Spending vast amounts of digital time during our waking hours is part of our normal routine today. And there is nothing wrong with that. Our homes are littered with devices (called gizmos) like smart phones, laptops, tablets (not necessarily medicines), headphones. The ‘app’ world has taken over our lives making everything as easy as the swish of a thumb. There are ‘apps’ for monitoring calories, weight, recipes, booking tickets, taxis including apps on mindfulness for peace and so on. Social networking sites, games, movies and radios serve as entertainment and companies offer attractive prizes including social recognition and fame for the user (in an instant of course). Where education is concerned, colleges and schools recognise the use of Internet for assignments, class notes (including sourcing information from scholarly articles).
‘Wait a sec….. !’ is a common plea from the device user to you when you are desperately trying to get a word in. The person may be peering at their mobile device, engrossed in the latest game or social post. Second-by-second updates make it hard for users to tear their eyes away from the screen. Of course, you will get instant attention when you reach out to the same person through a device!
Cyber distress: Like tobacco and alcohol use can lead to addiction (or dependence) so can the compulsive usage of gizmos. I read about a recent study conducted among teenagers reporting how those aged 13-15 years were hooked to online gaming; those aged 15-17 years were addicted to social networking sites (Sharma et al, at NIMHANS, Bangalore). Cyber ‘de – addiction’ clinics are now coming up to help persons addicted to gizmos in Indian metros. Besides counselling, the person is encouraged to interact with others via board games, read a book and talk with someone. Remember that accepting the fact that one is addicted is the first and the most difficult step.
What are some signs that we are gizmo-dependent?
Getting emotionally dependent on the gadget to feel good. For example, we feel boosted depending on the number of ‘likes’ or friend requests or on the number of followers we have on social networking sites.
Feeling let down, getting disappointed, facing rejection, anger (abusive, violent to those who ask us to get off devices) and losing control are some common emotions faced by people addicted to online activities. Some can feel like ending their lives.
Choosing online activities over eating healthy (routine mealtimes), proper sleep (late night chats, browsing) and physical activity (sports, outdoor life including walking for normal chores)
Falling interest in studies, hobbies or fun times at home and outside Go outside, smell the flowers and take that much-needed gadget holiday!