Achieving Fulfillment in a Digital World

Behavioral Health Behavioral Health
PHBH Today Winter 2021 Newsletter
Over the past 10 months and counting, technology and social media may seem like a double-edged sword. These platforms have enabled socialization, virtual school, work-from-home opportunities, and even telehealth during a pandemic that has made social connections and physical distancing paramount. Yet in some cases, overuse and overreliance on the digital realm can have consequences that include increased anxiety and depression, especially during a time marked by intense emotion on many fronts.

According to Chelsea Williamson, MSW, LCSW, Team Coordinator at Penn Medicine Princeton House Behavioral Health's Princeton outpatient site, behavioral health providers can help patients achieve mental well-being in an overwhelming digital world by focusing on balance, mindfulness, and fulfillment. 

Balance. Seeing extreme opinions on social sites can create tension and confusion and make it difficult to formulate one’s own beliefs—especially for adolescents, who are still learning about themselves. Williamson educates her patients to consider all perspectives in determining what’s most effective for them and their 
loved ones.

“Balance also factors into the amount of time we use technology,” she adds. “We can allow ourselves to be part of the virtual conversation to feel connected, but we can’t think clearly when emotions run high. It’s important to know when to step away and do something completely different.”

Mindfulness. Emotional temperature checks can be used to create insight about when adjustments are needed in technology and social media use. This means pausing to reflect on how our bodies react and what feelings surface after 10 minutes of scrolling, or watching for signs of irritability after a teen spends time gaming. 

Fulfillment. With fewer social outlets during the pandemic, people tend to turn to social media more frequently for a sense of fulfillment. Yet connection and social media are two completely different things, and fulfillment can be achieved in more creative ways. 

Williamson recommends guiding patients in these steps when helping them identify what brings them fulfillment:

  • Start by making a list of values, which might include family and friendship or giving to those in need. Pair this with a list of enjoyable activities.
  • Use these lists to brainstorm how to create fulfillment in more effective ways than social media use. For example, if giving to those in need is important, something as simple as writing letters to nursing home residents can provide fulfillment.
  • Take small steps to create an overall sense of unity and support of others. Even throwing wipes into the garbage after grocery shopping or letting someone in front of you in line can make a difference.

For the long winter months, Williamson suggests taking things day by day.

“What we are experiencing can seem like one big blur,” she says. “But despite the challenges, maintaining routines and thinking about what you can do each day to feel more motivated and hopeful is beneficial to overall well-being.”

Article as seen in the Winter 2021 issue of Princeton House Behavioral Health Today.