Just as there are two sides to every coin, there are two sides to every invention. Technological inventions are no exception. One view is that technology has brought the world closer to such an extent that now we are all indeed inhabitants of a 'global village' - perhaps even more than what the term's inventor Marshall McLuhan had envisioned.
With only a few clicks today, a person from one corner of the earth can express his/her thoughts to others, despite residing in the other corner of the globe. Long gone are the days when two or more people had to be present in the same place simultaneously to communicate with each other.
However, there is an ongoing debate whether the overabundance of technology such as apps and websites for communication has made people so glued to the devices of their preference that they hardly try to communicate with each other outside the virtual world.
As the number of platforms that facilitate virtual communication is increasing day by day, the act of communicating with each other in person is being shown its way out.
Thus, the sight of seeing family members sitting together and laughing wholeheartedly over something with a cup of tea or playing outdoor and indoor games to their heart's content is such a rarity these days.
Getting to the core of the problem
Isolation due to excessive use of technology has brought about a plethora of problems. Several studies have produced sufficient evidence in showing that isolation has an adverse impact on our physical and mental health. For instance, Louise C Hawkley and John P Capitanio stated that isolation produces depression, sleep deprivation, decreased executive function, intensified cognitive impairment, cardiovascular health function and impaired immunity at all phases of life.
Furthermore, uncooperative and unstable parenting, as one of its by-products, is a well-established cause of increased insecurity and lack of trust. Although kids spend most part of their days staying at home with their parents under the same roof, this has not brought them closer as they hardly communicate in a meaningful way.
In addition, excessive use of social media has contributed to marital troubles as well, such as extramarital affairs, quarrels, envy, divorce etc. For instance, 20% annual growth in Facebook participation was correlated with a 2.18% to 4.32% rise in the rates of divorce.
Furthermore, teenagers are far less inclined to get together in person with peers than they used to, declining by 40% between 2000 to 2015 and the situation is only getting worse with time.
Our unhealthy obsession with this virtuality implies that we are not really there with each other anymore as our mutual bond along with our sense of compassion is fading.
Again, people who feel isolated try to cope with it through substance abuse. Social interaction and drugs are both in themselves capable of enhancing the dopamine response of an individual. Emotional and physical connectivity enables our brain to produce positive feelings. Prolonged absence of positive feelings in a person's life, puts him in a state where he is at higher risk of seeking a way out of it, even if it comes at the price of self-medicating.
Another strong impact of the overuse of technology on our lives is an increase in the suicide rate due to depression and mental health issues. A study by Joe Gramigna reports that 67% of the participants reported being vulnerable about their own lives because of social media. Additionally, 73% felt left behind in comparison of their appearance to others, 60% felt pressured to tailor content for attention and 80% reported being affected personally by social media drama.
Some other consequences of virtual communication are poor eyesight due to excessive use of devices facilitating virtual communication (the ideal duration of screen-time for both children and adults is two hours a day), poor brain development, leading to physical unfitness or obesity, headaches etc.
Followed by the issues addressed previously regarding physical and mental health, excessive use of the methods of virtual communication takes a heavy toll on the self-confidence of the users too. The users tend to constantly compare themselves to others on the internet that lead to feelings of self-consciousness or triggers the sense of perfectionism and order, which consequently leads the users to suffer social anxiety disorder.
Failure of time management is another consequence of the excessive use of the internet. The victims of this are mostly students and teens. In a study conducted on students, it was found that academic stress among them is often caused by poor time management. This is, at length, a result of internet addiction.
However, it must be noted that adults are not free from this misadventure either. As a result, the end result of poor time management impacts the world economy to a great extent.
Breaking the addiction
The positive effect of virtual modes of communication cannot be ignored. But with most people around the globe using them to the extent that it is widely considered as an addiction, the safety and security for their users should not be ignored as well. If used appropriately, they have the power to bring about positive improvements for all of us to the degree possibly never envisioned. But if one slips too far into the rabbit hole, there may be no way to climb back up.
Just like any other form of addiction, breaking this addiction too is not an easy task. It requires the utmost commitment. However, through going on a cleanse, imposing limitations, removing applications or blocking notifications, spending time on other interests and ensuring accountability for failing to do these, one might become successful in breaking the addiction.
Arafat Reza is an LLB graduate of BPP University, UK.
Tarazi Mohammed Sheikh is a law student at BRAC University.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of The Business Standard.