Twenty years from now the world will be filled with past-thought impossibilities. One such is the “Mirror World” made possible by augmented reality it is a completely digital replica of reality, a dimensional online space in the physical world. Imagine walking down the street seeing an old friend, and a notification physically appearing hovered above their head listing their bio, what they have done in the interim since you’ve last seen them, even data as personal as their mood. Imagine following arrows on the sidewalk to reach a destination instead of following GPS’s directions. This is the digital mirror world, and evaluating the current patterns of digital usage it’s apparent that the digital world has already taken over reality, leaving in its wake a concerning disruption of present consciousness and mental wellbeing.
A test that proves this point. You are going on an evening stroll, phone free. The sun is setting perfectly against the treeline, the soft palette of orange and yellow cooled off by the forestry green and blue. How much of what you are seeing is the beauty of nature and how much are you assessing as an instagrammable scene? Is it that vista or is it the popularity potential the vista holds?
Our outlook on life is increasingly digital even when we are not physically on our devices. We are conjuring up tweets about daily happenings, mentally pinpointing instagram venues we see and thinking about how, what and when to respond to texts and snapchats. In short, our time apart from our phone is largely spent thinking about our phone. We have become binaries in the real world split by digital personas and how to upkeep them and our IRL humanity.
This isn’t a novel truism, we know how digitally-obsessed our society is. What is interesting to point out is how present awareness and mental health is being marginalized by this digital takeover. How momentary living is being replaced by digitally-captured moments, and how this retreat from mindfulness into digitalization is leaving a gaping hole for stress to take over.
The University of Pennsylvania recently carried out a study that linked the long suspected correlation between social media use and anxiety and depression. They sampled 140 graduates dividing them into two group, one that continued regularly with their social media consumption and the other limited Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram to ten minutes a day on each application. All participants completed an evaluation prior and following the completion of this intervention assessing their psychological state. The results showed that the group with limited social media time reduced levels of depression and loneliness within the three-week period, particularly those who came in with higher levels of depression.
Take the study as evidence, or simply reflect on your own digital usage. Do you feel better or worse after snapping or stalking or posting? Let that gut feeling be your compass with respects to digital usage. And as you guide your way through this digital complex, take into account just how impactful it’s influence is becoming. When taking an evening stroll, look at the landscape for its beauty, not it’s monetary instagram value. If you do catch yourself in that digital realm prioritizing online instead of in space, bring an awareness to that thought and place it in perspective. In meditation practices, bringing awareness to a distraction allows you to notice it for what it is, an unimportance. And with an exhale, you are able to let that vexation go. With digital usage, it is important to be meditative with our consumption by being able to filter digitization, exhale and re-establish present consciousness. Because if you get caught up in the cycle of admiring a scene just for likes and taking a picture just for posts, while your account may benefit, it is at the sake of your mentality.