By Shreya Durve, MBBS Student
Often, we find ourselves scrolling the night away on our cell phones, contemplating the glamorous lives we double-tap. Lately, there has been a growing discussion about the risks of continued use of social media and other forms of digital communication to stay in touch (especially in the midst of a pandemic).
While a large portion of our work life as well has been shifted to the online platform, it is important to recognise the hazards involved with being glued onto our screens. Although we present this blog to you via a blog (that is ironically using an online platform), we wish the best for our readers and hope that the advice laid out in this piece does wonder to your aura.
The shift from offline to online
The past 2 years have forced our lives to shift pace and platforms- with everything being done online. Although the situation has been mitigated to a certain extent, our lifestyles have essentially been changes, with work from home becoming a normal concept. Moving out of the comfort of our homes seems like a treacherous task while staying tucked in bed, with a cup of hot cocoa has turned into a daily routine.
While the internet has proved its worthiness, it is undeniably also associated with a number of harmful consequences- something which must be highlighted.
Like we already mentioned above, life has essentially changed to become an arena of online interactions. This kind of shift has effects not only on our personal lives but also on the productivity of our day to day lives.
For example, most offices have now resorted to working from home methods, to ensure the safety of their staff. While many may believe it to be a more relaxing venture, the constant flurry of work while sitting at home and simultaneously tending to household chores has taken a toll on many lives.
The following article is going to highlight some of the effects that the digital world has on our mental health and how we can go ahead with ridding its negative influence.
Multiple research studies have focused on the effects that the digital world has on various aspects of human life. There are studies linking screen time and various diseases on physical and mental aetiology. Experts also talk of the social deterioration that one undergoes when glued onto the screen for long hours- hindering developmental processes. Due to the growing emphasis on online education, the effects are slowly projecting onto the younger age groups and leading to many developmental disorders.
Here are a few noteworthy effects of the screen on our overall health:
1. Physical Health
• Eye Strain: It is not a secret that larger screen times can lead to strain of the eyes, and ultimately lead to greater problems like visual disturbances. The use of phones reduces our blink rate by almost half, thereby leading to drying of the eyes.
• Insomnia: How often have we scrolled our nights away on Instagram, or had the urge to reply to that “important” email we received as a part of our daily routine? Not only does it decrease the amount of sleep we receive, but using our phones or laptops right before bed has also been linked to decreased quality of sleep.
• Inactivity: More often than not, the urge to stick to the couch watching Netflix, with a bowl of popcorn is so high, we tend to ignore the nuances of the outside world- and ultimately give up on any form of movement. The need for exercise is something that has been highlighted time and time again, and it doesn’t come as a shocker that technology seems to affect that too!
• Poor posture: Have you ever scrolled through your phone lying at an odd position in bed, only to get a cramp later on? Well, we often don't realise, but the postures in which we consume technology can lead to chronic conditions later in life. While an indirect effect, it has led to significant morbidity in the modern world.
2. Mental Health
• Loneliness: The tendency to isolate ourselves increases as the usage of social media rises. Reports show a significant increase in the levels of feelings of loneliness among those who use social media. Not only does it give us the perceived feeling of social isolation, but it also affects actual interaction even in workspaces.
• Eating disorders and body dysmorphia: While social media provides a vast array of knowledge, it has its negative effects as we have already seen. One of the main topics of debate in today’s generation is the comparison being drawn between different people on social media. How often have we envied the life of a famous personality, and wished for ourselves to have similar attributes? The need to be more like the affluent on social media has driven a lot of teenagers to eat disorders and other body dysmorphic conditions.
• Cyberbullying: The internet can also be an unsafe space, especially for the marginalised community. Cyberbullying has taken over a large percentage of harassment cases and is slowly on the rise.
• Internet Addiction disorder: This is a category of illness that was recently added to the large catalogue of mental health conditions, owing to its numerous ill effects on all aspects of our life. Such individuals feel a sense of panic when separated from technology, and have difficulty adjusting to social environments.
We understand that it might be difficult to completely rid ourselves of technology, considering a large part of our lives depend on it- both professionally and personally. However, it is important to take breaks, and give time for ourselves to rejuvenate before we get into a new cycle of calls and texts. Here are a few tips to get started:
• Create a schedule with phone-free breaks: It’s always better to plan our day ahead, and include a few hours of technology-free breaks, where you can read a book, go for a walk or even complete that painting you couldn’t get to!
• No phones during meals: Meal times are usually a time when the entire family gets together and spends some time. Not only is this important to bond with your family, but also important for the children and their mental development. It is important to make your dinner table space free of buzzes and ringers!
• Use a different room/space: Create a physical barrier between you and your technology if you find it near impossible to stay away. You could keep your phone in a different room, on silent mode, or lock it in a box and keep it away from your reach- or even give it to your parents!
• Have you heard of digital detox apps?: You know it's a problem when even tech companies recognise the harm their products are unknowingly causing. There are apps today that help you stay away from your phone, and some devices even record your screen time to tell you to just stop!
• Think before you use: Only use technology when there is an added purpose to it, and not simply because you are bored. This might be difficult advice to follow in the beginning, but we promise it gets better.
Thank you for making our lives easier, and helping us connect better. Thank you for the assistance you provide in all aspects of our lives.
However, we need to go on a break. I think we both need the space.
Detoxify yourself today!
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