Jerry O: How Technology has Affected our Mental Health (Part 1) - Is Technology Good?

Our dependency and reliance in technology has come this far; technology has a huge impact on its users' mental and physical well-being.  Our online behaviour and interaction with technology has been associated with some psychological issues such as distraction, narcissism, expectation of instant gratification, and even depression.  The use of technology has also been attributed to negative symptoms on physical health such as vision problems, hearing loss, and neck strain. 
We will briefly look at the effects of technology on mental health, on how technology in itself is a good tool.  We would also discuss about some psychological issues that have come about in the recent years due to technology in Part 2.

Technology is Good
If you think about what is one of the biggest multi-million dollar transport company (Uber/Grab), retail company (Amazon/Ali Baba) and hotelier (Airbnb) in the world today, you will realise that they all have one thing in common.  None of them own physical assets that relates to their company.  Uber and Grab does not own a fleet of vehicles or taxis.  Amazon or AliBaba has no physical retail space or physical inventory.  And Airbnb does not own any hotel or buildings.  Yet all of them are well known, multi-million dollar companies.  My point:

Technology made it all possible. 
50 years ago, their ideas probably wouldn’t take off.  Technology is good.  It made millionaires out of people who own no physical asset.  This is the disruption of technology to the conventional business model.  And it is nothing new that technology will continue to disrupt conventional thoughts, behaviours and practices.

Technology has brought about globalization and modernization of our world today.  Work processes, traffic and transportation has been simplified.  It has connected people from one end of the world to the other in a split second.  Technology helped us effectively search for information we need, and filters through large amounts of data instantly and on the go.  Technology also gives us immediate access to products, services and solutions at our finger tips.  Technology has made treatment and management of illnesses less intrusive and more painless.  Even security and warfare has change with drone and robotic technology, reducing the need to put human lives in danger during missions and on duty.  The way we live today is a vast improvement to what we have endured 30 years ago, the convenience, the lifestyle, accessibility and safety all thanks to technology!

Technology Related Psychological Issues
The effects of technology on mental health may depend on whether we are in control of the technology usage or whether the technology is controlling us.  According to Crawford (2011), children and teens, ages 8-18, are spending nearly 11-12 hours in a typical day using media, including playing video games, watching TV, listening to music, and on their devices.  Although during some of this time these individuals are multitasking (using more than one device at a time), by comparison, less than one hour each day is being spent socializing in person by people 15 years old and older.

Kids are getting more technologically savvy and at younger ages, hence we get the terminology “digital natives” that describes the children of this generation.  A growing number of research has found that technology can be both beneficial and harmful to the cognitive development and perception of children.  Moreover, this influence isn’t just affecting children on the surface of their thinking.  Rather, because their brains are still developing and malleable, frequent exposure to technology is actually wiring the brain in ways very different than in previous generations. 

What has been observed is that, as with advances throughout history, the available technology of one’s time, determines how our brains develops.  For example, the dawn of the internet age has brought about the emergence of reading, encouraging our brains to be focused and imaginative, it also strengthens our ability to scan information rapidly and efficiently.  However, it has also made us more demanding and impatient when we have to wait.  The children of the internet age struggle with delayed gratification because they have been conditioned to receive on demand.
Image Credit: https://fireuptoday.com/key-success-factor-delayed-gratification/
Even for adults, much of our stress is caused by technology. We often become overwhelmed by technology's flood of incoming demands on our time and energy. Mobile phones, texting, e-mail, WhatsApp, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram notifications all insistently demanding an immediate response. We sometimes allow our gadgets to dictate our lives. You see people pull out their phones and two minutes later do it again, even though nothing has taken place. That is driven by a reflex action, as well as by our anxiety to make sure we haven’t missed out on anything.

