How do you prescribe remedies for something as complicated as digital anxiety? Many organisations suggest antidotes like ‘digital detoxes’, which to my mind conjure up surreal images of the body excreting data and hashtag symbols. But on a serious tip: what does one do with digital anxiety? We are now so firmly locked into the matrix that our smartphones, wrist-phones, iPads and other gadgetry might as well be encoded into our DNA. In an age when every aspect of how we move in the world is structured by technology, how do we cope with the psychological and emotional ramifications of such a sweat-inducing dependency?
The problem that digital detoxes don’t address is that we need this technology more than ever. I attempted such a digital detox a few months ago, but I became stressed out by the fact that I couldn’t answer emails in the efficient manner I was accustomed to. I was irritated by the fact that my old Nokia phone couldn’t show me maps to where I needed to be or other simple things that I had taken for granted when I was using my smartphone. But I was also aware of the calming effect of not having toxic news feeds imposed on me, a ceaseless influx of disturbing events over which I had zero control which used to send my stress levels into the stratosphere. If you already suffer from general anxiety disorders, how does one combat the ancillary tensions created by the technology in our lives?
The trick, like with everything else, is understanding your own limits.
If you feel stressed out by WhatsApp, Instagram, Pinterest, TikTok and Twitter notifications, turn them off. With regards to email outside of work hours, try this simple solution: disable the email notifications on your phone and impose a two-hour moratorium before checking your inbox again, making sure to respond to only the most urgent mail before the morning. If you feel that this level of self-policing is too much, then by all means go wild. But remember this: as human beings, we can get addicted to almost anything, the technology is structured addictively, and it’s important to understand your own parameters in that context. The internet and its free flow of information is one of the best things about living in our current era. Whether we allow that information to circumscribe or liberate us is entirely up to us.
Please do not consider this a brazen act of virtue signalling. A few years ago, I made the decision to not check my phone when I was in public spaces like public transport or restaurants, etc. My only prerogative at that point was to see the world unfolding in front of me. I was slightly startled to find that every person sitting on the bus would be fiddling with their smartphones. I would then look out the window and people were pounding the pavement with their faces buried in their phones. One time a woman pushing a pram tried to cross the street whilst checking her phone and almost steered her baby under a motorbike.
All of this is to say that digital anxiety can be abated, but in order to do so one needs to apply common sense to the conundrum. And on that note, I’m going to go enjoy some super-trashy awesomeness on TikTok.
Stay all the way blessed up, beautiful reader.
Image by DIRIYE OSMAN
Song of the moment: 'You Know How To Love Me' by LEELA JAMES