The Surprising Way Technology (and Social Media) Is Harming Us

Every day, we're told (with a little help from technology) we can take on the world all by our lonesome—or rather social isolation. Here's what our tech is really doing to us.

Tech Wreck: How technology is driving social isolation

The cold, hard truth: Our world of up-to-date technology just might not the healthiest way to live. In the name of wellness (and your sanity), it may be time to switch off YouTube, shut down Pinterest and try the real-life alternatives to your self-improvement apps. All these apps may just be social isolation wrapped up in a cellphone.

It just might be the source of our unrealistic expectations of ourselves

A few weeks ago, the little glass spin plate in our microwave oven suddenly stopped spinning. I headed straight to Google, watched a four-minute YouTube video and—voila!—after a quick trip to Home Depot, it was going in circles again.

Not long after, I was having some friends over for dinner and downloaded The New York Times cooking app just so that I could wow my guests with the silkiest, most Instagram-worthy cherry cheesecake ever to grace a dinner-party dessert plate.

Speaking of going in circles

These days, it’s not enough to pack a nutritious, colour-coordinated kid’s lunch featuring all four food groups or to perfect the most awkward inverted yoga pose ever; you then need to post the triumphant results on Facebook and Instagram to prove to the world that, yes indeed, mission accomplished.

Forget trying to be like Martha – it’s like we need to be perfect

“Our generation has gotten stuck in a backlash to our mothers’ rejection of the idea of the domestic goddess,” says Katrina Onstad, author of The Weekend Effect: The Life-Changing Benefits of Taking Time Off and Challenging the Cult of Overwork. (She recalls that her mother owned an apron that read “Screw Housework.)

Onstad says that the pressure to be amazing at everything—from navigating careers to raising kids to making flawless floral arrangements—really took hold with Martha Stewart and the cult of aspirational domesticity that she inspired. And thanks to social media and the power of Google, it’s showing no signs of abating. “The Internet has amplified the message that you can’t just have it all; you can do it all,” says Onstad. (Learn how our social media habits and obsessions with being—or appearing—perfect are harming our self-worth.)

All this perfection comes at a price

The Canadian Mental Health Association reports that 58 percent of Canadians feel completely overwhelmed by all their roles and obligations, while Statistics Canada says that women are more likely than men to report that most days are “quite a bit” or “extremely” stressful. (And that’s probably an understatement at best.)

Onstad says that the stress resulting from that drive to do it all has huge implications, from increasing our risk of heart disease to creating a sense of social isolation. (Here’s how to beat loneliness—aside from simply getting off your phone.)

“Burnout is real,” she says. And boy, are we burned out. That’s why it’s time to stop, re-evaluate and recognize that, yes, we have a problem. And to recognize that it doesn’t have to be this way.

Next, learn how social media affects your sleep.

Originally Published in Best Health Canada