In early 90’s in an Indian small town, it was a common arrangement for households with landline phones to gate keep phone calls for their neighbors. It was my first hand experience, when our relatives or friends used to call our neighbors. They would call us and this arrangement was quite common almost everywhere until phone became a necessity. Digital Detox would have sounded like an alien spaceship name back then.

How We Got Here?

Indian Telecommunications industry maintained its course making it’s way to 2nd largest telecom market in the world. We have got most inexpensive internet service in ultra competitive telecom sector. According to RBI, the telecom sector has witnessed 10% productivity since 1990 reforms. On other hand no other industry achieved over 5% rate in the same period.
 
This led to a smartphone and internet boom in our country, it made information easily accessible and communication easier. Technology research company Counterpoint noted that India has 350 million smartphone users and it is expected to rise by 50% by 2020.
  • Tele-density (defined as the number of telephone connections for every 100 individuals) in India, increased from 17.9 in FY07 to 92.59 in FY17*
  • The mobile segment’s teledensity surged from 14.6 per cent in FY07 to 90.70 per cent in FY171#

The Great Internet Boom

So this is how we reached here today in the era of great technology where we are globally connected than never before. There are infinite channels or sources of information today. One can’t deny that we are better informed people than those who came before this digital age. This digital revolution gave us access to educational information, online services and communication riding on the back of smartphones. Government of India committed to take this digital initiative to remote villages. They will be deploying free Wi-Fi in 1050 rural villages in the country under ‘Digital Village’ program. Reliance Jio has also played a catalyst role in making the internet accessible to remote and small towns users at affordable price. It disrupted the telecom market in India for voice and data tariff, making it most competitive market in the world. It also resulted in few players leaving the field and some of them being taken over, in the wake of adding muscle to their infrastructure.

So What’s Wrong With This Digital Revolution?

Technology has become the backbone of education, communication and entertainment. What if the same technology takes your attention away from life goals – like your job, study or relationships?
 
It was observed under several studies and research that we needs to strike a balance with our digital gadgets. Our relationship with digital devices should be healthy, which does not pose a risk to our physical, mental and social health. We must practice ethics and set social or cultural norms to pass on a healthy advanced future to our generations to come.

What are the issues?

You constantly look at it, get anxious when it’s not around, you dine, eat and sleep with it. Yes, I am referring to our dear smartphone. The smartphone boom has also brought several new syndromes which we have never heard before. There are side effects which may have consequence on your life and limit your ability to perform day to day activities normally. We are witnessing illnesses which are new and experts are still trying to understand.

When you are riding a horse, you don’t let the horse take you for a ride. What to do if it really takes you for a ride and put you on the ground ultimately. So, you learn how to ride a horse. Digital discipline needs to be learnt and mastered to overcome bad habits.

iPosture or TexNeck

‘iPosture’ or “Text Neck” are casual terms given by doctors for a medical condition. Approximately 84% of young adults aged between 18-24 years in UK were struggling with this illness. The study was conducted by UK’s biggest health cash plan service provider SimplyHealth. The staggering numbers show the lack of awareness about good posture while using a hand held device. The patient of this syndrome acknowledged hunching or slouching when using their PC or other devices. As per experts, 60 pounds of pressure is exerted on your neck when you are looking down at your phone.
 
What is the right way: You should hold your device directly in front of your face. When working on a computer, follow the age old advice sit up straight and avoid slouching.

Phantom Limb Syndrome

This syndrome is felt by an amputee in his limbs even after losing the arm or leg. After a thorough research, scientist could explain that each part of our body is mapped to a part of our brain called as somatosensory cortex. These brain parts still have the capacity to signals to the limb even though the limb is not present, which gives the sensation of a phantom limb. Extensive usage of a phone can cause the same sensation even if you don’t have your phone in your pocket. Your phone’s vibration becomes a part of your neural system.
 
What is the solution: Avoid keeping your phone close to your body as much possible. Place it on a desk at work and away from your body while sleeping. The sensation should stop on its own after some time.

Substitute Brain

I knew people who memorized contacts, web URLs, birthdays and anniversary dates before the smartphone era started. Our ability to remember such things is declining dangerously. Our phones have become substitute brain as they serve information in few finger taps. We stopped finding any incentive of remembering when the substitute brain serves the purpose. As a matter of fact, we find “Okay Google” more prudent and worthy to find reliable and accurate information than our own memory.
 
What is the right way – Well, I can’t suggest you to stop Googling but you can start with remembering birthdays of your loved ones, your friend’s street name or 10 most frequent contact numbers. You can start small but don’t settle.

Lost Handwriting

We have grown up writing cursive and filling up notebooks and exams sheets without thinking much about it as it came naturally to us. In modern times, we give up writing or you may say forced to use our computers for writing. Pen and paper have become a mere history for most of us. Finland revamped its education system for kids and made it focused on print and digital communication methods. There are few other countries following the same path. The study says that kids who learn to type at an early age without looking at a keyboard get more time to think and their ability to write is more refined. However, I would underline another study that kids who learnt writing the alphabets recognize the letter quickly. The study, captured their brain response using an MRI machine when they were shown the same alphabet they wrote using a pen. The same test did not show any such signal for kids who used a keyboard. Researchers argue that handwriting is extremely important for our cognitive and artistic ability.
 
I would have written this piece on a paper 10 years back but I am using my laptop to enlighten you about “what a loss it is to lose handwriting” WGADR (Who Gives A Damn, Right). I might be using my voice after few years from now although the tech is already in place but it would be very common by then.
 
What is the solution: Ask yourself if you want to pick a pen to enhance your artistic or cognitive side. I think most of us would pass but we should encourage our kids at least.

Social Networking or Isolation?

A study conducted on people using 11 most popular social networks to observe how much time they spent on all social networks. It revealed the fear of being alone was behind the addiction to social media. The feeling of “social isolation” gets deeper as one spends excessive time on social network than a normal person. Life without social media is a nightmare under such condition.
Social networks also bring our profound obsession with consumption of information to the fore. This addiction require validation of likes and comments from others. Like food is indispensable for our body but eating when the stomach is already filled, it is bad for all reasons. We are consuming information because we have an addiction to it. No one can deny mindless scrolling on our smartphone even without the need of information. Our minds take a serious beating for our plunge into useless stream of information. It can’t segregate the information acquired is purposeful or not, hence it is working all the time. Some part of our brain is awake which can also be termed as subconsciousness, even while sleeping. As a result, we check our phone in the middle of night in the hope of a message or an email.

How To Get A Digital Detox

  • Turn off notifications – quiet the noise.
  • Delete toxic people, pages and apps – bring positivity to your life and avoid negative energy.
  • Airplane Mode – When you need to focus don’t hesitate to use it even when you are on ground.
  • Remind yourself that you and your gadgets needs rest.
  • Deepen connections – Meet real people, shake and hug people in person. Spend time with family and people you are about.Our society is struggling in modern digitally connected world. Disconnect, the movie has captured the situation very well. A British documentary InRealLife is a must watch, the movie captures the aberration of our teens entrapped in their 24/7 connected world.
  • Embrace Downtime – Leave your gadgets and go to farm or a vacation. You can’t see much of the world when you are looking down into your phone. You won’t feel the warmth, beauty, smell of real world on your smartphone screen, no matter how cool it looks on it. In the age of smartphones, we dread being with ourselves. It has come to the point that when all are devices are off, the time is termed boring and empty. We need to learn the art of being ourselves.

There are many efforts by people and organizations who are willing to help people focus on social interaction, reduce unnecessary stress and experience the real world. People are taking digital detox weekend to learn unplug.

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