Rational use of digital media: What everyone must know…

Photo: © Lijo Thomas

Digital media has invaded our lives and our minds. We are bombarded by what is an overdose of digital information almost translating into an epidemic that may be termed digital infobesity (information excess). We are constantly in touch with the world through digital media checking WhatsApp messages, Facebook status updates and posts, tweeting away and posting pictures of our lives on Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat.

Positive aspects of digital media

However, one of the most important positive aspects of digital media is social connectivity. It helps in enhancing awareness about the world and connecting with human beings all over the world. Digital media keeps us updated about all the news and happenings from all over the world which is made available at a swipe or touch of a button via the internet. Besides updating ourselves through social media and connecting to our well wishers, there are many mobile applications that make life easier and save our time and effort. Consider the role of Google Maps and navigation applications. Here our smartphone directs us to our destination with the help of Google Maps or a GPS system while alerting us about mishaps and traffic situations along the way. Similarly, we have stopped using notebooks or diaries to write appointments and in fact do not carry paper and pen anymore. We just click a photo of any important information and store it on our phones.

Sharing information and data became easier with the help of Bluetooth and articles, books or pictures can be easily shared via applications like WhatsApp. These days, the phone has replaced the camera and provides us better or almost equivalent images. Mobile companies keep luring people by flaunting the megapixels of their cameras and phones that enhance selfies are now available including cameras that click perfect pictures at night. Social networking sites can be accessed through our cell phones and thus people are on their phones most of the time unaware of what is happening around them. Besides useful work applications, the phone is a source of entertainment, such as music players, videos, gaming, etc., which attracts kids and adolescents towards the smartphone or tablet. It is important that we realize that while digital media is useful we should not become slaves to its grandeur.

What damage has digital media done?

Digital media has taken over our lives completely. Human beings have always been a species that has communicated via speech. Digital media has transformed that communication into messages and text communications whereby human beings have forgotten the art of speaking to one another. When one visits parks and cafes, one is exhumed to see that people are so busy on their gadgets that social visits now involve multiple groups of human beings desk bound and torpid but glued to their devices and gadgets, and in fact, many of them may message or forward messages to the person in front of them!

Gaming and social media

An obsession with gaming has led to a mad race to complete levels and display gaming accomplishments online. Gaming communities serve to replace one’s family and relatives and draws the gamer into a different realm where he is satisfied with his virtual gaming community and feels no need to associate with the real world. There is the acquired tendency to check devices from time to time and this may happen at any time of the day or even in the middle of the night. Digital media bewitches us and we are plagued with the morbid fear of missing out on something that the world may know and we may not know because we have not checked our mobiles. Every Facebook like and Instagram heart matters and there is a need to have more likes and hearts than our friends. Every comment received on Facebook is regarded as a positive and failure to get any can drive one to the brink of despair.

Effects on sleep

Very often digital devices are used at night and this leads to a cutting down on one’s sleep time. This leads to new problems in the form of daytime sleepiness, physical illness and decreased immunity that makes one prone to various infections and other disorders. Children are not spared either. There is the emergence of the birth of a digital toddler who is now conditioned in a Pavlovian manner to gadgets that serves as surrogate babysitters. The emotions of young children respond more to gadgets and their beeps or videos rather than to the voice of a parent. While these provide reprieve to the parents, it is priming the child to become hooked onto digital media in the long run. There is a generation of children who are born digital and primed digital and the ethical and rational use of digital media is a tenet that remains untaught and unchartered.

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Dr Avinash De Sousa
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Dr Avinash De Sousa

Dr Avinash De Sousa is a Consultant Psychiatrist and Psychotherapist. He is the Founder of the Global Society for Digital Psychology and the Founder Trustee of the Desousa Foundation. He can be reached at avinashdes888@gmail.com