Social isolation can also be caused by overuse of technology.  While it may appear that WhatsApp, Twitter, and Facebook have the potential to reduce social isolation, none of these forms of communication include face-to-face contact.  Today we can see families and friends at dinner tables with everyone looking at or engaged with their mobile devices at the same time and no one talking to one another.  Some research is suggesting that people are having a harder time even understanding facial expressions.  It is important to cultivate a balance between face-to-face and online communication.

The interruptions and urgency of technology's demands can affect family life as well.  Technology allows the lines between work and home to become blurred, as people are more easily able to take work home with them.  Many people find it difficult to turn off the technology and stop working.  Failure to set boundaries is harmful to both physical and mental health.

Stay Tuned for Part 2!!!

SG Psych Stuff @ SPS Psych Week 2018: Review Part 2

Image Credit: https://singaporepsychologicalsociety.org/events/psychweek2018/
Have you seen Part 1?  If not, here it is!!
 Let’s continue from where we have left off during the last post:

Day 3
Topic: Technological disruptions in private practice: A forum discussion
Speakers: Tey Beng Huan and Edgar Tham

Both Beng Huan and Edgar agree that technology may have the possibility to take over a lot of jobs.  However, there are still lots of aspects that require human touch and interaction to resolve the issue or to look into the concerns involved.  Hence, the job scope of a psychologist is less likely to be taken over by technology, but rather can be complemented with the use of technology.  They have shared that in both Industrial and Organizational (I/O) Psychology and Sport Psychology, technology has made significant impact in terms of the assessment and the tracking systems.  Both professionals have used various technology to replace the traditional survey methods.  They strive to use technology to better achieve the accuracy of the results and better assist the organizations or individuals to analyse the concerns, and ways to improve the situations.
This talk has given a significant insight to all audiences that assessments and surveys can be done in a more engaging and accurate method via the existing technology.  A common and powerful tool mentioned in this talk is to  the 360-profiling system that allows us to get an average opinion from self, management, direct supervisor, peers, subordinates and even clients who we have interacted with to get a holistic view on the concerns that we want to look into.
Image Credit: https://www.mysurveylab.com/en/blog/360-feedback-survey/
All in all, I think this talk is fairly useful for new psychology professionals to have a brief understanding on how assessments can be done in the field of I/O Psychology as well as Sport Psychology.  This means other than the traditional method of collecting the data from individuals, we are now able to use a more creative and accurate way to collect the data.

Day 4
Topic: Workplace disruptions and the impact on learning
Speaker: Christy Chung
I am particularly amazed that being a mum of 5 children and a full-time job, she is very driven to gain new knowledge.  She has just embarked on her PhD program, and also recently graduated from a NAFA program.  Christy shared that being the oldest in the class, she faced great challenges to learn how to manage the technology, however she is determined to learn and practice many times from home and finally she pulled it through.  Through this experience, she shared that the motivation of learning in students is highly related to the the learning experiences in the classroom and the intrinsic motivation of the students.

Although Christy is not from the Psychology field, she provided great insights on how technology impacted on the learning of different generations.  From her experience heading a career office, she shared some inputs towards the necessary skills and attributes of today's graduates. She also shared some possible insights towards the upcoming trends where psychology students can consider to venture into.

Day 5
Topic: Enhancing Your Psychology Journey Through Volunteering
Speaker: Xavierlyn Tan

This talk is one of the highest attendance out of the five days with active volunteers making up about half of the audience.  This resulted in an insightful discussion on volunteering.  Let's explore the concept of volunteering as shared in the talk.
Who can volunteer? Everyone!
As a unique individual, everyone has something to contribute.  It is up to us to decide for ourselves which avenue is best to contribute back to society.  Volunteering takes up many forms but can be loosely classified into two categories.

Regular Volunteering 
  • Personal Interaction
  • Commitment
  • Soft Skills
Adhoc Volunteering
  • Behind the scenes
  • Flexibility
  • Technical Skills
Note: There is a fine line between Regular and Adhoc Volunteering

It is a common belief that volunteering means one must interact directly with individuals of an organisation. But, it is not true! Other forms of volunteering can include video taking, events planning such as planning for a community outreach day to bring awareness to the needy family.

