Many could argue in the 21st century that “we have never had it so good” and in some ways, they would absolutely correct.
Global poverty is diminishing slowly, and global income distribution is far greater than ever before but makes no mistake, this does not change the fact that far too many people can only aspire to the same poverty experienced in the first world, whilst the wealthiest nations in the world should hang their heads in shame when gazing over the disparities in their own back yards. Global poverty has continued to slowly reduce but the goal posts need to reflect the more affluent milestones.
“Over the last 25 years, more than a billion people have lifted themselves out of extreme poverty, and the global poverty rate is now lower than it has ever been in recorded history. This is one of the greatest human achievements of our time,” World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim said. “But if we are going to end poverty by 2030, we need much more investment, particularly in building human capital, to help promote the inclusive growth it will take to reach the remaining poor. For their sake, we cannot fail.” (“Decline of Global Extreme Poverty Continues but Has Slowed …”)
Technological advances in the last 25 years have irrevocably changed how we work, communicate, learn, trade, date, engage in politics and probably every area of human life. Immediate contact is the norm through messaging, email, social networking. Indeed, whole movements are engendered through Facebook. Google puts whole libraries, shopping malls, maps, world news, in fact, or fiction, any information into our pockets or purses. Our idols, celebrities and politicians are more easily accessible, including their private lives than ever and our participation in conversation and debate about the world, politics, VIPs, remarkable events have become part of the public media conversation.
A huge swathe of new occupations, careers, aspirations, and prosperity has been created through podcasts, blogs, influencing, YouTube, eBay, drop shipping and more. The internet has enabled many budding entrepreneurs to be in control of their own income and destinies.
The world is far smaller and more attainable than ever before through the internet, cheap and regular air travel, overseas jobs or working globally online and the current pandemic has made the internet indispensable enabling many to continue working, education, shopping and communicating with colleagues and loved ones. In parallel, not having access to the internet increases impoverishment as the connection to employment, banking, welfare, and all manner of essential services are moved online.
Life expectancy has been rising over the last century and shows no change for that trajectory (Coronavirus may disrupt these figures slightly in the short term)
Child mortality has been falling for decades and continues to fall whilst fertility rates are reducing particularly in developing countries assuaging some, not all, concerns about overpopulation.
Far more nations have adopted democracy and are living in free societies whilst world conflict, although heartbreaking, has been in decline since the World Wars and the high rate of terrorism seen in the 1970s.
And yet depression is the biggest killer in men under 45 and mental illness and figures show that up to 25% of the global population or 1 person for every 4 people will suffer from a mental health disorder at some point in their lives.
Could our abundant lives be contributing to our mental wellbeing?
Being immediately available to a much wider group of communicants through smart phones, Direct messaging, Twitter, and Instagram can give a sense of community and belong whilst at the same time increasing pressure to respond and engage. Phones, laptops, and tablets not only enter our private worlds without invitation, but the content, light, alert, or notification audios also add up to keep a constant state of stimulation and alert particularly when sleeping.
- Our brains need rest to recharge and assimilate the mass of information we receive every single day. Our psyche yearns for periods of privacy and respite from being constantly available.
Having 24-hour news at our fingertips and making sure that everyone is kept abreast of every change in each remotely newsworthy situation can keep you informed and up to date. But the pressure on news outlets to perpetuate a diet of continual news whilst competing in an aggressive market can and does ramp up and exaggerate news stories. Too much bad news can take its toll on your anxiety and give you a distorted view of reality. The current pandemic is frightening and has changed our lives immeasurably. That is enough to cause a heightened state of alarm, but the unceasing examination of all its facets provide rich fodder for our media whilst increasing our fears beyond what is necessary.
- Choose how much the news will invade your life, manage your media outlets by only having one or two reputable organizations. Turn off the alerts and keep your news updates to once or twice a day.
The Highs and lows of social media, staying connected with old school friends and those living halfway around the world; enjoying the banter and amusing memes; finding groups with similar likes and activities; support from your online community for individual issues, starting a business or running a worthy campaign.
What a tool for bringing people together to protest injustices or discussing political decisions. What could the suffragettes have done with Facebook!
Notwithstanding platforms for more nefarious causes, another anxiety generating concern.
It is almost impossible to navigate social media without running a gamut of emotion from compassion, concern, affection to outright anger, failure, outrage, and shame to name a few. There is no other platform that can render such an intense ride through the senses.
Visual representations of what appear to be perfect lives, relationships, children, homes, and families taking low self-esteem and inadequacy to new lows, or pressures to photo present our lives as perfect and continually ‘happy’ in denial of the realities of the struggles everyone experiences and needs to develop and grow. The number of ‘likes’ or ‘friends’ the new currency in success.
- How does this mess with your mental hygiene or your efforts to keep your emotions and self-commentary healthy? Questioning this and not liking the answers could mean taking a break and taking a reality check on other people’s lives. Few people live charmed lives and those that do will be ill-equipped to deal with disaster if it arrives.
Which brings this discussion to the exacting online measurement of the ultimate image of physical beauty and the drive to emulate it in a variety of different variations on a theme. Feeding the daily ravenous appetite of Instagram.
From the young people in the throes of discovering their own identity and the unquenchable desire to fit into an impossible format and inevitably perceiving themselves as falling short of benchmark set by the stars and influencers spending their lives in a Groundhog Day of enabling more and more photo opportunities, whilst using every possible strategy from plastic surgery to photoshopping to remain relevant.
The irony of the trendsetter’s efforts in comparison to the feelings of impossible inadequacy felt by the viewers, engendering and corroding existing mental health issues impacting on both the spectators and the performers alike is not lost.
- How to resolve something so seductive to our young adults and teenagers is elusive and has many strands. Building self-confidence and resilience in children is part of the puzzle but there are many that will be missing.
In consideration of how social media encourages people to become vulnerable by revealing and disclosing far more of themselves, both intimately and physically and the inevitable hostile, demeaning, and damaging criticism……mental health is snuffed out in a trail of comments.
Sadly, the perpetrators of hate comments are already in the grasp of mental disorders or emotional torment.
Modern technology and especially social media reflect the best and worst of human behavior and many, if not all, of our insecurities. This is proving to be dangerous to mental wellbeing and needs to be addressed in diverse ways. Luckily, the new generation of children will not be the experimental ones exposed to this Kaleidescope of self-knowledge and will hopefully be taught coping mechanisms.
Attitudes have changed towards mental illness with a concerted effort to change the associated stereotypes and stigma. This has encouraged more people to feel confident in accessing help from medical professionals and conventional treatments such as medication, anti-depressants and talk therapies, the most commonly prescribed treatments.
Technology is also playing a larger role in the treatment of mental illness and disorders; Transcranial magnetic stimulation-TMS is a relatively new therapy that has developed since the ‘80s in parallel to the internet and its correlating technological changes.
Divine intervention? Yin and Yang? The butterfly effect?
Who knows, but it is a treatment that has excellent results in recovery and even remission of depression and mood disorders, without any medication or invasive surgical procedures.
Recovery or relief from depression that is fast and does not use drugs has to be a revolutionary step forward in the struggle against depression and anxiety.
Until there are better resilience and coping strategies to offset the impact of the internet with its angels and demons, TMS (Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation) and TMS Therapy Los Angeles must be considered as a potentially significant solution.