Virtual Relationships

Ironically, the very thing we turn to for increased connectivity with others is proving to be the biggest disconnection point in our lives.  Not only are we distracting ourselves from face-to-face interactions, but the virtual relationships we’re prioritizing are often lacking in the most important connection point of all–the intimacy of in-person warmth and sincerity.

To detect the presence or extent of your virtual void, ask yourself the following ten questions:

  1. How am I connecting with others online?
  2. What is the content of that connection?
  3. Would I be willing for my spouse or members of my family to view all of my online activities and content?
  4. What emotional needs are being met through these online relationships?
  5. How would I feel if I were unable to connect online for a day, a week, or even a month?
  6. How many non-family relationships do I maintain?
  7. Of those relationships, how many do I keep strictly online, meaning I don’t talk or visit but only connect online?
  8. Are there any online relationships or activities that pose a threat or provide competition to my in-person relationships?
  9. Am I willing, within the next week, to modify, limit, or sever any online relationship or activity that poses such a threat?
  10. If I’m not willing, what is holding me back?  Be specific.

As difficult as it may be to face your answers to these questions, do not underestimate the power of these truths to naturally lend themselves to your transformation.  Simply observing and accepting your behavior as it exists now will naturally inspire you to make more informed, and healthier, decisions in the future.

Do not be afraid to examine your virtual relationships and reevaluate the role they’re playing in your life.  Through an honest assessment, you can come to better understand why you are seeking online connection.  And if there are barriers you need help overcoming, do not hesitate to seek professional help.

If someone you know is suffering from technology addiction, depression, or anxiety, remember that there is HOPE.  There are professionals ready to help.  For more information about treatment call 1-888-747-5592 to speak confidentially with a specialist today. The Center • A Place of HOPE.  The Center was recently ranked as a Top 10 facility in the country for the treatment of depression, and our team is standing by to help you and your loved ones.