Earlier this month Apple announced its newest iPhone model, the XS and XS Max. Just like every other iPhone announcement since the debut of the revolutionary smartphone in 2007, the media was throwing coal into the hype train. Coincidentally, month earlier Barnes & Noble saidthat the company had seen an uptick in books related to anxiety.
Now the book retailer didn't reveal any deep connection between their sales boom in books about how to cope with anxiety and the latest iPhone or technology at all. It begs the question though, are we becoming a more anxious country because of our dependence on technology?
Before we go any further, let's get one thing straight--this isn't an anti-technology rant. After all, technology has afforded us some pretty great things throughout human history. Case in point, this article wouldn't have been written and you wouldn't be reading it without technology.
That said, more and more of us are reporting that suffocating feeling that the walls are closing in around us. The occasional spell of anxiety before a job interview or preparing for a big date is normal and can actually be a good thing as it functions as a protective mechanism developed throughout our evolution. Negative anxiety, however, can bring about crippling spells of depression and panic attacks.
Unfortunately, we're seeing a spike in the anxiety levels of Americans. According to a poll bythe American Psychiatric Association, 40 percent of respondents reported feeling more anxious in 2018 than they did in 2017. Not surprisingly, politics, along with personal health, finances and keeping one's self and family safe, were the biggest causes for feelings of anxiety. Arguably, many of these fears could be linked to one another due to our constant use of social media and the 24/7 news cycle -- which fills up so much of social media.
Anxiety.org calls it the "compare-and-despair" factor, arguing that feelings of self-consciousness and a "need for perfectionism" can easily arise when we're bombarded with constant and carefully doctored images of friends and even total strangers living seemingly wonderful lives on social-media posts.
This unfortunate reality seems to be especially present in teens and young adults with nearly 45 percent of teens reporting that they think they're spending too much time on their phones and 49 percent of young girls feeling anxious without it. Taking a break from social media can be incredibly healthy, but is easier said than done. Ironically, when you do eventually return from your technology vacation there are a plethora of smartphone apps waiting to help with any anxiety you may be feeling.
MIT sociologist Sherry Turkle argues that the big difference between society's concerns over modern technology versus previous worries over radio and TV is that technology is now always with us. "To combat addiction you have to discard the addicting substance, but we are not going to get rid of the internet," wrote Turkle. "We will not go 'cold turkey' or forbid cell phones to our children."
The growing concerns over technology's link to anxiety and general isolation among the youth and adults alike may be making headlines more frequently, but it didn't exactly creep up on us.
Way back in 1993 actor John Corbett's character Chris Stevens on the show Northern Exposure predicted a time when our love of gadgets would allow us to virtually never leave home and simply "bliss out." Only now that bliss seems to come with a lot more nail biting.