In India, we enjoy world’s cheapest internet. With a Gigabyte of data at $0.23, it could not get any better. Internet revolution has changed the landscape of our country in so many ways. With a smartphone penetration of ~600 million, not only do we have one of the world’s largest active user base but we are also a country with maximum untapped potential. While tech giants try to make the most of this opportunity, there are some harmful effects of the internet which just cannot be overlooked.
A study recent study conducted by psychologist Tine Eide reveals that a lot of people show withdrawal symptoms when separated from their phones. These symptoms are similar to that of a substance abuse. How long can you stay without your phone and internet? Would you panic if you are asked to surrender your phone during a party? I definitely would! While we establish cellphone addiction is a real thing, let understand some other side effects of internet:
1. Lack of Focus/Concentration at Work
This is undoubtedly the most common side effect of internet boom. My dashboard shows that last week, I got a staggering 550+ average notifications each day, forming a top at 903 notifications on Monday. And please note that last week was comparatively a smaller work week as Christmas coincided with the weekend.
Let’s assume that I operate my phone all day while I am awake. So average notifications per day divided in 16 hours means that I get 35 notifications per hour. So, in reality, every two minutes some application is competing for my attention. Isn’t that just absurd? While I personally use focus mode to prevent myself from jumping on my phone every other minute but is it a sustainable solution? There has to be a better way. Not all phones focus on digital wellbeing equally. This can be a real area of concern especially with teenagers who may not yet realize how harmful, effects of internet can be.
2. Lack of Connectivity
Yes you read it right. I agree that entire motive behind internet boom was to make a more connected world. But somewhere, we have lost the connection with the reality. Do you take your cellphones with you for lunch/dinner? Are you always doing something on your phone while talking to someone? Welcome to the club. Whilst enjoying the capability of connecting with anyone in the world, you just missed talking to the person right next to you. I crave those dining table conversations. I propose enabling Zen mode to overcome this situation.
3. Memory Stress
Connected world comes at a cost. All these applications that let you reap the benefits of the internet, come with a password. And that is where you end up in a catch-22. A weaker password would risk your profile, money and a stronger password would create undue stress on your memory. It is never advised to keep a same password for all your accounts, therefore, even more stress.
I often find myself in a situation where I use an application after a while and for some reason it has logged me out. It is so hard at that point to remember your password. While Google tends to remember it on your behalf, but that has some skepticism attached to it as well. Currently, I have 289 applications installed in my phone. Remembering a password for even 10% of those apps is not remotely possible for a human brain.
4. Ghost Notifications:
I am sure you must have experienced this at some point in your life. You feel the vibration in your pocket, take out your phone, just to realize that it was nothing but your misconception. I ignored this phenomenon initially but later when I looked up, it was a real thing. I am not sure if it has something to do with the fact that you are so used to checking your phone every minute that your brain sends in, such signals. It is indeed a creepy side effect of internet.
5. Rise in Cringe Content:
I am not naming the platform here but I think you know where I am headed. With internet reaching to the people who have never experienced it before, there is a rise in some questionable content. Now, I am totally up for the creativity. But, content that glamourizes crimes, atrocities against women, riding bikes recklessly is something that scares me. Please note that maximum of this content is consumed by the people of same segment. You never know if they would ever be able to clearly draw a line between reality and fiction.
6. Self Loathing:
Back in 2007, Justin Rosenstein, invented the like button for Facebook. His motive behind it was to spread positivity across the world. Little at that point they knew that it will soon become a proof of validation and acceptance amongst youngsters and there’ll be a dirty competition for these internet brownie points. Social media and related suicides are becoming common with each passing day.
This has also given a rise to a new genre of crime called cyberbullying. Anyone hiding behind a computer screen tries to be as mean as it pleases him/her. Totally unfair.
7. Lack of Sleep:
One of the adverse effects of internet is tampering with the sleep pattern of people. Had their been no internet in my phone, there would definitely be no reason to stick to it for long durations at night. What people don’t realize is that not only they go to bed late because of their phones and internet but it also hampers the quality of sleep.
Our response to sleeplessness is also resorting back to our phones which further aggravates the situation. Not to mention the fact that you will get back to that screen again, as soon as you wake up.
8. Rise in Cybercrimes:
A couple of days ago, my grandfather was watching India Vs Australia test match. There is a very innovative advertisement running about UPI payments from Google. He called me up and wanted me to enable this functionality for him. While I wanted to do it, as it would make his life much easier, I refused. I told him that until and unless I give him in-person training on the usage of the application, it is not possible for him to operate it.
I have seen so many frauds happening online right in front of my eyes. I have got multiple calls from such conmen and I have traced their journey till the final step. I know they can be quite innovative in the way they operate. With internet reaching our elderly, it is much easier to dupe them of their hard earned money. No matter how much government sensitizes people on OTP/Passwords, these fraudsters find a way around to fool innocent people.
After the integrations met online connectivity and cloud computing, I forgot that pen and paper even existed in our lives. I attend meetings on Zoom/Teams, take notes on Google Keep, copy them and paste it on outlook in my phone. In the middle of all this, my phone/laptop will tell me if I have done any grammatical or spelling mistake. How convenient right?
Initially, spellcheck and grammar check used to assist us in writing. However, now we rely on them for correcting us. I have developed this habit of continuing with the incorrect spellings deliberately, knowing that autocorrect has my back. This would totally backfire if I had to go back to pen and paper regime. I don’t know if I’ll ever have to, but I do have a bad feeling about this.
We all know that ‘Information is power‘. However, misinformation is becoming an even bigger tool these days to manipulate people. With initially ridiculed terms like ‘Whatsapp University’ becoming a reality faster than ever, internet has taken charge of driving mindsets of the people. It is a tool being used change perception of an individual.
We saw an impact of these rumors during elections, Coronavirus and its cures, defamation of targeted individuals and godify others. These unregulated platforms can be lethal to the fabric of the society if left unmonitored. The moment I had to explicitly tell my parents that they need not believe everything on the internet and WhatsApp forwards specifically, I knew there was something off with this internet revolution.
Even the best of the resources provided to us can turn into destructive tools if not used in moderation. Internet and it’s harmful effects are a best example of this. I am not saying that we should go back to the old era and quit using internet. The need of the hour is to educate people as they expose themselves to a never before seen technology. Stringent regulatory laws must be in place to monitor social media platforms. What do you have in mind regarding harmful effects of internet? Hit me up on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. If you find this article useful, please consider sharing it on social media using the links below.