I read an interesting piece in the Atlantic about a year ago on technology and anxiety. The gist of it was that technology can creates anxiety but also help to alleviate it. I feel as if that applies to a lot of things. I remember one of the first speeches Bill Brown gave to our student body and faculty at the beginning of the year, he emphasized the importance of face to face communication and contact. He was worried about technology’s impact on how we communicate with each other. He thought we were losing something vital in how we interact as humans because of our dependence on screens, on how we would rather look down than up and in the eyes of the person in front of us. There is a flip side to this argument, and like many things a balance needs to be found, though as my experience with teenager has taught me it sure is hard.
Students with anxiety disorders are in quite a conundrum when it comes to technology. They can find some solace in tech. Often times face to face communication is terrifying for them and it is much easier to communicate through email or text. However, with the rise of social media platforms like snapchat and instagram, your online presence can be a source of anxiety in and of itself. Bullies are no longer just a physical presence they are an online presence as well. I think another major source of discomfort is the fact that students with anxiety disorders can become too dependent on technology as a means of communication. Social interactions take time and practice, and they might lose the skills needed to be successful in them if they are too tech dependent.
In 2009 I organized a facebook deletion party. I had six or seven people who agreed to delete their accounts along with me. However, I was the only one with the cojones to go along with the plan. Deleting one’s facebook was NOT easy in 2009. According to this article it is even harder now. There are major differences between deleting your account and deactivating your account. Deactivating your account means your profile is gone but Facebook saves all of your data. Deleting your account wipes everything out. I deleted mine for numerous reasons. I disliked the constant bombardment of updates. I was put into some sticky situations with work and photos of me out and about on the town, but one of the main reasons I deleted my account was because of the anxiety caused by looking over former classmates photos and updates. It was an online version of keeping up with the Joneses. As much as I didn’t care about Katie and Nick’s vacation to Mexico with sweet looking photos as I was stuck subbing for a San Francisco Public School. I did.
I think everybody suffers from a little social anxiety. As teachers we need to be cognizant of the fact that though we depend on technology to help us with our lessons we need to ensure we work on social communication skills. Thing such as eye contact, appropriate greetings, and personal space are learned behaviors. If we teach these behaviors it might help lessen some of the social anxiety are students suffer because they now know how to appropriately act.