The Toll of Online Connectivity
Have you been feeling irritated about being unable to keep your hands off the smartphone and computer? Or from being seen online and having to interact on social media platforms? The irritation may be owing to the fact that the time and energy spent with the digital ecosystem is coming at the cost of your time, mental space, and maybe even your real-life social interactions. In essence, if you are feeling the wear and tear stemming from constant online connectivity, your body and mind might be showing symptoms of digital toxification. The symptoms may vary from inexplicable low mood and energy, getting easily triggered to events, exaggerated reactions, inability to let yourself disconnect from the grid, loss of appetite, improper sleeping patterns, compulsion to keep checking your phone, inability to stand the separation from the phone, and even becoming stoic to events and people around you; these are just a few out of the many symptoms. The difficulties arising from the toxic effects of online connectivity and digital ecosystems are as unique as the user, hence it can be quite challenging to identify oneself or others suffering from it, let alone choosing to start a digital detox. Digital detox refers to a break or some time away from technology, taken by people facing difficulties stemming from its use. Individuals who take up digital detox shall be refraining from the use of digital media and related electronics, and focusing on themselves, their real-life settings or events or the people around them. Research has found that technology can be a significant source of stress in a person’s life.
Screentime has been found to be detrimental to the youth affecting their sleep, mood, energy and capacity to function efficiently. Higher technology usage by kids can put them at a greater risk of developing insomnia, anxiety, ADHD, conduct disorders and poor self self-regulation. Teenagers have been found to be obsessing over the like and comment counts on social media platforms, developing a compulsive need of staying connected to not feel left out or develop FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). Recent studies have substantiated evidence on the development of disorders arising from addiction to phones, social media, games and the internet. Digital detox is becoming popular among adults owing to many reasons ranging from work-life balance, stress stemming from constant connectivity, being in the rat race, cut-throat competition, and comparison to others based on their social media activity. The new phenome “Work From Home (WFH)” has been found to cause unprecedented occupational and personal distress, as both the management and employees ignore the fine line that separates work responsibilities from personal obligations. It can be the management asking you to check your emails/tasks post working hours or on holidays, or the employee unintentionally checking on their job-related specifics due to habit because their workspace is now the same as their home and leisure space. But there are a considerable amount of individuals who are functionally happy and healthy from the comfort of their living space; as long as there is a healthy balance, digital media usage and connectivity are boons rather than threats/banes. The process of digital detox involves commitment and willpower.
It need not be as drastic as shunning away all technology and online connectivity. It can be setting up a realistic goal of refraining from technology for a certain period which could be daily or thrice a week to focus on self and real-life events. Deciding on mini-detox periods after work or near dinner time to immerse self completely with family or significant others, as well as abstaining from screen time a while before bedtime can improve mental health, sleep and well-being and is more feasible than a full-fledged disconnection. The idea is to set realistic limits and goals, along with ensuring the least distractions like- keeping the phone off or silent, leaving the work laptop at the office or having a separate den at home for online work, ensuring adaptive real-life engagements so that you won't be tempted to reach for technology, etc. Involving others to assist can aid in support and motivation to see the detox through. Start small and sustainable with time-outs from certain apps to systematically increase at your pace to ensure that the practice is feasible and can be consistently kept up.