It almost feels like a scenario right out of a sci-fi movie. Post lock-down, the real world is slowly being subsumed by the online world. A laptop and mobile phone have together become the gateway to office meetings, classrooms, evening entertainment, grocery shopping, newspaper reading, keeping in touch with friends and a lot more. Therapists are also seeing the downside of this.
An average adult spends around 11 hours on the screen and it has only increased of late. “I have personally seen a rise in anxieties and obsessive compulsive behaviour post the lockdown. A lot of this anxiety has to do with information overload, with an urge to constantly check on covid related news,” says Sunita Menon, a city-based cognitive behavioural therapist, who says addiction to the internet covers many areas such as cyber sex, online relationships, gaming, shopping and social media. “It works a lot like substance abuse. The more you get, the more you want it.”
“I don’t think we can stay away from social media apps. Twitter is my source of ideas. If I plan it right, I will be able to get a lot from it rather than being lost in the distraction”
We all feel this addiction creeping into our lives in varying degrees. NC Sanjeev is a SaaS generalist who quit from a highly successful job to join a start-up that is into its baby steps. Needless to say, he spends a lot of time online networking with people. “As a rule of thumb all my notifications are turned off for all the apps. But after the lockdown, I began using apps like Twitter and Instagram a lot more,” says Sanjeev who considered uninstalling a few apps in between. “I don’t think we can stay away from social media apps. Twitter is my source of ideas. If I plan it right, I will be able to get a lot from it rather than being lost in the distraction. It’s a bad idea right now to be off social media. This should be seen as a part of networking. The question is if we can be more responsible about its usage,” he says.
The difficulty in identifying the problem is that it works at a very subconscious level. “There was a point when I would check the phone every five minutes. I see a lot of us feel the pressure to post important highlights of the day accompanied by clever one-liners on Instagram. But what is the point of it,” asks Puneet Murthika, who works as a community lead at a co-working space.
Strangely, the good old concept of nine-to-five job is sounding appealing to many now. “I can see this 24×7 work-culture post covid has affected the health of my friends very adversely. Thankfully, in my company, there has been a strict adherence to the work timings and no work related calls are taken on weekends. In fact, all our work related discussion happens only on Slack, so much so that the app automatically turns off after 6pm. The HR team has also been doing surveys to ensure we are paying attention to physical exercises and family time,” says Puneet.
But the turning off has not really worked well for all. Shradha Ramprasad, a marketing professional, went for a digital detox whereby she did not use any OTT platform and did not read articles online. But it did not pan out well. “My issues like lack of sleep and posture had more to do with personal discipline than the device. Also, as a digital marketing professional, I simply cannot produce content if I am not consuming enough and new content,” she says.
“Ask yourself if this digital exposure if affecting your work and routine. Internet addiction can be a pleasurable compulsive act. If you want to get out, keep a log of it if it helps. Set realistic goals for yourself rather than fully stopping”
In a way, the pandemic has legitimised a lot of the extra screen time, regardless of whether this has to do with the actual work or not. “The usual coffee breaks, chats with colleagues and commute time has been taken away right now and people have replaced it with mindless scrolling. Some companies have restrictions on internet usage but now, even that is unsupervised. But ask yourself if this digital exposure if affecting your work and routine. Internet addiction can be a pleasurable compulsive act. If you want to get out, keep a log of it if it helps. Set realistic goals for yourself rather than fully stopping. If you have someone at home, ask someone to intervene if it is getting out of hand,” suggests Sunita. Interestingly, many apps are available today to help you take a break from apps, such as Offtime, Breakfree, Flipd and AppDetox. But there is nothing like mindful usage to make the best of it.
This story was published in The Times of India, Chennai