Digital detox: Fighting tech addiction needs an institutional push now

  • Feb 12, 2019
  • The Financial Express

The world is more ‘connected’—strictly in the digital sense—and yet the disconnect/alienation digital devices (a proxy for staying ‘connected’) foster in the real world is impossible to ignore. While all this ‘connectedness’ , per se, may not be ‘evil’—it saves time, money, and energy—how the world has taken to digital technology, reflected in the growing screen times across countries, there has been unpleasant, indeed, damaging fallout. Research shows that social media may well be making many of us unhappy, depressed and—paradoxically—antisocial. Even Facebook gets it. A study that Facebook cited in a blog post revealed that when people spend a lot of time passively consuming information, they wind up feeling worse. Excessive users and readers of online media have also reported feeling isolated, a lack of sleep, stress, inability to focus and addiction. In India, a door-to-door survey of 2,750 people funded by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) revealed 5-9% in the 15-50 age group were addicted.

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In a bid to tackle this phenomenon and spread awareness of the dangers of becoming over-reliant on technology in the country, the Service for Healthy Use of Technology (SHUT) clinic at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS) in Bengaluru, since 2014, has been devising strategies to treat “technology addiction”. Bengaluru’s schools have a digital detox day on which the Wi-Fi is switched off, as are mobile phones, tablets, computers and other gadgets, both in the school and home, by pushing for parents to spend more time with their children at home. Restaurants are now offering discounts to patrons for “logging out”—by depositing their gadgets with the restaurant for the duration of the meal. This is indeed a healthy way to impose a curb on screen-time. But, an institutional push towards educating the masses about the dangers of digital addiction is what is badly needed—given tech addiction has become widespread.

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