As the different forms of volunteer work require specific skill sets, volunteers are place in a position where they can get out of their comfort zone to better serve the organisation or community, which in turn may also grow the volunteers in terms of their skill set or as an individual.

Perks of volunteering
It is bewildering how much benefits are tagged to the act of volunteering. There are numerous studies that suggest a correlational nature of volunteering with happiness (Mellor, Hayashi, Stokes, Firth, Lake, Staples, and Cummins, 2007), longevity (Post, 2005) and motivations for self-improvement (Snyder, 2011).

Psychology students reap the additional benefits from these pre-graduation exposures as these may help them decide on their respective specialization.  The interaction with the psychology professionals also provides an opportunity to network with fellow like-minded individuals.

My personal takeaway for volunteering is the need to understand the core reason for why I should volunteer.  As a freshman, it is important for me to network and get exposed to different fields of volunteering to find a field that I truly keen to work on it.  This talk made me realise there is more to volunteering; what really matters is the attitude.  The prime reason to volunteer is to give the kindness of your heart.  Despite my lack of qualifications, it is still a way to give back to the society.

As an adhoc volunteer, I may shy away from taking up certain responsibilities if I do not believe I am able to do them well.  By avoiding the challenging tasks, I do not grow in my capacity as a volunteer.   After my due reflection, I’m determined to try new roles if given a chance to return to the society.
If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.” - Gilbert K. Chesterson
Conclusion
We would like to thank Nelson, Cai Yun, and B, a core member of SG Psych Stuff.  To us, PsychWeek 2018 has been an enlightening journey for us and we have also met many wonderful people to share distinct perspectives and to get new insights.  To those have attended the PsychWeek 2018, we hope you have learnt something useful as well throughout the sessions.

References
Mellor, D., Hayashi, Y., Stokes, M., Firth, L., Lake, L., Staples, M., & Cummins, R. (2007). Volunteering and Its Relationship With Personal and Neighborhood Well-Being. Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 38(1), 144-159. doi:10.1177/0899764008317971
Post, S. G. (2005). Altruism, happiness, and health: It’s good to be good. International Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 12(2), 66-77. doi:10.1207/s15327558ijbm1202_4
Snyder, M. (2011). Working for the Common Good: Individuals and Groups Address the Challenges Facing the World. For the Greater Good of All, 167-182. doi:10.1057/9780230116269_10

SG Psych Stuff @ SPS Psych Week 2018: Review Part 1

Image Credit: https://singaporepsychologicalsociety.org/events/psychweek2018/
Singapore Psychological Society has conducted a week-long series of talks, known as SPS Psych Week 2018.  I would say it was overall a fruitful week and interesting discussions were brought up each time after the talk.  There were always participants who stayed back to discuss further with the speakers with regards to their concerns or points of view.  Here’s are some of the takeaways and what have been shared during the SPS Psych Week 2018.

Day 1
Topic: Coping in our World of Disruption: How technology has affected our mental health and methods of coping with stress
Speaker: Jeremy  Oliveiro (Lecturer at Ngee Ann Polytechic and MINDEF Defence Psychologist)

As a lecturer in Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Jerry finds that he needs to be kept up to date on the technology to be used for the class facilitation.  Jerry thinks that students these days depend a lot on the technology and would be more motivated or tend to concentrate better with the use of technology.  At the same time, Jerry has also shared the technology can be a good tool for assessment or coping mechanisms, but it also can have significant impact on our mental health and any related psychological issues.
Changes due to modern technology
One of the impacts that Jerry shared was that we tend to accept delayed gratification lesser these days.  For instance, television and movie frames these days are showed less than 4 seconds for each scene.  This indirectly has caused us to be easily frustrated if any scene appears for too long.  It does transfer the same effect to our daily living.  The example he stated was that we used to be able to wait for bus for more than half an hour, and yet we tend to be more upset if we must wait for more than 15 minutes now.
Another prominent example is that we tend to hook up with the games on easily these days due to the variable reward system.  Research showed that variable reward system engaged a person more as compared to the fixed reward system (Weinschenk, 2013).

