Expert Article by:
Dr. Samir Parikh
Director of Department of Mental Health and Behavioral Sciences, Fortis Healthcare
In the contemporary world, there is hardly any corner existing which has escaped the wave of technological advancement, be it in the rural areas or the more developed urban sections of the society. It is a sign of tremendous progress which is reflected in our receptivity towards such innovations and advancements within the field.
Technology as an Interface – Potential Harm
As a consequence of such progress, we all are being bombarded with thousands of messages from morning to night, be it through the internet, television, radio, or print advertisements. As our access to technology is increasing in today’s times, cyber-bullying is becoming a growing concern. It includes acts of making threats via social networking sites, sending provocative insults, and harassing others through the internet. In addition, the technological invasion has also created such an over-dependence, that many of us cannot even imagine living our lives in a technology free zone.
Over-dependence on technology is a very significant factor contributing to interference in interpersonal relationships. While this impact is not restricted to couples, but overdependence and reliance on technology over the past couple of decades has led to an increasing tendency towards social alienation and an individualization of the society. With the increasing role of technology in our modern lives, most of us tend to be glued to some technological device be it a smart phone, laptop, computer, television, or any other device. Such devices are an interference as their accessibility tends to impact almost all spheres of life, making it easier to carry work home, and to blur the boundaries which can interfere with interpersonal relationships. This has also led to the tendency of social alienation, with an over use of social media and other forms of technology not only breaking into our personal space and time, but also overpowering the value of face-to-face interpersonal interactions being substituted by the virtual world.
Capitalizing on Technology as a Resource
While it is important to recognize that the media can be significantly detrimental in its influence, it isn’t all bad. In fact, there is no doubt that the technological advances can be extremely beneficial in creating empowerment and encouraging the growth of a democratic society. There are innumerable possibilities opened up by the media, but only if it is used with complete awareness and responsibility. Further, such technological advancements have indeed made the world a smaller place, with increased accessibility and tremendous potential to be capitalized upon across various fields.
Most of all, it is vital to have adequate psycho-education about the utilization of such avenues. Therefore, the need of the hour is to educate ourselves about the source, purpose as well as messages provided via the media. This is especially important for the children and youth to be educated with the ability to critically understand the messages shown by the media, in order to be able to guide them towards right decisions effectively. While usually we view the media as passive observers, it is important to sit back and think about the purpose with which that form of media would have been constructed, whom would it benefit and how. Such a reflection would help us realize how the media actually co-constructs our reality. In addition, it is important to be educated about the potential danger of the online world. We need to be aware of the risks entailed while using the internet, especially social networking sites and other forms of social media.
Finally, we need to remember not to let technology become a source of stress, and therefore technology cannot replace relationships. While it’s good to embrace technology and use it to our advantage, it is important to be sure to always maintain a balance. Remember, to be media literate doesn’t mean you need to know all the answers. On the contrary, we simply need to be able to ask the right questions, so as to develop the skills to be able to use the media more effectively.
Value of Technology in the field of Mental Health
There is a lot talked about the technological invasion within our society in the contemporary world, and therefore it becomes necessary for this potential and powerful resource to be capitalized upon in the best manner possible. Given the rapidly increasing outreach of such technological advancements in today’s times, there are various avenues to improve the accessibility and availability of the needs across multiple sections of the population.
Being a mental health expert, it is our significant responsibility to work towards capitalizing on such technological advancements, considering the fact that mental health is still largely shrouded by myths in a majority of the population. Such stigmatization of mental illnesses lead to hesitancy and reluctance towards seeking professional help, thereby hindering the timely identification and reporting of mental illnesses. In addition to the health and social costs, those suffering from mental illnesses are also victims of human rights violations, stigma and discrimination, both inside and outside psychiatric institutions. With the unprecedented increase in crime rates, corruption as well as surmounting unrest among the population, there is ample evidence to show the need to focus on promoting mental health and psychological well-being today, and undoubtedly technology and social media serve as one of the most potentiating avenues towards the achievement of such a goal.
With the help of technological communication, it is now not an impossible dream to open a channel of communication and awareness even to the rural areas of the country, and with such unprecedented initiatives, the dream of spreading awareness regarding mental health across the nation seems to be a possible reality. The need of the hour is to strongly advocate the preventive as well as curative aspects of mental health.
Considering the amount of time, energy and resources being spent not only by the youth but by adults as well on the social media platforms, such initiatives of utilizing the technology as a means of creating awareness and education about mental health can indeed have far-reaching impacts. Moreover, it is vital to bring about a change in the way our society thinks about mental health, and undoubtedly the value of technology and advanced means of communication via the means of social media is undeniably significant.