As a millennial, I’m big fan of technology and consider myself a ‘digital native’.
The advent of internet friendly mobile and tablet smart devices means that never has there been so much available knowledge and information at our fingertips. In addition, there are thousands of fantastic apps for these devices that cover just about anything and everything you could think, want, or need.
I traded-in my trusty Nokia 5210 (the one with snake) for my first smart phone as social media developed and became a thing. And over time as more and more apps have been developed, I’ve built up a not so small collection of these ‘useful’ information sources which take the form of little colourful icons on my smart phone.
Every app serves a purpose; I have my shopping apps, music apps, a series of productivity apps, social media, and until recently, my wellbeing app. All of these were used at one point in time, and some still are however, every so often I get a feeling of guilt or FOMO (fear of missing out) when my notifications stack up and I can’t keep on top of them.
The irony is that most of these notifications are irrelevant, and instead of making me feel productive and accomplished, they create a quiet nagging feeling of guilt that I’m not keeping up. Especially when the notification is informing you that you’re ignoring your own wellbeing.
Have you checked your smart phone screentime lately?
I’m not suggesting that wellbeing apps are bad, they most certainly have their place and provide many people with the right tools, knowledge and prompts to better their own mental fitness and wellbeing.
They contain a wealth of educational resources on how to improve your mental health and I strongly believe that information related to mental health should be easily available and circulated in an increasingly busy and volatile world.
My point is that smart phones and apps are designed to draw your attention away from the real world through algorithms, to create the belief you need a particular ‘thing’ and keep you engaged with the device or application.
For me, wellbeing and mindfulness is about breaking these patterns, being present in the real world and engaging with people – so is it not counter intuitive to rely on an app that’s designed to draw you into your phone and away from these things?
Wellbeing and mental health apps put the onus back onto the individual when wellbeing is a social and collective issue
I found myself checking one app, then another, another, and another, and before I knew it, I had wasted an hour in a zombie like state glued to my screen. I called it a day on several apps when I was regularly hitting 6 hours on my daily screen time.
You may wonder why I axed my wellbeing app over others, especially as a mental health advocate and one who makes the time to practice good habits of self-care?
My experience using a wellbeing app highlighted several areas of personal concern.
There is a fine line between working on yourself and actively looking for new flaws and striving for perfection. I found that I was constantly measuring myself against an impossible standard of being the most perfectly well person and getting further content suggestions that were not applicable to me, until my brain automatically looked for reasons why the topic could be relevant.
I became obsessed with how I could improve my personality, and gradually lost the ability to accept myself flaws and all. It was a cycle of endless personal development, cracking a bad habit then finding another.
Apps are designed for the individual, so when you’re relying on an app to improve your mental health, you lose your sounding board of friends, family, and co-workers. Society shapes our values, so interactions with friends and family serve a purpose of interrupting our thinking when our thought processes become skewed.
I was all consumed in my content, discovering more and more things I wasn’t doing properly or at all. It took a friend to point out there are also plenty of great habits and personality traits I do have – it brought me back down to earth.
Talking to other people is key in understanding that most of the challenges we face are collective, we all have good and bad habits, and we aren’t alone in our struggles. I realised that getting sucked into an app got me stuck in my head and made my self-perception worse.
People engage with people and the most important thing we can all do, is to talk about mental health and wellbeing together. We don’t need to be experts to start the discussion, we just need to feel comfortable in being open and honest with friends, family, and peers in the workplace.
You can read more about our views on app-based solutions here.
Written by: Emily Joy, Research & Operations Manager