Benefits of technology
With regards to tools used during the lesson, Mentimeter and Kahoot were mentioned to be used to engage students.  Students seem to be more engaged with these use of technology as compared to ‘I talk, you listen’ kind of teaching style.
Another crucial point to note also that social media platforms are also used to create different support groups or awareness campaigns to help those in needs to tie through their down-periods.  These are the beauty of using the technology to benefit the community.

Issues of technology
The above video showed that how current society has put more emphasis on the phone than anything else.  For instance, we take photos before we eat, we take videos when we watch concert or celebrating birthdays, we take photos during the meet up just to be posted on Instagram and many others.  We have gradually neglected the connection with humans.  We connect so much with each other via social media that we may sometimes overlook the actual emotions that we have within ourselves or even our loved ones surrounding us.

My biggest take away from this session was that the technology is always good to be used to plan a more creative lessons or creative ways to engage the audience.  However, it is also important to manage the purpose of the technology or the content that people read from websites.  It is indeed not easy to manage; hence, it still boils down to educators or parents to facilitate or manage the content that may ultimately affect the students or children’s tendency to be addicted to technology.

Day 2
Topic: Minds and Miners: Disruptive technology in psychological research
Speaker: Karyen Chai

Advancements in technology has positively impacted research in psychology, such as the development of the electroencephalography (EEG), Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI), and the use of algorithms.  The device that most of us can’t live without - our cell phones - has also increased our efficiency in data collection through online surveys.
Image Credit: https://ijgolding.com/2014/11/25/the-big-wi-fi-conundrum-a-way-to-make-money-or-a-way-to-give-customers-what-they-need/
Thanks to our mobile devices (and Wi-Fi), researchers are now able to collect substantial amounts of data at a fraction of the cost.  Along with the substantial amounts of data comes data mining.

Data Mining
What comes to mind when we think of data mining?
Big Data?  Statistics?  Facebook?
The essence of data mining is to extract patterns from substantial amounts of data to understand and predict.  Data mining is commonly used in businesses (e.g., stocks), medical research, and companies like IBM, eBay, Facebook, and Google.  However, data mining is not yet as commonly used in psychological research (Cheung & Jak, 2016).
Data mining at work:  One moment you’re scrolling through products on eBay, the next moment you see advertisements of the same product appearing on Facebook!
While data mining has the potential to strengthen empirical research in psychology (Cheung & Jak, 2016), there are some things that we need to consider.
Pros of Data Mining
  • Unfiltered truth
  • Proven to work
  • Statistical significance
Cons of Data Mining
  • Loss of privacy
  • Questionable ethics
  • Targeted marketing/information
Some important questions about data mining, as Ms Karyen asks, are:
  1. Who does the data belong to - us or the data collector?
  2. Who is having our data?
  3. If we use services for free, does that give companies the right to use our data?
  4. If we pay for the services, should data collectors not be allowed to use the data?
These are important questions, but they lie in a ‘gray area’ and there are no straightforward answers to them.

So what can we do about it?
For practitioners:
  • There is a need to ensure that clients are making an informed choice about providing their personal data.
  • The amount of data used should ensure anonymity of the client.
  • How long should these data be stored - 5, 10 years?
For individuals: 
  • Be more aware of the data that we are sharing online.
In sum, data mining can potentially bring huge benefits to psychological research, but many questions remain about its ethics and our loss of privacy associated with its use.  I came to the talk with some questions in mind about data mining but left with even more questions!  However, data mining is already being used in some psychological research (e.g., Cheung & Jak, 2016) and I believe that this trend of using big data will inevitably grow in psychological research.  Thus, we need to ask these questions to ensure ethical usage of these data.

