The last quarter of a century has been a time of tremendous change and technological advances. But whilst the digital age has no doubt been fruitful, it has come with adverse side effects. It’s taking its toll on our health and wellbeing.
Findings from YouGov paint an unhappy picture of the UK – almost 1 in 3 millennials say they always or sometimes feel lonely. And research by Ofcom has shown that the British public spend 24 hours a week online. To really drive it home, a study by the University of Pennsylvania has revealed that social media is a key factor behind loneliness.
2019 has seen a spike in global press coverage of the health and wellbeing epidemic. And in turn, big corporations have taken action. Workplaces are introducing health and wellbeing packages. Resilience, meditation and yoga is being taught in schools. Nations, such as France, have passed laws to give workers ‘the right to switch off’. Everyone from the Pope, to the royal family are publicising and supporting mental health charities.
And this year was when the big players – Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Apple and Pinterest – started to make a change.
Instagram announced it was trialling Instagram feeds without public likes in a bid to discourage users from focusing on validation. Soon after, Facebook followed suit. Instagram also released a feature which allows you to monitor screen time on the application. And most recently they banned filters that enhance beauty in a bid to promote body confidence.
One in four adults in the UK experience insomnia because they spend too long on their phones before bed. Realising this, Apple have made changes to iOS in order to improve our sleep patterns. The latest update allows users to change their phone into dark mode which sets the iPhone on a dark background with light coloured text. This decreases blue light exposure and therefore could help improve sleep.
This year Pinterest launched a set of self-harm prevention tools to help those experiencing anxiety and depression. If a user searches for terms related to mental health, they’ll find useful coping methods to help stay calm and improve their mood. In addition, they’ve trained their algorithms to identify and remove sensitive content relating to self-harm and suicide, in a bid to clean up the platform.
2019 has been a prolific year for health and wellbeing apps. One of the most popular new sleep apps on the scene is Calm – a meditation instructor and sleep stories audiobook in one. It has a vast collection of soothing stories read by famous names such as Stephen Fry which help users to drift off. Other apps that have high followings are: Happify which uses science based games to reduce stress, Pacifica which uses cognitive behavioural therapy techniques to decrease anxiety, and Headspace which specialises in breathing and meditation to help you to stay calm.
Social media has improved our lives in more ways than one. We’re more connected than ever before and information is available at the touch of a button. But alongside these advances, has come an array of mental health issues that need addressing. 2019 was the year the world woke up and started to talk about the very real effects of social media on our health. We all have a role to play in changing things for the better, and with big companies leading the way, this is just the tip of the iceberg – onwards and upwards.