The Demons of social media and online gaming has rewired the people’s mind to live life and remain in virtual world. The chaos and turmoil in the society can be linked to social media that exploits the deep wired craving of masses to know more about the “realities”. Once a curiosity is fired, each one at social media starts feeding something or other. In the mad game of TRP’s, clouts and engagements, these players cross ethical lines and create rifts. They literally hunt and scavenge news items that suit their narrative. They embellish it with more provocative words and share it with their name hoping to drive more engagement Conspiratorial and alarmist thinking is likely to keep people glued to social media.
Covid-19 pandemic worsened addiction to the internet among children. The footfall at psychiatric out-patient departments in hospitals, especially those offering help to kids hooked to the net, be it for online gaming, chatting with friends or sharing videos, offers a glimpse of the problem.
Freedom, Cold Turkey, RescueTime, Toggl, StayFocusd, FocusMe, SelfControl, AntiSocial… They are not random words pulsed together in a blender, but names of some of the top apps that, ironically, help you stay away from your digital addictions. As Thakur said in Sholay, “loha lohe ko kaat-ta hai”, so now we need apps to stay away from apps. This farcical situation hides a deeper reality – too many of us are spending too much time online. So, amid the launch of 5G and other high-speed tech, a growing army of people doesn’t want to be addicted to social media and googling. They aspire to live frugal, almost ascetic, digital lives without completely switching off from the internet. It’s a trend called ‘digital minimalism’, and it is different from a ‘digital detox’ where you unplug completely. To illustrate, detox is what Mohityanche Vadgaon village in Maharashtra’s Sangli district does. A siren goes off at 7pm, and residents put their electronic devices away for 90 minutes. Children are encouraged to read while the older people meet and chat.
Digital minimalism, however, does not require complete withdrawal. Coined by author Cal Newport, it is a way of using technology in which you focus your online time on a few carefully selected tasks that strongly support the things you value. It advises against excessive use of gadgets.
Digital minimalism is based on three tenets: clutter is expensive, optimization is critical, and intention is satisfying. The objective is that the usage should be intentional and controlled for a limited period of time. And the apps mentioned above are meant to stop you from jumping from one attention-diverting push notification to another. They can block other apps from operating, create blocklists, schedule apps to run only during a specific time of the day, and alert you about the excessive time spent online.
This philosophy is being discussed now, especially after the pandemic when people began spending more time online, adding that children aged 13-18 years have become more prone to digital addiction since the pandemic. The parents are taking their children to counsellors as they have become addicted to screens and feel isolated and tense when they have to interact with people in the real world. For them, online networking is secure and simple.” He advised gradually introducing such children to digital minimalism, to reduce their reliance and time spent on digital platforms. He also said it is critical for parents and adults to see if those who are addicted to digital devices have any anxiety issues. Because digital addiction has been observed in people who already have anxiety issues, these issues must be addressed first. WHO has classified excessive use of the internet and mobile phones as screen addiction, and provided a set of guidelines. There is certainly a 50% increase in screen time addiction cases post-pandemic, we should be more concerned about the changes that will occur with advancements, like the metaverse. Need to first introduce minimalistic practices, and then, in some cases, recommend mild medication to help people break free from their “internet compulsions”.