12th-18th June marks Men’s Health Week in the UK organised by the Men’s Health Forum. This year, the theme for the week is men’s health and the internet.
The internet was born in 1983, whilst the very first iPhone hit shops in 2007. A 2022 study estimated that the average UK adult now spends around five and a half hours on their phone every day, searching for that dopamine hit that often accompanies checking your devices.
Many of us have grown up with the equivalent of a high-performance computer in the palm of our hands (or have adopted it somewhere along the way!), and whilst there are positives of a life lived online, usage can come with a range of downsides for our physical and mental wellbeing, relationships, and more, including:
- Excessive screen time can cause health problems such as migraines, trouble sleeping and eye strain
- High social media usage in young people has been linked to low self-esteem, poor body image, and even depression and suicidal thoughts
- Oversharing online can open you up to the risk of cyberbullying, fraud and identity theft
- Some studies even correlate our increasing dependence on social media with decreasing levels of overall happiness.
On the other hand, there are hundreds of benefits to the internet, including:
- Staying in contact with friends and family across the globe
- The ability to try new things and discover different hobbies and interests
- Increased access to learning and development tools
- Increased access to advice and support, e.g., for mental or physical health, self-care or self-improvement
- Fun and entertainment.
We asked some of our male colleagues across Newbury Building Society to tell us about their experiences of internet usage, and how they feel it affects them and their peers. Here’s what they had to say:
Matthew, Senior Branch Manager:
"For me, the internet is a necessary evil. I’m just about old enough to remember not having any internet access. Even when I did, we never had access at my family home, so I only started using it properly when I went to university. Today I can’t imagine not having it and what we would do if it went away. Music, podcasts, and TV are all online. I rarely watch live TV and just watch streaming services like Amazon Prime, Netflix, and even just iPlayer. I walk a lot and listen to a lot of podcasts to unwind, so not having these would seriously negatively affect me. I don’t often use social media to contact people other than WhatsApp which I use a lot. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. are more for seeing what is going on in the wider world, not only with friends but with famous people also.
The downside is that it is so easy to lose yourself just ‘doom scrolling’ for what could end up being 30mins plus. These days it is easy to ‘dual screen’ also - watching TV whilst simultaneously scrolling. So much time is wasted doing this rather than interacting with people, but then this does help people unwind. It isn’t great though seeing people out for a meal and they are just both on their phones. We can no longer cope in this modern world without the internet, but giving yourself a break now and then is vital."
Calum, Marketing Assistant:
"One huge benefit of the internet on health and mental health is freely accessible information. There is a huge amount of information out there that can help with your health and mental health, the NHS website being one.
There are negatives to this accessibility, you have to be careful about who you connect with and what information you consume, and websites like Wikipedia can be edited by anyone. Social media has created a world of interconnectivity where people who share similar interests across the globe can reach out to each other, connect, and share information – there is however a layer of anonymity that protects people with nefarious intentions. Anyone can claim to be anything online. So, as amazing as it is to have access to millions of people and information at the drop of a hat, you have to be aware that not everything is as it seems."
Rich, Project Manager:
"I really enjoy weightlifting and I wanted to improve but couldn’t justify the cost of a personal trainer. I discovered that my local gym offers online coaching where I can have a bespoke program written for me to access loads of awesome videos to help with form. It's allowed me to continue doing what I love at a reasonable price. Without the online option, I’d probably have stopped doing it.
Keeping family members safe online as a Dad is a huge downside of the internet, I’ve had to get my head around different social media apps, what security controls they have, and talking to my girls about safety. It’s a sure-fire way to make you feel old!
Another downside is that I watch lifting videos and take an interest in fitness as a whole. The fitness industry online doesn’t do a great job of reflecting reality, the obvious things are women’s fitness the image of being slim, etc. but men have just as many issues."
For more information on Men's Health Week 2023 and to access a variety of useful resources, visit the Men's Health Forum website.