Home Analysis Mental Health and the Digital Era

Mental Health and the Digital Era

by Kerry Dawson

As we progressed into the digital era after World War II, a lot of positives were held out for the growth of this technology. In hindsight, it can be clearly seen as a revolution in technology as opposed to the evolution of the technology that preceded. Digital’s precursor can be said to be analogue based technologies or technologies that were analogous to our environment.

The Music Player


Music played back via the stereo set or the monogram set was analogous to real music. Unlike digital, it is not based on binary technology (on or off; 0 or 1) but a playing of sound that represented sound heard and then replayed. Some prefer the sound produced the analogue way better but digital has won for all intents and purpose.

The goal of this brief overview is to discuss the differences. A typewriter is analogue but a computer digital. And so it goes.

Benefits Driven without a Sound Understanding of the Negative

The digital revolution has taken us by storm. As we were developing it, we tended to look at the positive impacts it had on economic society and not social society and especially individual psychology. The benefits could be found st every corner. Could you imagine a world with no internet. What would happen. Pure chaos likely.

One of the promises of the digital era was one in which work would become less encompassing as machines would be able to do more and more. We envisioned the 4 day then the 3.5 day work week or work sharing so that there was enough to go around.

Not only is there enough to go around but there is more work now than ever. People put in long hours and definitely do not work share. Yet, the heads of corporations believed in the reduced work week and started letting people go with the effect that those left behind were the unfortunates; the one’s that had to fill the wholes. Have we yet to grasp this or do we still reside in this idyllic dream of early research.

The Word Productivity has become Cliche

Since the industrial revolution, there has always been a concern with increasing productivity. It was accomplished through sound industrial design spurred on by a new breed of psychologist, the industrial psychologist. Their role was not to make an individual feel good but rather to wreak out more productivity. This was the way to improving the standard of living but at what cost.

In the digital revolution, great research went into how digital tech would improve productivity but little research was being done on the human impact of the technology. As an example, we now know that the smartphone is highly addictive with all the downsides of addiction. People who aren’t even 25 spew out the productive aspects of task managers not quite realizing what they are saying or doing.

It’s all become very cliche. That is, there is no depth to any of this as only the psychologist can properly research this angle and determine the impacts. A very well know psychologist, David Allen developed an extremely simple theory called GTD and people latched onto it like lemmings to a cliff. It created a complete cult with people and software alike.

David Allen himself though like analogue techniques to manage his theory. His shortcoming was his lack of research into the implications of the technology. He rounded out a theory that people easily grasped onto but without any research into the broader aspects of what he was proposing. In fact, what he was proposing was really nothing novel he had just managed to encase it in a way that people could easily consume what he was proposing.

The Software Front

People began touting one program over the other as moving us along toward nirvana while few realized that all the programs designed to make people more productive were basically, at their route, the same. That which makes one maybe better than the other is how easily the UI is able to be managed simply.

However, a little hope in this era of insanity is begging to dawn as psychologists are looking at this tech and asking how beneficial is it to the human condition; does it hinder, damage and yes even destroy life. As more research is undertaken the more it is becoming clear there is no pied piper here.

The Dopamine Effect

Dopamine is chemical emitted in the brain to carry out a number of functions. One thing dopamine can do is cause addiction to the substance or thing that produces it. A drug can be very addictive if it produces dopamine.

Our Smartphone produced dopamine in large enough quantiles will produce addiction. This is why no one is able to put their Smartphone down. They are addicted. And as with any addiction we are learning ways to combat it.

As an example, it is highly recommended not to bring your Smartphone anywhere near the bedroom. It can keep you awake and if you wake up you won’t be able to resist looking at it.

Texting out of Control

Is texting an efficient use of time. Only to confirm something. To engage in an entire conversation is a complete waste of time as you can do this on the phone. But who wants to do that when you get a dopamine rush from a text.

Psychologists are only now starting to study the effects of our digital age of course after the problems have set in. Further, is any of this healthy. Study after study is coming out to conclude it’s not. Yes, there are some benefits for more timely info. It’s hard though to see that these reverse the cons. Put an iPhone in a baby’s mouth to stop the crying is not a very wholesome way to bring up a child.

Communicating via Text is Soulless

At one time, we would huddle in the kitchen and exchange gossip. It was a fun thing to do; what we would call social time. In the course of 100 hundred years through the centuries of humans being social, are they no longer in need of a social life.

I’m sure all have heard of the infamous sleepover where people in the same room text each other. Or the dinner gathering where everyone has to put their cell down and the first one to pick it up has to buy a round of drinks. These are techniques used to counteract the negatives of a technique either by design or accident.

It would be difficult for society to revert back to the analogue world. Yet, a tremendous amount of research is required to find out exactly what the consequences of our long term use of digital can have. There may be no turning back but maybe there are ways to get the best of both. So far, we seem embroiled in the worst of the worst of a digital society running loose.

The 7th Aeon

There is a video I like to show about this point that I feel to be extremely relevant to this discussion. Available on youtube, I bring it to you here for consideration.

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