Believe it or not the close knit relationship that you share with your smartphone and other electronic devices has changed the way you view and interact with the world. Let’s face facts – most of us are constantly logged in! Recent studies reveal that 44 percent cell phone users sleep with their phones next to their beds and 80 percent users start their day with checking Whatsapp messages/emails within an hour of waking up. From endlessly scanning social media sites to incessantly checking emails, one is bound to tote around a heavy digital baggage day after day that seems to be wreaking havoc on the mind and body.
Just hit the virtual pause button for a minute and consider where your digital life is taking you! You’ll realize that your smartphone are making you less focused and more disconnected from your real life. The urge to connect with the virtual world is gradually eliminating the need for face to face human interactions. You might feel anxious if you’re offline for any length of time, stressed without cell phone reception or Internet connectivity and incomplete if you’ve forgotten your phone behind.
Apart from quickly peeping into your smart phone while someone else is talking to you, you’d rather spend every second of your free time checking out the ‘likes’ received on Facebook, a new video uploaded on YouTube, a photo that’s just gone up on Instagram, opinions on Twitter and more. Whether it’s in a waiting lounge or a social gathering, while running on the treadmill or standing in a queue, people prefer drifting into the virtual world rather than concentrating on the real world.
An event happens in your life and you start formulating your status update or tweet. It’s as if the event hasn’t really happened until you post it on social media. There are times when your child is updating you about his/her day at school but you are busy updating your status or profile pic on social media. Your spouse is talking to you in person, but you are busy chatting online or reading an email. And if this isn’t a picture of your own life, we all know someone for whom all this is true.
Little do we realize that it is these distractions and urges that prevent us from embracing the present and acknowledging reality. In fact this urgency to stay connected via the smart phone, all the time, is hazardous, warn experts.
Smart Steps towards a Smart ‘Phone-free’ You
It’s surprising how new businesses have mushroomed as a result of humanity’s craving to go offline. Digital Detox retreats and holidays, where gadgets are banned and one is inspired to stay away from technology, have become very popular. Thus, from running after a free Wi-Fi zone, you now find people running towards a Wi-Fi free environment.
The lack of constant distraction seems to free people’s minds to contemplate more important issues in their lives, but only temporarily. Studies suggest that a digital detox does no more to freeing you from Internet addiction as staying off your favorite snack for a week does to your waistline. Sure, you notice something, but the difference is minimal.
It might sound cliché, but at the end of the day, it’s all about striking a balance. It’s not a matter of giving up Facebook for weeks at a time or ignoring the flood unread messages or emails accumulating in your inbox. Rather, it’s about being mindful of the way you use the internet. Why not consider doing something else to take a break from screens, like stepping out for a walk or cycling or going for some basic shopping, minus your smartphone. Getting a bit of fresh air helps you realize that the outside world still exists!
Further, putting a limit to your screen time can be very helpful. You could start with half-an-hour and gradually wean off to few minutes and as a policy, turn off social media notifications post 7 pm. Moreover, make certain areas in the house, like the dining area and bedroom, gadget free.
Once you successfully cut down screen time, you’ll realize that your absence from social media doesn’t mean the world will stop running. “I had no access to the Internet, which meant no blogging and no Twitter, and when I returned, all was much the same. It really doesn’t matter that much”, says Abhinav Kapoor, who just returned from a one month hiatus.
Having been there, done that, Neeru Chawla said, “Deaddiction seemed very difficult initially, but I found my way out. For me, spending time with people who care about me and make me howl with laughter was the best antidote to internet addiction. You know, texting someone when you’re feeling depressed just doesn’t have the same impact as a face to face conversation. Does it?”
“I think use of social media is all about balance, restraint and intentionality,” she adds. Well, that sums it up!
– Pooja Malhotra