Picture of a man holding a smartphone looking out of a window

[Article written for HR Independents (HRi) as part of Men’s Health Week 2023]

“I wish we could return to the 1990s” my son recently said.

“Why?” I asked.

“Well, it was a time when people weren’t so distracted by technology, and when they enjoyed spending time together in the real world”.

I’m sure a few people feel this way.

The Internet

As a term, “the internet” feels outdated, conjuring-up memories of modems, dial-up tones and patiently waiting to connect – it was a thing you scheduled time for, like visiting a library.

Today, the internet is seamlessly integrated into our lives – it’s always on, always listening, with interaction via touch, voice or motion.

Advances in Artificial Intelligence (AI) are rapidly increasing the pace of change, with terms like “Mixed Reality” (MR) and “Synthetic Assistant” set to become commonplace.

Men’s Mental Health in the Digital Age

The internet has made it easier than ever for men to connect with others, access information, and consume entertainment. However, it has also created new challenges for men’s mental health. For example, the internet can be a source of stress, anxiety, overwhelm and social isolation.

The constant bombardment of information and stimuli can lead to:

  • Anxiety: Feeling worried, restless, or tense
  • Depression: Feeling sad, hopeless, or worthless
  • Sleep problems: Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Irritability: Feeling easily annoyed or frustrated
  • Reduced focus and concentration: Difficulty paying attention to tasks or conversations

It can also lead to constant comparison with others, creating feelings of inadequacy and that you’re somehow failing in life.

Tristan Harris, ex Google Design Ethicist and founder of the Center for Humane Technology, calls this “The Attention Economy”, where big tech companies are competing to keep us distracted.

The power of human connection

It’s widely accepted that nothing beats real-world human connection, yet The Men’s Health Forum reports that “Men are less likely to access psychological therapies than women” and “Men have measurably lower access to the social support of friends, relatives and community”.

Many men are simply not talking about their mental health challenges, instead relying on the internet to meet their needs, including the addictive use of smartphones.

Positive steps

Despite the challenges, there are positive steps men can take to protect their mental health online.

These include:

  • Set limits on screen time: The more time you spend online, the more likely you are to experience negative consequences. Aim to limit your screen time to no more than two hours per day.
  • Take breaks from technology: When you’re feeling overwhelmed or stressed, take a break from technology and online connection. Go for a walk, read something offline, or spend time with people who energise you.
  • Be selective about the content you consume: Don’t follow accounts or websites that make you feel despondent or bad about yourself. Instead, follow accounts that make you laugh, feel inspired, or help you learn.
  • Connect with real people: The internet can be a great way to connect with people, though it’s important to make time for face-to-face interaction, too. Get involved in your local community, join a club, volunteer your time, or simply spend time with people.

If doom-scrolling on social media is a challenge for you, I highly recommend the resource Take Control of Your Social Media Use from the Center For Humane Technology.

In addition, it’s important to take care of your overall health. This includes eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, and exercising regularly. By taking care of your physical health, you can also improve your mental and emotional health.

Introducing MakeLifeClick

In 2020 I began exploring something called MakeLifeClick.

As a dad, I’m often questioning what the future holds for our children and young people, especially under the rapidly evolving influence of AI and “big tech”. We’ve all seen how technology makes a brilliant servant, but not such a great master.

MakeLifeClick is an open invitation to begin exploring new ways in which we can integrate the best of our online and offline worlds, to help create balance, healthy habits and purposeful relationships.

Working together, I believe we can empower a new world of inter-connected living, focussed on human wellbeing, non-invasive technology, health over wealth and an end to device addiction.

We’re currently preparing for the next phase of our launch. If you haven’t already, please join the MakeLife mailing list to be kept updated 👉