Headline: The virtual cliff
THE internet has certainly shrunk the world. Yes it has brought a revolution in the ease with which we are able to connect with others.
But it also has its monsters.
- The bane
The ease of its availability is causing psychological issues like anxiety and pseudo depression. Especially the young ones all over the globe, and equally in the Valley, are a clear victim. The information and excitement overload has taken hold over our youth’s mental health and is creating psychological disturbances. There is this trend to be present virtually on all the possible social events. And along with it comes an increased anxiety or apprehension of missing events or experiences that others are perceived to be attending or having.
For most people, the internet and the social media are an essential in their daily lives and this is only making them more miserable and stuck in staleness, doubts and insecurities. Looking at others on social media and how they show off their possessions and the idea of a good and happy life, people are increasingly diving into envy, competition and a sense of lack. With such an urge for material joy and abundance, people are raging to fit in without being concerned about their mental health.
- The impact
The ‘fear of missing out’ is very common in the younger generation ( 11 -24 years ) who are always bound to their smart phones as if they were a part of their body. There is this constant need to be one up on their peers, cousins, relatives, friends. A response to a notification is becoming extremely sacrosanct and if a person delays his/her response, it is accompanied by anxiety. Yes anxiety is a part and parcel of the phenomenon. And equally common is the obsession with checking inboxes or statuses on varied apps and social platforms. The rechecking and refreshing by social media handlers intensifies anxiety and updates are obsessively awaited.
A study conducted by the University of Glasgow in Scotland has confirmed that the influence of social network can have a devastating effect on the psychological well-being of users. The study involved exploration of the repercussions of social media across thousands of school and college students in which psychological imprints were recorded. It reported that the consequences of overuse of social media among teenagers significantly point to them feeling societal pressure to be always available and updated. The study also lists low self-esteem, trouble with sleep, and anxiety among the students who were a part of the study.
- The victims
Mansha, a student at Amar Singh College, Srinagar shares, “I wasn’t really aware of the psychological impact of the social media until recently. And now I know that there is this prevailing sense that there is more to life that you are missing out on. It is more like a feeling that others out there are leading a more meaningful life than you are, but even if you do get certain things that others have, your quest won’t stop. Perhaps this is something one needs to fix internally where you need to accept and appreciate what you are bestowed with and learn how to harvest it”.
The 21-year-old admits to feeling a constant pressure in keeping pace with the outer world, and sometimes she feels the need to talk about it to someone. “We generally don’t pay attention to these issues but they deserve talking about. When you feel the constant need to do something like others, you risk losing your own identity. Saving oneself from this, calls for lots of inner work,” she adds. Thankfully, mental stress and psychological issues are being taken up more openly, and people are willing to talk and seek medical help.
Saika, a student of psychology, has been struggling with the fear of being left out and has been trying her best to cope but sometimes the anxiety gets very aggressive and she needs to opt for medication in order to calm herself. “Since I’m into psychology myself, I am aware of the issue and also about how grave it gets. Since it is my subject, I am more aware of the psychological patterns and so I am better equipped about its cautions and precautions. We might think of it as a ‘regular’ kind of anxiety which it is not. Since we in Kashmir are still waking up to the growing trends on social media, we are not yet aware of the consequences. The situation needs to be addressed at its root level by using different strategies like guidance and proper counselling instead of turning to medicine which actually intensifies stress and anxiety”. She adds that psychological disorders are nothing to be ashamed of and one should learn to talk openly about them with one’s family and friends.
- The crisis
A healthy set-up of a family is the most basic essential for the right development of individuals. But these days, thanks to technology and our lifestyles, neither parents nor children have time for each other. In such cases, children have higher risks of becoming aggressive and stubborn. And this is when they start turning to their phones to cover up for the emotional lack. Dr Shuhaab, a psychiatrist, says: “People are becoming impatient and obsessed with their phones. Their day starts with messages on their phones, and checking the goings-on on social media instead of checking on those around them. Unfortunately, in Kashmir, where there have been several blockages in communication in the past years, youngsters are anyways brimming with anger and aggression and the isolation due to mobile phones just adds fuel to the crisis. And so lost are they in their own technological zone that if you ask them to spend time with their families, they get irritated and aggressively go back to the virtual world and prefer this over actual human connection. The screen time of an individual has increased to 9-13 hours a day as described by recent statistics”. He adds that parents play a vital role in the upbringing of an individual and the first step to save their children from such aggression, anxiety and intolerance is to mend and fill the gaps from them.
Dr Burhan Showkat, a Kashmiri psychiatrist working in New Delhi, defines issues as mental condition that people battle daily within themselves. She suggests tips to overcome them: Self care, building self confidence, being logical, mind practices, sympathetic & empathetic approach, not to compete with anyone, living and enjoying every moment, facing problems head on, minimising screen time, setting boundaries for oneself and spending quality time with loved ones. These can break this vicious pattern due to the internet.
Meanwhile, it is also important to understand that everyone has a different history and different destination: no one can achieve everything. Also, what you see virtually is not always true. Appearances can be fake. Accepting your life and its blessings and being grateful for what you have are the way to move forward towards peace and joy.