By any measure ‘digibesitas’ is a strange term, but it does reference a distinctly modern problem. According to media experts from iMinds at Ghent University, digibesitas describes a form of information-screen addiction caused by excessive use of digital media. In our information age, it has become clear that many people are now bombarded with far more data than they can cope with, and also that many are still struggling to find ways to cope with that reality.
So what is digibesitas?
To add some detail, let’s take a look at the modern mode of living: The majority of people seem to possess smartphone devices, with the latest models forever packed with features to make more and more aspects of life easier and more comfortable. Many also have a tablet, which can do almost everything a smartphone can accomplish, but with the added advantage of a larger screen. Then there are work tools such as laptops and desktop PCs, satnav devices for in-car navigation, digital watches for stripped-down connectivity, health and fitness monitors. The list goes on and on, and the number of screens we all own continues to multiply as smartphone ownership soars. So are we not all to some degree hard-wired to the digital world? And is it not the case that any temporary deprivation is a major personal worry? And if so, does that not perhaps imply some form of addiction?
But why is digibesitas dangerous?
Larry Rosen, who is a psychologist and author of ‘The Distracted Mind’, has researched the effects of over-exposure to digital devices. He notes almost everyone will check their smartphone at least once every 15 minutes, regardless of whether or not they have received alerts or notifications. Rosen’s view is that our technological interactions now incorporate a distinct layer of anxiety – as if we all are convinced that not checking in leaves us prone to missing out on something really big and important.
Beyond this growing feeling of anxiety, Rosen also demonstrates that this obsession with data feeds also has a significant impact on our ability to maintain an optimum mental focus. And devoting too much time to digital devices soon becomes very tiring, and thus has the potential to have a negative effect on our mental health. In fact, we have yet to discover the longer-term consequences of allotting so much time and effort to meet the demands of digital devices.
At a corporate level, Facebook appears to accept that too much exposure to social media networks can negatively alter the mood of the user. Elsewhere, some major Apple Inc investors are lobbying the company to create a range of support tools which could potentially assist users in breaking destructive habits of phone-addicted behaviour.
Many parents are concerned about how digital devices are taking over family life. ‘Always-on’ connectivity induces parental behaviours such as scanning Facebook and catching up with WhatsApp chat which degrades time spent with young children, or simply not listening to young ones because we’re instantly captivated by a friend’s Instagram content. And it’s the same story with children: As soon as they acquire a smartphone or tablet (often before they can read), the pull of digital devices also reduces their wish to communicate with parents.
Is it time for a digital detox?
At a personal level, it may be high time you took a critical look at your digital lifestyle. So here are a few tips to help you get started with reforming your own digital life:
- Create a schedule: Strangely enough, your phone can help you re-shape your interface with the digital world. Experts recommend setting an alert notification for checking your messages every 15 minutes. Once you have regulated yourself to checking for one minute only, you can then adjust the time period to 30 minutes, 45 minutes, or once every hour and so on.
- Cancel push notifications: Wherever possible, get rid of annoying push notifications delivered by your apps. The quickest way to do this is usually to go to Notifications in your Settings menu. That should allow you to limit messages about email, chats, calendar prompts and the like.
- Remove distracting apps from your home screen: It has been shown that much smartphone usage is the result of unconscious habits – we check Facebook, then move on to look at the weather prospects, texts, email etc. Much of this occurs because the icons are right at our fingertips. But if you park the prime candidates for distraction elsewhere, you will be less likely to casually open them if that means opening a menu dialogue to achieve your purpose.
- Banish your device from your bed: Charge your phone somewhere else and go back to using a traditional alarm clock. Then your phone won’t be the first and last thing you see before sleep, which will reduce the temptation to feed and renew your ‘always-on’ mindset.
Try to develop a relationship with your phone that feels productive and positive, rather than toxic. That could mean something as simple as disabling notifications and only checking Facebook or playing online casino when you take a break.
Set an app to catch an app
It may seem crazy, but apps such as Freedom (iOS), (OFFTIME) and are really useful tools to use in your quest to improve your ‘digital health’ and steer you away from what even Google have termed an ‘attention crisis’.