If you like to learn more about Big Data and its implication for psychological research, here's a video by American Psychological Association:

Conclusion for the first two days of the talks
They are rather very informative and so far, we have been quite benefited from the talk.  There will be another post coming up to cover the rest of the talks.  If you have attended the talks as well, do share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

References
Cheung, M. W., & Jak, S. (2016). Analyzing big data in psychology: A split/analyze/meta-analyze approach. Frontiers in Psychology, 7, 1-13. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2016.00738.
[Full article link: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2016.00738/full]
Weinschenk, S. (2013). Use unpredictable rewards to keep behaviour going: Do you know what the casinos know? Retrieved from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/brain-wise/201311/use-unpredictable-rewards-keep-behavior-going

SG Psych Stuff @ SPS Psych Week 2018: Why should you be coming to the SPS Psych Week 2018

It is now 2 weeks to Singapore Psychological Society’s (SPS) annual flagship event – SPS Psych Week.  Many should have registered for some talks for this event, regardless of whether you are a SPS or non-SPS member.  Each talk has their own dedicated sign up page.  For those who are interested and yet to sign up, you can sign up individually for all talks that you wish to attend on the respective event pages at https://singaporepsychologicalsociety.org/events/psychweek2018/.  There will be a total of 6 speakers spread across from 18 June 2018 – 22 June 2018.
Image Credit: https://singaporepsychologicalsociety.org/events/psychweek2018/
So why should we attend the SPS Psych Week?
As one of our team members once shared:
Understanding an individual is through the words people use with the nonverbal signs so we could observe and being able to tell if a person is excited, sad, hiding something or if they are relaxed.  However, with constant advancement of technology, people start relying a lot on social media which the nonverbal signs are replaced by smileys and emoticons which we cannot actually tell whether people meant the smileys or emoticons that they sent.
Modern technology has been constantly becoming more advanced these days.  Despite the fact that technology may make our lives easier, it may also bring disruptions to our lives, work as well as psychological practices.  We may not be conscious about the impact of the modern technologies; hence, professionals are here to share their views and knowledge on the impact and the possible coping strategies with application of psychology knowledge we could consider to enhance our lives, work environment and even the World of Psychology.
This is a great platform where all aspiring psychologists, psychology students or even any individuals who are interested in psychology to gain more information on how modern disruptions affect our world of psychology.  The amazing part is that we will have a collection of insightful thoughts from different professionals including psychologist practitioners, a education professional and a psychology student.  Fruitful discussions may surface during the talk as well to further enhance the knowledge with regards to the topic.

In conclusion, it is always good to be prepared on the area that you have interest in, come and learn about different perspectives from different professionals and how they come together to value add the modern society with their knowledge.  Being open minded always works wonder for you to maximize your learning potential as well as meeting new friends who share the same passion.

Xav: Why do an overseas internship?

Image Credit: http://www.internationalgraduate.net/blog/
three-key-communication-tools-for-internship-success/
It’s the summer holidays once again as the next batch of Year 3 students prepare for their internships and exchanges.  As a soon-to-be Year 2 or even soon-to-be Year 1 student, you might be starting to dwell on the possible countries you wish to head to for your exchange - a quintessential part of the university experience.  After all, it is prudent to seize your summer holidays to decide on the countries to apply for the following semesters.  Yet, more universities are offering increasingly interesting global programmes such as overseas internships.  While going on an overseas exchange freezes your GPA and allows you to immerse in another country’s culture, an overseas internship might be more beneficial to your future career path while doing the same.  If you’re seeking reasons for doing an overseas internship, this post is for you.
1. Better understanding of a country’s Psychology field
If you intend to pursue a career out of Singapore after graduation, an overseas internship would arguably be more beneficial for you.  While both overseas internships and overseas student exchanges offer the opportunity for you to immerse in another culture, it may be challenging to understand a country’s work culture, especially in a specific field unless you work in it.  Doing an overseas internship allows you to understand and adapt to the country’s work culture better when you work there in the future.  For example, if you wish to venture into I/O Psychology in another country, the work environment in Singapore is likely to be distinct from that of the other country.  Reading up or hearing from someone may be informative; however, the experience is not quite the same as being there yourself.

