Just after waking, the first thing many people across the world, and increasingly in Nepal, do is pick up their mobile phones. Social media now connects not just people, but is deeply rooted in our everyday lives. It has become an addiction, a cure for boredom, a source of information (and entertainment), a new form of escapism.
Research has shown that social media addiction is an established mental health condition. This week, US lawmakers introduced a bill that would require platforms to deactivate algorithms designed to keep users hooked to their sites.
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Symptoms of internet addiction are insomnia, irritability, lack of appetite, difficulty in focussing on the task at hand, and distraction. Addicts have a hard time making even simple decisions or taking action because there is too much to consume. It can also divert them from what’s really important.
As a result, the number of people who want to disconnect and deactivate their social media accounts (‘commit Facebook suicide’) is growing even in Nepal.
“I was using many social media platforms. Choosing the right one to post my content was becoming overwhelming. Then there was the pressure to keep posting content. I shared my personal feelings on social media, but it was a false sense of security,” recalls Manoj Bohora, who decided to take the ’30-day No Social Media Challenge’ in February.
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“I took part to see what would happen if I totally disconnected. It takes 28 days to get rid of the habit, and I wanted to change desperately,” he recalled.
Bohora was social media manager for International Youth Media Summit and being online was a part of work. Now, he gets around it by scheduling posts weeks ahead. He says the 30-day challenge helped him re-connect with friends and family in real time and improved his concentration. He started using reliable websites for information rather than being dependent on friends’ posts.
Today, Bohora uses only Facebook and Instagram, and limits online time to under 15 minutes daily. “In the long run, I think I will quit social media altogether, but I am not sure yet,” he smiles.
As far back as 2001, Norwegian anthropologist Thomas Hylland Eriksen published Tyranny of the Moment: Fast and Slow Time in the Information Age, analysing Internet consumption. But that was even before Facebook, Twitter, and all the other apps that came later. In a research paper, Eriksen claimed human beings were ‘in the process of becoming enslaved by the technology that was supposed to liberate us’. That was then. Nearly two decades later, things have gotten much worse.
Digital detox, Nepali Times
Facebook nation, Madhu Acharya