The year 2020 has been a very unfortunate year. The pandemic certainly exacerbated the stress level among many. As per the WHO, about 280 million people of all ages in the world suffer from depression. An even more disturbing fact is that every 40 seconds, one person in the world commits suicide. Most of us are either not aware of this or overlook these facts, assuming it would never happen in their life. Only when it hits in their personal life like a brick in the head is when they realise how serious this problem is in society today.
It is worth noting that there has been a significant rise in stress and anxiety levels amongst people over the last few years. This is in spite of the fact that human life in the 21st century has reached quite an advanced level. With the most sophisticated technology, our life has never been smoother, simpler, faster and more comfortable in the history of human civilisation. So then why are people suffering from depression in spite of all the modern technologies and gadgets at their service? This seems like it has to do something with human nature itself.
Certainly, this is not an endemic human trait. Rather, it is linked to people’s habits, which could be technologically influenced — for example, feeling jealous after seeing a post from a friend on Facebook or Instagram. This can be called the ‘Facebook Effect’, which, in simple words, is the easiest way of getting depressed by constant comparison with others.
Companies such as Facebook thrive on people’s attention and the amount of time they spend posting on the wall or checking what others have posted. On one side, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube are some of the best media to express our ideas and thoughts, but on the other end, they are also perfect destinations to harness our vices of jealousy, envy, comparison and narcissism. Because people don’t just look at their own posts but also see others’ posts and start comparing. This leads to constant thinking, worrying and being obsessed with others.
Getting more likes, comments, views, shares and followers becomes their obsession. Isn’t this a perfect recipe for building stress in our minds? Younger people are so much obsessed with how they look, how many likes they get or what others comment on their posts that this anxiety and drive to look the best (even after using all kinds of photo-editing filters) amongst their peers leads to further obsession, often causing depression.
One of the peculiar expectations from today’s young generation is that they don’t expect to have any problems in their lives. This expectation itself is flawed. But it’s not completely their fault either, because this generation has been raised in some of the most technologically advanced eras when compared to the entire human generation. Never has it been so simple to send a text or call a friend in another country within seconds using a mobile phone or laptop.
Coupled with technology is the high standard of living as compared to the previous generation’s that has led to a comfortable life for this young generation. So when they expect that they should never face problems, they start feeling anxious every time they find things not working out for them.
The rich suffer from a constant fear of losing what they have earned and what happens is that instead of enjoying what they already have, start living an anxious life over what they might lose. And anxiety, sooner or later, leads to depression. Besides, one’s work has become more monotonous and with a non-human touch to it. This is because in older days, the work used to be associated more with people or nature, and not just machines. The machines were just tools to enable better productivity. But today, what we see is our work and life revolving around machines and gadgets.
The relevance of our work has simply been lost when we think about automation or the emerging artificial intelligence. People have started realising that someday, machines will become more intelligent and hence replace human work (this has already started happening in many sectors). Hence, this fear of losing jobs, the non-relevance of the education they had learnt, the fast pace of skills becoming obsolete, and hence, the constant need to upskill themselves just to keep their jobs running has made many of them sad and depressed.
Apart from other issues such as relationship problems and domestic violence, which also leads to a rise in depression in society, there is another element — people have forgotten that the real purpose of human life is to be in service of humanity. Rather, what we see today in society is that people are in a rat race, running behind topping exams such as JEE or UPSC, getting a six-figure salary or six-pack body, or even wishing to settle in America someday.
Today’s society has indeed become cynical and narcissistic. And the environment has become so toxic that those who do not conform with the above aim in life often get sidelined or neglected for being losers. This fear of failing or losing out to one’s peers in the race has been one of the biggest reasons for depression and suicides today.
On the contrary, it can be seen that the few people who are indeed working for the betterment of society never get depressed. This might involve researching for years to solve a problem or volunteering for those in need. That’s why iconic personalities like Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa, Elon Musk and many more who have worked and served to make human life better have not faced as much anxiety or depression in their lives.
To combat depression, not only should people reduce their obsession with social media sites like Facebook, but also maintain a work-life balance. Mental health is as important as one’s financial priorities or career growth. The need for yoga and meditation in one’s life has never been so high before.
And the most important part is to accept that depression is a serious illness and not something that can be neglected. Because no one is immune to depression and there is no vaccine for it today. Hence, the onus lies on the people to help those suffering from depression and spread awareness about this.
Note: The article was originally published here.