People: Natures Zx Spectrum
The link between mental health and technology
Last time out I wrote about how the science of the physical helped kickstart the Industrial Revolution over 150 years before someone was allowed to study the scientific reasons for our thoughts, feelings and psyches without getting a little bit burnt to death. In this blog I want to bring things back to the current day and look at how that lag combined with the next revolution, the technological revolution, has contributed to a mental health crisis as prevalent as a certain other pandemic of recent years. I also want to look at whether the slow but nevertheless steady increase in mental health awareness is triggering a new revolution of its own.
How Our Lives Have Changed In The Last Century
Whether we consciously acknowledge it or not, we have basically spent our entire lives in the aforementioned ‘technological revolution’. Technically it has been going on since the 1940s, with the digital revolution truly kicking off in the 1970s. And as you have probably already gathered, this revolution is progressing at a lightning pace. It seems that every year a new development has entered western society and changed our daily habits beyond recognition. One year it’s smartphones, another it’s social media apps and another it’s endless on-demand content. Even with a century of analytical study into how our brains function, there was no way of preparing ourselves for how the world now operates.
The Caveman's Guide To Handling Workplace Stress
Our bodies and minds are still just, and only just tiptoeing out of the stone age. In some ways we could argue that we haven’t really left yet. I mean, we still have an autonomic nervous system that is conditioned to kick into fight or flight mode and release a shit-ton of endorphins in case a bear wanders into our cave. Except there is no bear, just perhaps an arsehole of a boss in a bad mood and wants to take it out on the staff. But the body doesn’t know that the threat is not life or death, instead it’s actually job or no job or a bit of a bollocking. It cannot differentiate. To make matters worse, if you’re like me, you have a predisposition to enter extreme flight mode rather than fight. The fastest way to increase our natural speed is to rid ourselves of any unnecessary weight and so it feels like our stomachs want to fall out of our bodies. Not a helpful feeling for dealing with a work-based crisis.
In nature, once we’ve outrun the bear, or slayed it with our rock-cum-bear-basher, we can rest easy and settle back into our comfort zone with a few pleasant chemicals being released to reward us in victory. The news media have exploited this beautifully to keep us in some sort of never-ending fear feedback loop to keep us tuning in waiting to see the endorphin releasing resolution.
Information Overload Leading to Mental Health Issues
Social media bombards us with the musings of people we follow because they share our viewpoints, which in turn reinforces them, which is resulting in a divided society entrenched too deeply in their own viewpoints to ever climb back up to the middle ground of open-minded dialogue.
We have streaming television permanently at the tips of our fingers. Entertaining yes, but it provides a distraction from our problems rather than allowing our minds and bodies to process negativity and dispose of it. And when something doesn’t get removed, it gets buried under the weight of more and more crap. Always there. Lurking. A panic attack ready to rear itself without warning.
Technology companies continue to accelerate this revolution with evermore user-friendly gadgets, providing us with quicker ways to access more and more information, fulfilling our insatiable appetites for things we can habitually scroll through seeking that next endorphin hit of cute cats, funny memes, agreeable political diatribe, disagreeable political diatribe or a Mexican weather girl even hotter than the last hot Mexican weather girl (you either know what I’m talking about here or you don’t).
We Can't Handle the Truth: Our Brains Aren't Meant to Process So Much Information
It feels like we worked so hard as a society to finally kickstart the whole science of the mind malarkey and to begin learning about what makes us shine as people or what makes us burnout, as well as attempt to allow this understanding of the mind to have a positive impact as to how people should behave and function in society, only for society to put on a pair of rocket skates and zoom on ahead again. We now know what mental health issues like depression and anxiety are but are damned if we can stop them affecting more and more of us every single day.
And how can it not affect more and more of us? We’re shoving an absurd amount of information consisting of the worlds problem into the brain of a creature that is designed for little more than one (ie. The bear outside our cave). We’ve definitely evolved to handle a few more, but not every war, every major national crime, every local minor crime, everyone who’s being a dick, every splendid gentleman in the DM’s who’s showing their genitalia, every opinion of everyone we know, every angry counter-opinion of everyone they know, every problem of everyone they know and the tight outfit of every Mexican weather girl in the 21st century. It’s like trying to run ‘Call of Duty’ on a ZX Spectrum, and in reality, a ZX Spectrum could shed real liquid tears if it tried to process something more complex than two stick men and a coloured blob that could be either a ball or an umbrella.
A Rising Tide of Consciousness
Happily, there does seem to be something of an awakening bubbling beneath society’s surface. Most people are living in the same cycle: go to work doing something they don’t enjoy > buy shiny distracting toys to distract them from how they’re feeling> grow bored so need a new shiny toy > so go back to that same job again. Although no more ready for the mainstream than the idea of a round planet to a 16th century yokel, there are plenty of people who are recognising that not only is this not the best way for them to function or feel fulfilled, but it also doesn’t have to be that way either. Of course, for some people this world order works, but for many, many people it doesn’t, and it’s for these people that we have a duty to keep this awakening bubbling away, and for the sake of the mental health of all of these creative people, not to let it fizzle out.
If you want to learn more about the above topic, you might enjoy “Why has nobody told this before” by Dr Julie Smith