The government of Bangladesh announced a countrywide lockdown to tackle Covid-19 more than a month ago. During this time, there has been almost no other discussion or news, except coronavirus, because, quite naturally, we can hardly think about anything else now.
In this abundance of information and opinions, the role of technology is often praised. Many regard technology as a saviour or ally in this situation. In some aspects – mostly in terms of research and healthcare – the invaluable assistance of technology indeed cannot be denied.
But when it comes to information and communication, there are two sides to the coin. The most dangerous aspects of technology are "rumours" surrounding coronavirus.
In a world of Facebook, Instagram, and whatnot, we have been addicted to our mobile phones for the last one decade. During the coronavirus pandemic, this addiction has only increased given our abundance of free time at homes.
Moreover, we are curious and anxious to get the latest updates of Covid-19 at home and abroad. So, we are continuously surfing internet on our smart phones. From memes to editorials, almost everything on social media is now about coronavirus.
Besides, as we are living in isolation, we yearn for connection with the world. And thus, our dependency on the gadgets have been increasing.
Considering that we can do various activities online, gather information and stay connected all the time, the information technology is a boon for us. But is it not taking a toll on us too?
When I got married, I unwittingly vowed to myself that I would not be one of those sad couples who sit beside each other, but do not talk to their partners because they are glued to their phones.
My plan was going well before Covid-19 came into our lives. But things now seem to have changed. My husband and I love each other's company. But even the best of couples can get bored and tired of one another if they are constantly together.
Today, we are seeing a large number of marital conflict and domestic violence in the lockdowns all over world. For example, The New York Times has reported that domestic abuse has risen worldwide, including in developed countries such as Britain and France.
Our situation is not that extreme. But I have observed how my husband and I stay glued to our phones despite sitting beside each other for hours. We also end up bickering about silly things at home because we are upset with the uncertainty of the whole situation and we project that feeling on to each other. In larger families, however, the quarantine appears to have a positive impact as it allows them free time to develop bonds. I see them prepare and have meals together, play board games or sing and dance together.
Now, when I say "see", I literally mean that, because they are making videos of it and sharing them on social media.
Initially, they were inspiring, but now, when everybody has started making such videos and sharing them on social media, while the rest of us are stuck with our gadgets all day. Developing one such video can often take less time compared to watching dozens of videos every day.
To reduce screen time, we are constantly vowing that we will start reading books or doing free-hand exercise. But how many of us are failing to do productive activities and shamelessly retiring to the comfort of those wicked screens?
Except for those dedicated ones – whose achievements we see on Facebook and Instagram – most of us are too depressed and disorganized to get anything done, even though we have infinite free time in our hands. Kudos to those rockstars and masterchefs whose musical and cooking skills have filled our newsfeed with joy and envy!
Now, many of us are getting exhausted with these traditional activities as the quarantine rolls into the second month. To pass the time, we are more engaged in playing games online and binge-watching series on Netflix. I am not saying that we did not do these before. But realistically, we didn't have much time to do these during our regular busy days.
However, now, even the best of us keep staring at our phones and tabs for hours. I have heard from friends and family who have children that the screen times for their kids have also increased.
This was an alarming situation even before the pandemic intervened in our lives. But earlier parents could ask the children to study or take them out for recreation. However, they are at a loss now.
Because of work-from-home, parents are on laptops all day. The children too are always on laptops and gadgets because they are doing online classes.
I was amused to see my niece, who is in playgroup, doing online classes the other day. Watching her, I wondered that while it can keep the children busy with learning, it too involves a screen, doesn't it?
For online classes and work-from-home at such a large scale, we are in desperate need of video conferencing apps with multiple windows. Recently, an app called Zoom became extremely popular due to its feature of allowing numerous chat windows.
However, there are many complaints about its low privacy issues. Hackers are known to easily infiltrate into its system. Consequently, sometimes the users find shocking, even offensive, comments and photos on their screens from strangers.
Countries like Germany, Singapore and Taiwan have banned the application. Earlier this month, The Guardian reported why researchers are calling it a "privacy disaster." Yet, many people including children, are quite unfamiliar with its dangers and are using it every day for their work and classes.
In a recent article on Forbes, technological competency has been hailed as the most important qualification for employment in a post-coronavirus world. While this is no surprise as technology has been taking over the world rapidly ever since the industrial revolution, its risks must be kept in mind too.
The author is a Lecturer at BRAC University