Digital Deaddiction- Time To Press The Buzzer

Dr.Shivani Salil

Browsing through the newspaper, I came across a news item talking about a deaddiction centre. I had to reread the snippet just to be sure that I had got it right the first time around. It mentioned a technology deaddiction clinic in Bengaluru being run by NIMHANS doctors. Initially it did strike me as odd but as it sunk in it did make sense. The setting up of such a clinic is just a validation that digital addiction is as real as it gets. It got me looking around and I was alarmed at the revelations. For example, did you know there is a term called Nomophobia- the fear of being out of mobile phone contact? Whoa …. I thought to myself, this couldn’t be true.

Addiction and dependence have a very thin line between them. One doesn’t even realise when the cross over happens. WHO has already acknowledged ‘Gaming disorder’ as a disease and it has been defined in the draft 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) as ‘a pattern of gaming behaviour (“digital-gaming” or “video-gaming”) characterized by impaired control over gaming, increasing priority given to gaming over other activities to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other interests and daily activities, and continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences’

A digital addict is a person who uses digital technology so compulsively that it adversely affects the well-being of the user. There have been reports about teenagers who have resorted to violent behaviour if their smart phones were taken away or their screen time was limited. Some complain of boredom and anxiety when denied their devices. A digital addict feels rewarded by the computer applications and this triggers the brain’s reward centre. Their brain produces neurochemicals which causes stimulation or a ‘kick’. Over a period of time, in order to maintain a ‘high’, the dependence and usage increases, in absence of which ‘withdrawal’ occurs. Digital addiction could be an addiction to a (smart)phone, the internet or specifically to social media.

Addiction of course is the worst-case scenario may not be so prevalent (? or maybe it’s just under reported) but dependence is something that is spreading like wildfire making it a worrisome trend. More and more people are drawn towards their screens as if hypnotised (reminds me of the screen slaver in the movie Incredibles 2). Such people are often awkward when it comes to face to face, real conversations and find it difficult to look in the eye while talking. Even if such people are not using the phone or internet, they are often distracted with the thought of going back to them. This distraction costs them their performance in studies or at their workplace. Such distracted individuals as parents are unable to give complete attention to their children, something that every kid needs. There’s a fine line we are treading here. Social media is a wonderful tool to connect but if it is taking us away from real people, take a rain check.

The gap between our online persona and real-life is becoming wider. We are deluding ourselves into believing that we are our online identity. So, the moment we confront real situations, cracks appear. The longer this is allowed to continue, the worse it gets.

Having said that, we need to come with a workable solution. Let me share what I feel can be done,

  • Digital detoxification- Flush it out of the system. Silent mode and turning the phone upside down is not enough. Switch off completely. Take a call on the duration for which you can afford to do it. Start small and take it from there

  • Invest in real friends and real conversations. Remind yourself of the life you had before digitalisation invaded it. Visit those quaint coffee shops for more than just their free wi-fi.

  • Go back to your hobbies. Pick up that boo you have been meaning to read. Sew, knit, cook, write, whatever stimulates your mind and takes you away from the screens.

  • Kids- show them the way. Children are getting the rawest end of the deal. They haven’t even had the chance of making meaningful relationships so switching them off requires more effort. Find like minded parents and engage kids in play dates. Or else become their play mates.

  • Be there in totality. Live in the moment. Engage all your senses in the activity you re doing. When your child or any one speaks to you, keep away the phone and listen. Listen…not just hear.

  • Deaddiction Clinics. Coming back to where I started, desperate situations need desperate measures. There may not be specialised deaddiction clinics in your vicinity, but psychologists and psychiatrists can do the job. There is no hesitation in asking for help for yourselves and your loved ones.

Take control of your lives today before technology completely tramples it out.

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