Global village. 24/7. Always Connected. Connect in an instant. While these slogans are very attractive and do have their merits, there is a danger that we forget about the harmful effects of an online World. We will delve into some side effects that are often ignored. These harms should not detract us from using Internet or not realising the unimaginable benefits of a connected World but these should just serve as a reminder to be aware of while enjoying an online World.
Dopamine Rush. Online World is just like the real World in the sense it can elicit powerful responses from us just like real life events. If we post a picture and someone likes or leaves a positive comment, it gives us the same dopamine rush just as an appreciative or positive in real life would! However, there is no limiting factor in the online World on the size of people that can respond or react to you as in real life. Internet transcends boundaries of race, colour and languages so you could be in Iran but get a like on your lawn/garden photo from someone in USA. Chances of this happening in real life are slim. So, you may now think what is the harm in this? Harm in this one is that one can get addicted to these positive reactions, comments and even interactions and chase the dopamine rush non stop. You end up chasing these online ‘highs’ while ignoring the real World. This is not a theoretical problem either. In developed countries, young men and especially women can be seen lost on their mobiles while sitting in public places like bus stops, train stations etc. At best this results in losing on valuable and high-quality real life experiences but at worst this constant chase of dopamine rush in the online World results in broken families, loss of relationships, selfishness and increasingly narcissistic behaviour.
Waste of Time. There is no doubt that Internet is one of the biggest life changing inventions of the past 100 years. While its use for academics, government services, online shopping is invaluable, there are times where the entertainment side of it can wreak havoc on people’s lives. Humans have always desired entertainment in one form or another. There was a time when people used to gather around fire and have long conversations every evening. This was the only form of entertainment available at that time. Then we had video cassettes and VCRs. Today we have Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, Disney+ among a few hundred networks of entertainment that offer non-stop 24/7 entertainment. Yes, that is non-stop on-demand entertainment at the power of your fingertips. Never in the past have humans this type of on-demand luxury. Problem: How do you stop yourself from getting carried away! It’s easy to just spend an entire weekend indoors binging on Netflix. While online entertainment in moderation is not an issue, but if you are spending every other weekend like this, it becomes a harmful habit for health and even society in general. Societies thrive in a collaborative open environment, but online entertainment is exactly the opposite of it.
‘Hot’ Trend. Comparison has always been the thief of joy. However, this problem has multiplied several folds due to 24/7 online World. I need to get the latest car someone posted a snap of on Instagram. I need to get the in-trend expensive dress my friend just posted of herself in on snapchat. I need to look good to make my next TikTok video and if that means splurging a grand on a new bag, I need to do it. Spending money on things that you want results in not being able to spend money on things that you need.
Steps you could take to safeguard yourself
- Prioritise and create to-do lists
Prioritise lists of important tasks per day. Easiest way to do this is to create a to-do list every day. Until that is done, do not attend to anything else especially in the online World. Do not check Twitter, Facebook, YouTube or any other website while everything on that to-do list is crossed.
- Counter Dopamine Rush
Create a list of physical activities that sound appealing to you. This could be as simple as walking or as complicated as training for Iron Man competitions. Force yourself to take part in these activities on a weekly basis. One thing that online entertainment does to us is make us lazy and sit in a chair all the time and the best way to counter is to force yourself to take part in activities that provide us moderate challenges as well as feelings of happiness and accomplishment once you successfully complete those challenges. One simple challenge like this could be to build your stamina to simply walk for 20Km non-stop.
- Do NOT Compare
Compare yourself only to your previous versions and even then, learn to always be grateful for whatever you have. Do not compare yourself to online versions of others. You don’t even know whether those versions are honest representations of others or not. Be kind to yourself. Always strive to be the best version of yourself but do not kill yourself in order to do so!
- Take time out for the ones around you.
Contribution to society is the cornerstone to progress of humans. Whether it is helping out the elderly neighbour, volunteering for your local charity, or helping the homeless, it is what drives us forward. Sadly addiction to online World can make people unintentionally selfish. So make an extra effort to fit in these tasks in your schedule and do not let your online activities distract you from contributing to the progress of the society you live in.