Summary: The Internet has become the most crucial part of our lives. Be it education, work, social media, business or entertainment, everything is digital today. As this necessity is slowly taking over us, have you ever thought about what impact excessive digital dependence could have on our mental health? In this article we aim at creating awareness on the impact of digital dependence on your mental health.
Digital dependence has grown over time. We understand that it’s the need of the hour. However, we also believe that excessive digital dependence has its adverse effects on mental health. Digital dependence has different forms as well, such as dependence on phone, social media, gaming websites and OTT platforms.
With an aggressively growing user base, it is very important to understand and address its impacts on your mental health.
How does digital dependence impact our day-to-day life?
In simple words, digital dependence can be termed as an over-reliance on the Internet or an electronic device. Sometimes, this dependence may hinder daily functioning of an individual. Digital dependence can occur over a period of time. With increased usage owing to ease of use, convenient affordability and the need to stay ‘entertained’, one does not understand as to where the line should be drawn. Mental health concerns increase when one cuts off from social interactions and starts depending on technology for interaction.
Signs that help you understand digital dependence
1. Getting defensive when confronted about increased online activities
The individual may deny the fact that they have been using the internet too much. When questioned, they may become very aggressive and agitated. This results in anger outbursts and further isolation.
2. Connecting everything to the virtual world
The individual may connect everything to the virtual world, be it social life, work or gaming. They find it easier to resort to the virtual world.
3. Prefer spending time with your gadgets than family and friends
Resorting to skipping social events or gathering only to spend more time on the gadgets.
4. Lack of interest in physical activities
Losing interest in any form of physical activities because of a wide range of activities to be engaged from the virtual world.
5. Increased agitation when away from the device
In certain circumstances, such as airport security checks or loss of connectivity, it may trigger anger and agitation in the individual.
Impact of digital dependence on mental health
1. Negativity and Trolling
Reading too much of negative content or news, engaging in arguments or defaming other users has become a new way of spreading negativity, and to some a form of ‘entertainment’. This form of negativity can have a huge impact on one’s thoughts and functioning. This further leads to loss of confidence and low self-esteem. Sometimes, it can even potentially trigger depression.
2. Social media and external validation
Most of us largely rely on social media for information and socialization. However, the need for being relevant and popular is on the rise. High and low social media validation from other users can impact our mood and affect our self-confidence and self-esteem.
3. Problematic internet use and phantom phone notification
Problematic internet use can be described as the urge to respond to notifications immediately even if it is not urgent. Engaging in such behaviour leads to further distress. Phantom phone notification is the condition in which one feels the urge to constantly check for notifications. This hinders their concentration, ability to focus and has a negative impact on their mood.
4. Sleep disorders
Surfing through the device at night for a long period can lead to insomnia. The screen light causes difficulty in sleeping, which further leads to change in sleep cycle. This triggers irritability, mood swings, loss of concentration and difficulty in focus on day-to-day activities.
5. Procrastination and avoidance
Engaging in online activities may take precedence over day-to-day responsibilities. This leads to active procrastination in household, work related and self-care activities. Eventually one may be burdened and overwhelmed by tasks at hand which can cause stress and anxiety.
Impact of digital dependence on physical health
1. Weight gain
Digital dependence promotes a sedentary lifestyle and lack of physical activities because prolonged sitting leads to weight gain. If not attended to, this could lead to obesity, cardiovascular issues and other health conditions.
2. Eye issues
Prolonged use of computers, mobile phones and other gadgets tend to harm the eyes. Making them susceptible to various eye conditions such as red or dry eyes, blurry eyes, and eye infection. One may also even experience severe headaches from time to time.
3. Carpal tunnel syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition that causes numbness, tingling, or weakness in your hand. One of the causes for this is repetitive motions like typing or any wrist movements that are done over and over. This occurs when your hands are lower than your wrists. Extreme usage of gadgets may cause this in severe cases.
Sitting in the same position for a long time can cause neck, shoulder, and back pain. In severe cases, this may even lead to spondylitis and other back-related problems. Using a cell phone for a long time can lead to a condition called sustained forward neck posture. This condition can injure your spine as well as put pressure on your back and neck.
Boundaries between the digital world and real world
It is important that we learn to draw the line between healthy use and addictive behaviour.
Here are a few tips that can help you:
#1 Engage in a digital detox
Set a time limit to your gadget usage. There are inbuilt apps that help you track your usage on the device. Use these applications to alert you and prioritize your digital detox from time to time.
#2 Take small breaks between online activities
We understand that in times like this our usage has increased from what it already was. However, take a small break each hour for 5-10 minutes.
#3 Lay Down ground rules
Set rules on your device usage such as not looking at the phone prior to sleeping or right after waking up. Focus on enjoying your meal and worry about the phone later. If you stay with your family, try to make it a principle or make it a challenge that whoever brings their phone to the table has to do a task. This encourages people around you to not bring their phone to the dinner table, which acts as an incentive.
You can control and manage digital dependence. Its impact on our mental health can be minimized. With self-help techniques and timely checks, one can always manage to limit access. In the case of severe dependence, it is best to consult a mental health professional for further help.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
A. Fear of missing out aka FOMO refers to a perception that your friends and family are having a great time or living their best life while you are unable to experience the same due to not being present. While on digital detox here are a few tips that can help you work around FOMO. Keep a journal and write about what you are grateful for. Focus on what you have over what you lack. Practice guided meditation for 5-10 minutes in a day. Incorporate JOMO aka joy of missing out. While one may fear the joy and fun is elsewhere, JOMO helps you create happiness and joy right where you are.
A. Prioritize and plan your day in advance. When you set your priorities and allot time to a given task, it becomes easy to set boundaries. Ensure that you have a timeline to work on. Use applications that alert you on your usage and take small yet strict breaks from time to time. Start a healthy reward system of your choice to ensure that you stick to the boundaries.
Q. How is digital dependence different from internet addiction disorder?
A. There is a fine line that differentiates between the two. We can term digital dependence as an over-reliance on the Internet or an electronic device. Internet addiction disorder is defined as the problematic need or urges to use the internet to an extent where work, relationships, and daily life are affected. We can control digital dependence with timely checks and measures. However, if the dependency is not checked from time to time, it can turn into a severe addiction.