*This article was featured in Business World on 6th October,2017.
‘Technology is a tool for helping humans and for destroying them. This is a paradox of our times which we are compelled to face.’-Frank Herbert.
The typical cell phone user touches his or her phone 2,617 times every day, according to a study by research firm dscout. And that’s just the average user -the study found that extreme cell phone users (meaning the top 10%) touch their phones more than 5,400 times daily.
Actions like typing, tapping, and swiping the phone’s screen counted as a ‘touch. Apple recently confirmed their device users unlock their phones 80 times every day. That’s about 6 to 7 times every hour.
If there is one takeaway form all these studies, it this that our smartphone is an imminent part of our lives today and if we do not set healthy boundaries with it, the effects can be detrimental. Our mental health is a factor of various variables. One such variable today is the ‘unhealthy’ usage of smartphones.
Anxiety, depression, sleep disorders, inability to focus, zero peace of mind are some effects of a smartphone addiction and unhealthy social media activity.
There are various behaviors and feelings that are worth noting in this regard-
-An incessant needs to tap and touch the phone and the apps periodically,
-Strong feelings of envy generated by social media posts of other people and still the constant need to check them constantly,
-Regular unhealthy comparison and competition with others online lives and posts,
-Withdrawal symptoms when the phone is not around,
– Reaching out for our phones even if not required out of habit to ‘see’ if they are any new notifications and messages.
-Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) in case one has not seen all updates and posts. The constant checking becomes important to ‘feel connected’.
-Counting the number of likes on the posts as it becomes liked to the individuals self worth.
So here are some Healthy habits with respect to our smartphones and social media that can help improve overall well being
• Don’t check your phone for first two hours after waking up. Looking for new notifications and emails is not how you want to start your morning. It will only add to your anxiety.
• If you are not in great mental health or are going through a bad phase/day and seeing other people share about their amazing lives is bringing you further down, please avoid social media.
• Focus on building your own amazing authentic life and great mental health and then feelings of envy and constantly unhealthy comparison will be avoided. You will be able to rejoice in others happy stories on and off social media.
• Phones have a radiation frequency. Be aware and use accordingly. The warnings on an iPhone can be found under “Settings” by selecting “General>About>Legal>RF Exposure”. It advises you to use a headset or a speakerphone during a call to reduce RF exposure, to keep the phone at least 5mm away from the body to ensure exposure levels remain low.
• Switch all devices off 60 minutes before sleeping to have better quality sleep. If you sleep with the phone next to you, you can put the phone on airplane mode, which stops the radiation from the phone. Go old school and read an inspiring book before sleeping. Chances are you will sleep better.
• Depending on your life and work schedules, have fixed times to check your notifications and whatsapp messages, if you can, instead of constantly reaching out for your phone. For instance, it could be once every one or two hours depending on your lifestyle and work.
• Do a technology detox once in a while as per your schedules.
• Have cellphone free hours during the day so that you get used to it and won’t be anxious with your phone not around.
I genuinely believe technology is great. Inherently it is neutral by nature. Its how we use it that will make all the difference. If we use it to empower our life even more and make it more efficient, connected and easier, we are using it positively.
By itself it a tool meant to help in more ways than one. We are not meant to be slaves of our phones but it is meant to serve us lead better lives.
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