Smartphone abuse: The making of a stunted, virtual world where screens breathe

  • Sneha Bengani, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Jul 19, 2016 17:19 IST
The Government College for Girls in Gurgaon has restricted its students to use mobile phones on campus. (HT Photo)

An American man got married to his smartphone in Las Vegas last month, selfie deaths are on an all time high and selfie elbows is fast emerging as real a medical condition. Yet none of this strikes us as absurd or worrying, as we continue to click, upload and browse mindlessly.

The dizzying dependency on smartphones and the resultant nuisance and health hazards are no longer a first world problem. It is an immediate threat, a growing epidemic that promises to devour us all.

Read: Women more vulnerable to smartphone addiction than men

“I have patients who feel their phone is ringing even if it’s not, who start to feel fidgety if it is silent for over two minutes. Smartphone abuse is a menace, an addiction worse than any other, for it ruins you without your knowing so,” says Geetanjali Kumar, a Delhi-based counsellor.

Read: Come out already! Survey shows people love using smartphones on the toilet

Kumar is not exaggerating. Tanya Arora, a Mumbai-based fashion designer, shares her life with her husband but not the password of her smartphone. Her major fights with him in her two-year-old marriage have mostly been around smartphone issues.

Customers wait outside an Apple Store for the launch of the iPhone 6s. (HT Photo)

“Privacy is important,” she says, adding, “It is not like I want to hide something. But your partner should trust you enough to be able to respect your personal space. However, most people don’t get it, which can get so annoying at times.”

Raghav Gupta, a Delhi-based investment banker, gets to know about his adolescent son, Rohan, majorly through his social media updates. Busy as they are with their routines, they only get to interact on calls or WhatsApp despite living in the same house.

Read: Smartphones are making lives less private

Himanshu Desai, 24, a Hyderabad-based MNC professional, admits that he starts to feel restless if he doesn’t check his social media timelines every few minutes.

The way out

Though we are neck deep in trouble, the likely solution is to try not to fall deeper by making a few lifestyle changes, say psychologists and lifestyle experts.

1. Prioritise your needs

“Find out why you need a smartphone. Prioritise your requirements and cut down on the rest. It will relieve you of a lot of unwanted tasks,” says Kumar.

A customer flaunts her new iPhone. (HT Photo)

2. Minimise the number of apps

Rachna Khanna Singh, psychologist at Artemis Hospital, Gurgaon, says the more the number of apps on your smartphone, the more you’ll be distracted. “Keep only the apps you need. It will save hours of your browsing time,” she says.

3. Create a phone routine and follow it

Decide the number of times you’d check your phone (emails, social media and app browsing included) in a day. “Fix a time, say lunch break and while travelling, and don’t touch your phone during the rest of the day unless important. This way you’ll be able to concentrate undisturbed on other tasks,” says Singh.

4. Sssh unimportant WhatsApp groups

A lot of us have family and work-related WhatsApp groups that do not require our attention multiple times a day. “Such groups can be major time-eaters. Keep them on silent mode or in archive and check on them once a day if needed,” advises Singh.

A kid plays with a smartphone. (HT Photo)

5. Raise awareness

It’s time we raise public awareness about the colossal damage caused by smartphone abuse. “We need to come up with aggressive campaigns urging people to stop misusing their cell phones,” says Kumar, adding, “It is as serious an issue as environment pollution or climate change and needs immediate widespread attention.”

What is this life where we have no time to stand and stare? We can make the time, only if we relearn to look beyond our smartphones.

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