How technology can help us find solace and meaning
Story by Andrews Izirein
I am sure the influence of technology on mental health has both advantages and disadvantages, but for this article, I would like to focus on the positive effect it has had on a family member of mine.
This relative in question (who I will refer to as ‘CC’) was born partially sighted and is registered as blind, so has always had to struggle with the challenges this brings. But in adult life, she has also developed Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, leaving her in pain and constantly exhausted, experiencing dizzy spells and seizures. This has been extremely detrimental to her mental health, to the point where she rarely leaves the house due to anxiety and depression. She spends most of her time at her computer, which has become her window to the outside world.
She has always been good with technology (despite her sight issues) and has found solace in online forums and social media. Groups for people facing the same problems have provided a safe space to talk, and relating to people in similar situations has given her real encouragement that she might recover one day. The support she has received from the online community has had a hugely positive
effect on her state of mind, and she would be the first to confirm this. Being able to chat with people on the other side of the world would not be possible without the Internet, so it is clear the advancement of technology has improved her quality of life. I’m sure her mental health would have been far worse without it.
As well as discussing her health problems with these online communities, CC has also been able to research her symptoms (the Chronic Fatigue Syndrome has never actually been diagnosed by a doctor). Although risky (I’m sure we’ve all Googled symptoms only to terrify ourselves with the results), in her case it has helped her to understand her illness and has given her more peace of mind
than the healthcare system in her area, which unfortunately seems to have failed her on numerous occasions over the years.
In recent months, CC has summoned up the confidence to apply for several online courses, writing short essays and submitting them for grading. I know this was not easy for her because she became anxious about her results, but again, this has had an extremely positive impact on her life. She has achieved 90–100% on almost all her assignments, and the pride that she feels in herself has been a joy to witness. Having something to focus on each day has given her a real sense of purpose. Her illness stopped her from attending university and made her feel that she would never achieve anything, but now she is able to believe that she can still put her writing skills to good use. She has also started writing poetry, and regularly posts her latest creations on social media (she keeps her security settings very tight to avoid any negative comments, which would undoubtedly affect her confidence), to a very receptive audience. She has even teamed up with a close friend who makes
and sells artwork and now includes some of CC’s poems with the products she sells online. This was a massive personal accomplishment for CC, and something she thought she’d never be able to agree to (for fear of not being good enough) but the positive comments she received for her poetry online helped to spur her on.
While CC still struggles with her mental health (she has many days where she can’t even get out of bed, let alone turn on her computer), there is no denying that technology has had a tremendously important and positive effect on her. She feels far less isolated thanks to the Internet and the online communities she is able to engage with, and I hope that this is the case with others out there who are suffering with mental illness. There are so many stories and articles about the negative effects of technology (particularly social media) on mental health, and it would be nice to think that it has actually helped some people, in the same way as CC.