Smart phones Vs Mental Health

Smart phones are now ubiquitous and are quickly becoming the most pervasive device on our planet. It is now being carried along with the daily survival tools such as four wheeler, two wheeler and house keys. We see them cradled in the hands of toddlers and adults alike, both in rural and urban. With about 27.7 crore mobile internet users in India, the increased use of gadgets is threatening the very fabric of the society in terms of quality relationships. It has become an emotional crutch making it an extension of the human brain.
With the rise of applications (apps) every single day, smart phones indeed make accessibility easier. It has made the world smaller and a cozier place to live in but “People are getting addicted to digital technology without even realizing it”, says Dr Manoj Sharma, an Associate Professor of Clinical Psychology.

Gadgets seem to make people euphoric and the absence of them make them feel distressful and miserable. Youngsters spend the wee hours of the morning in the visual world, obsessively playing games, chatting, having unnatural online relationships, scouring over news, online shopping stores, downloading apps and what not!

Downloading apps is a growing fashion for youngsters. Students try to outsmart their counterparts by buying more sophisticated phones (3G,4G). The apps range from watching news channels, manicure apps to dating apps. Endorphins flood the brain when one opens the dating app on his or her mobile leading to OCD (Obsessive Compulsive disorder) of continuing in a virtual relationship. 73% of Indian urbans connect the internet through their smart phones, 63% professionals wake up to look at their smart phones first thing in the morning.

Addiction is considered by WHO (WHO Expert Committee – 1964) as dependence, as the continuous use of something for the sake of relief, comfort, or stimulation, which often causes cravings when it is absent. The two major categories of addiction involve either substance addiction, e. g. “drugs or alcohol addiction” or “behavioral addiction such as mobile phone addiction. ”

Addiction is the inability to control one’s craving. Psychologists say that this unnatural craving interferes in the functioning of the brain leading to mental and physical diseases. China is the first country to treat smart phone addiction as a mental disorder though India has not yet acknowledged it.
An engineering student at Mumbai visited Dr Kersi, a psychiatrist 2 years ago and asked him to wean him off games. He confessed to have spent 50 hours at a stretch playing games. Manish Mehta, aged 20, a student at Pune took a break year because he didn’t find time to study as he spent most of the time chatting with his US friends throughout the night. Some lonely teens with working parents open more than 10 accounts on FB with different names. It is not only students who are addicted, the same goes with adults as well. Marriages are tearing apart due to addictions by spouses and enjoying fantasies through virtual relationships. Ultimately the person who is an addict is mentally disturbed, perturbed, anxious without a phone, unable to relate to people in the physical world and allured into a fantasy world online.

Some symptoms of smart phone addiction that mentally disturbs an individual are

  1. Selfitis – Taking more than 20 selfies per day
  2. Phantom Vibration Syndrome – a person feels the vibration in his phone despite the phone not vibrating
  3. Narcissism – Using the phone throughout the night into the wee hours of the morning leading to decreased output at work or studies due to
  4. insomnia( lack of sleep)
  5. FOMO – Fear of missing out- happens due to low self esteem( posting more pics or changing status updates in order to feel accepted)
  6. FAD – Facebook addiction disorder
  7. SMD – Social media addiction
  8. Nomophobia – Fear of losing one’s mobile.
  9. Unnatural craving and compulsion – craving to answer after a single beep and being compelled from within to do it immediately.
  10. Anorexia – eating disorder

Depressive and manic disorders

Having any of the above symptoms simply means you are an addict and before it takes a toll on your mental health, it is better to look at what God wants us to do with such a small gadget with huge capabilities to lure us into this trap of addiction.
There is surely no quick fix solution for smart phone addiction. Abstinence is not feasible and not a wise thing to do. God has given us this wonderful gadget to be put into right use for the glory of His name. Smart phones can be used for the Lord in various capacities and a wise use of our gadgets will please the Lord. Here are some practical applications that we can follow as disciples of the Lord.

  • Cultivate digital hygiene or a digital diet (have a specific time to view mails, Whatsapp, Facebook, Twitter, news, etc)
  • When there is a crave to look at your mobile after every beep, try to divert your attention to some other activity
  • Discipline yourself in the use of your gadget ( Eph. 5:15-17)
  • Play outdoor games and do not get hooked for long on gadget games
  • Memorize God’s word and meditate on it (Ps 119:9)
  • Change your thinking process to something productive and edifying (Rom. 12:2)
  • Take a walk outside and worship God for His creation (Ps 104:24)
  • Share your struggle with your mentor or in a small fellowship group
  • Flee from temptation (2 Tim 2:22)
  • Use filters while viewing images on Google, You Tube or other sites(2 Tim. 2:22)
  • Fast and Pray(1 Thes. 5:17)
  • Practise a mobile Sabbath
  • Think about pleasant things (Phil. 4:8)
  • Choose the right apps to download( I Thes. 5:22)
  • Fear the Lord and shun evil(Prov. 8:13)
  • Read God’s word (2 Tim. 3:16,17)
  • Walk differently from Gentiles ( Eph. 4:17-24)
  • Try to use apps that can monitor your mobile activity and give you a feedback on your progress in coming out of addiction

Excessive use of gadgets bring spiritual ADD  (Attention Deficit Disorder) distracting us from Christ and His word. Mental health is what God ordained for each of us to have and disarming it through the misuse of gadgets is certainly against God’s plan. It is important for us to examine ourselves in the light of His word (Gal:6:4) and take a stand in using our gadgets rightly to bring glory and honour to His holy name. 

IMG_20160123_230545_800Sarah Susannah
The author and her husband Anji are UESI Staffworkers in Uttarakhand

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