In today’s world, it would be rather difficult to find anyone who is not digitally connected in some way.
The term “digital detox” is often used, and it signifies the underlying issue with digital connectivity – is it good or bad for humans?
Connection in the present-day world
The internet is everywhere in our lives, from schools, workplaces to even relaxation.
And that was even before the COVID-19 pandemic swept in and changed the way we perceived digital media.
People used the internet to access basic necessities, including work, studies, shopping, and staying connected to each other.
These technologies can no longer be seen as a luxury, but have instead become essential. In many parts of the world, the internet is seen as a utility, just like water, electricity, and gas.
This is what is known as “mediatization”. Wikipedia defines it as “a process whereby the mass media are influencing other sectors of society, including politics, business, culture, entertainment, sport, religion, education, etc”.
The term is gaining popularity in a world dependent on technology on micro, mezzo, and macro levels. Information and communication technologies have further caused interdependence of social, political, and economic societies on these media technologies.
The line between “want” and “need” of digital technologies is blurring as people have no choice but to login to the digital world.
Anne Mollen and Frederik Dhaenens’ 2018 book The Future Of Audiences says we are having to quickly adapt to “the increasing ubiquity, embeddedness of and reliance on digital software-based media in people’s everyday life”.
“[This is] equiring them to display and adopt ever more complex and differentiated ways of handling and managing their engagement with media.”
How much media is too much media?
A recent report shows that the use of internet has almost doubled in the past decade.
With more than five billion people around the world using the internet, about 65 per cent of the world’s population is now connected online, according to Measuring digital development facts and figures, 2021.
A study from reviews.org shows that an average Australian spends more than 5.5 hours a day on their phone. Over an average lifetime, that means 17 years of glaring at phones.
This evokes the famous question from media theorist Neil Postman in 1995: “Am I using this technology? Or is it using me?”
Psychosocial effects of digital connectivity
Overuse of technology is causing severe physical, socio-psychological, and emotional effects to human body.
Constant connection is leading to an addiction that unintentionally makes people stay indoors for days.
This can give rise to a feeling of loneliness and can lead to depression and social anxiety – all exacerbated by the past two years of isolation. In a World Health Organization briefing, COVID-19 was found to have increased cases of anxiety and depression by 25 per cent.
Constant screen exposure is also giving rise to myriad physical issues, including frequent headaches, unhealthy lifestyle, as well as increased physical and cardiological risk factors.
People become more emotionally attached to their mobile phones than to their friends and families.
The inability to stay away from mobile phones is a direct indicator of addiction. The mere thought of not carrying a phone around for a day seems to be daunting.
The constant connection to the digital world has had severe effects on our consciousness and our attention spans as well.
These adverse effects of connection are increasing in parallel with ever-evolving technology
It requires immediate preventative steps.
“Prevention is better than cure”
Digital media technologies have become a necessity for humans, with minimal to no choice left about their use.
It’s hard to think of a time when we are actually disconnected.
But now it’s necessary to focus on the need to stop – it’s time for a digital detox.
The world can take preventative steps right now, rather than letting it slip to a later stage when there will no longer be a cure.
If we do it now, we can help prevent the next generation from falling prey to the adversities of constant connection and addiction to these ever-evolving media technologies.