2. Forging global connections
When you’re interning overseas, you gain the opportunity to make connections from professionals all over the world.  As mentioned in many of our previous posts, forging professional relationships is a long-term investment and offers you greater insights to the gaps in the field, and even facilitates discussion of possible solutions within your interested field with these professionals.
Through networking, you gain greater appreciation for the field and may even open more channels for overseas career advancements.
As fresh graduates, you may also wish to further pursue your studies and obtain a Masters’ degree or a Doctorate.  Having a professional relationship with foreign experts opens more opportunities for you to getting connected with relevant parties vital to your academic advancements.

3. Standing out to future employers
Even if you do not intend to work overseas in the future, many employers value international experience.  This is pertinent to the psychology field, especially in the work of research.  Imagine being a fresh graduate and already having international work experience on your resume?  While most university students have done internships during their 3 to 4 years in university, seldom do you come across students with overseas work experience.
Having overseas work experience portrays yourself as an individual who is determined to pursue personal growth out of your comfort zone, as well as your commitment and passion towards your desired field.
4. Honing your language skills
How else can you best improve a language unless you are in the country speaking the language?
There are few corporate advantages in learning a foreign language.   One would be better communication with others from different cultures.  People generally trust you more if you speak their language.  As a student, while you may have the time to take language modules or learn a language at your own time and pace, it is definitely more conducive to your learning if you are immersed in a day-to-day environment where everyone speaks the language.  Having fluency in another language elevates your professional relationship with potential foreign colleagues and foreign clients.
You may ask, how is this relevant to Psychology?
As a psychologist, it is inevitable that you would meet into foreign clients.  Having a harmonious psychologist-client relationship is undeniably important in the process of generating results.  Who knows, the foreign language you know may aid you in bridging a gap between you and your client in the future?
5. Improving your self-confidence
Working overseas trains your social skills.  Having to interact with foreigners requires adaptability and cultural sensitivity which can best be trained when you communicate with foreigners.  Overtime, these skills become of second nature to you since you have been practicing it for a period of time every day.  Additionally, being alone in another country forces you to be independent, as well as teach you to handle your problems.  In turn, you become more confident with making decisions, which can be useful in your future work environment and day-to-day problem solving.
Image Credit: https://walton.uark.edu/career/international-internships.php

How do I find overseas internship?
1. Through your educational institutions (Polytechnics/Universities)
The easiest way to find overseas internships is through your school’s career office or relevant internship application officers. Through them, you will be able to get to know the various internship opportunities relating to your area of interest better, as well as obtain the school’s help in the process of applying.

Are there any funding available?
There are available funding available. Do contact your school’s representatives for more information. One such funding example for overseas work experience is the Young Talent Programme (YTP) - see http://www.skillsfuture.sg/ytp

2. Through internship/job portal websites offering oversea internships
Image Credit: https://glints.sg/
One good example would be Glints, where you are able to indicate your country of interest.  These websites allow you to match your skill sets with the positions available, cutting down time in your search for an overseas internship. The main downside to using these portals are that not all academic disciplines are covered due to the demand in respective countries, hence opportunities are rare and precious.

Conclusion
While overseas exchange programs are still the norm, you can consider overseas internships if you hope to have a competitive edge over others in your field of interest.  However, do remember that every university has different requirements and programs.  Be sure to figure out if there are any academic requirements and speak to your university’s career office when in doubt.
All the best!