We are mostly unaware about the ill effects of addiction to gadgets, but its adverse effects on our mental health are slowly garnering their due importance. We cannot imagine our lives without mobile phones, television or the internet but the addiction to these technologies is creating huge problems in our lives. Identifying this problem, people of Badagao in Sangali District in Maharashtra discovered an innovative solution called ‘Internet Avkaash’ in which every day in the evening for a pre-decided time period, people announce Internet Avkaash (or internet break).
This practice is done so that people, especially kids can use that time for other activities like studying, playing, community meetings etc. Every day a siren is blown by the Gram Panchayat Authorities and people stop using the Internet immediately. According to the president of gram parishad, Akshay Vijay Mohite, “To relieve people from social media addiction and make good use of the time they have taken this important step”. Mohite further said, this decision is taken because people are losing time for reading, physical activities, and in fact talking to meet each other and they are just glued to their smartphones, so every day at 7 PM an alarm is blown which means people have to switch-off all their gadgets. The second alarm is blown at 8 PM to switch on the gadgets.
It is very important to take these types of steps from keeping yourself away from internet addiction. Studies suggest that in India, people spend approximately four hours and seven minutes on the internet every day which is enough to affect our eyes and mental health. Internet addiction is a complex problem that makes people unable to stop using something or behave in a certain way, even though it can cause mental or physical harm to themselves or the people around them.
The major symptoms which can be detected in an internet addict person are anxiety, irritability, loss of appetite etc. Playing games on cell phones provides certain levels of dopamine to the brain which is equivalent to taking drugs. As a result, 93% of young people aged 18 to 29 report using their smartphones as a tool to avoid boredom, as opposed to other activities such as reading books or engaging with people around them.
This has created the new term ‘nomophobia’; the fear or anxiety of being around people without one’s phone. In studies done by Oxford University, the internet on your smartphone can also disturb your sleep. The screen emits a blue light which has been shown to alter our circadian rhythm, diminishing the time spent in deep sleep, which is further linked to the development of diabetes, cancer and obesity. Studies have also shown that people who read on their smartphone at night have a harder time falling asleep and produce less melatonin, a hormone responsible for the regulation of sleep wake cycle.
To overcome these problems small steps like internet breaks, or gadget breaks are very important and doing them on a community level can create a huge impact on society, which the people of a small village in Maharashtra are doing.