In the era of technology, we are increasingly encountering a phenomenon known as 'digital distress'. This term refers to the psychological discomfort that arises from problematic interactions with technology. This discomfort often manifests as mental and physical fatigue, a lack of interest in work, and a general sense of resentment towards the stressors in our lives.
There are three primary types of technological irritants, or 'tech-triggers', that contribute to digital distress:
Intrusive Alerts & Requests: These are the pop-ups and prompts that constantly interrupt our digital experience. They can range from notifications and calendar reminders to software updates and low-battery alerts. These frequent interruptions can put us in a state of constant high alert, leading to a release of adrenaline, norepinephrine, and cortisol. This can leave us feeling on edge. Additionally, prompts for usernames and passwords can be particularly stressful, as managing numerous login details can be challenging and create a sense of feeling lost.
Overwhelming Digital Mess: This refers to the digital clutter that accumulates over time, such as overflowing email inboxes, disorganized digital folders, and unfinished tech-related tasks. This clutter can create a deep-seated feeling of failure. The infinite scroll feature on social media apps can also contribute to this feeling of failure.
Cybersecurity Concerns: This trigger is fueled by worries about the safety of our digital information. Despite assurances of security in online shopping and banking, there can be lingering doubts about the protection of our credit card and financial information.
So, how can we navigate this digital world without succumbing to digital distress? Here are a few strategies:
• Review and adjust your settings: Take the time to review your settings for pop-up blockers, cookies, authorized data access, and notifications. Turning them off or setting specific times to turn off your devices can help you feel more at ease.
• Schedule decluttering sessions: Make time to sort through your digital clutter before it becomes overwhelming. If you don’t deal with it now, you’ll have to deal with it later with more stress.
• Stay alert and challenge tech-triggers: Be aware of workplace tech-triggers and challenge them when they first arise. Employers might reconsider certain tactics if they're impacting employee mental health.
• Make small changes to reduce tech-dependency: Consider bringing back wall clocks so you can glance at time without a screen, noting schedules on paper to avoid being drawn into email via our digital calendar, and changing your settings in apps and devices to have more control over your digital experience.
By taking these proactive measures, we can increase our self-efficacy, reduce our digital distress, and feel more empowered over our mental health in the digital age.