Un-like This: How to Curb Digital Dependence

practicalities - Vietnam: Aug. 7, 2019

Is your smartphone usage getting in the way of completing a task?

Mobile apps are taking over human interaction.

What causes nomophobia?

In an age where friends and family are constantly available anywhere, anytime, with just the tap of an app, are we starting to get overly dependent on technology?

Gone are the days when we used to remember phone numbers and had to rely on awkward first conversations to score a date. Now all of these can be done simply on your phone.

According to an academic study released by the Hanoi University of Public Health based on feedback from 170 college students from three different Vietnamese universities, smartphone usage averages about three to four hours a day, with about 31.2% of students using them six to 11 times a day, and 25.9% of students using them 11 to 20 times a day.

Digital DependenceImage source: macleans.ca

According to various global studies, such as The Global Mobile Consumer Survey by Deloitte in 2016, it was revealed that 80% of a smartphone user’s routine starts within one hour after waking up, or before bed, of which 35% do it within five minutes.

The same survey also found that one in three people check their smartphones in the middle of the night.

How do you know if you are addicted to your phone?

‘Nomophobia’, or smartphone addiction, becomes an actual problem when it hinders your daily life. This includes using a phone for unhealthy periods of time, or swiping a screen instead of completing a task.

If you’ve noticed phone addiction symptoms reflected in your daily routine, and regularly suffer from withdrawal symptoms after not using your phone for a sustained period of time, you may be addicted to your smartphone.

Digital DependenceImage source: recoveryranch.com

Digital dependence is not just about you and your phone

Most smartphone activity centres around social media, instant messaging or watching videos or movies. However, with new apps regularly replacing physical stores and fully-automated services supported by cashless payments, there has been a reduced need for actual human interaction for these transactions.

Digital DependenceImage source: minutemediacdn.com

Apps such as Grab allow you to book a ride from one location to another without needing to speak to another person. Tinder, a well-known dating app, has also made meeting people much easier, without engaging them.

It is inevitable that in the near future, most of our current tasks may just be a click or two away - but is that a good thing?

What else causes this addiction?

Psychologist Nguyen Thi Tam, director of the Vietnam Insight Applied Psychology Company believes that nomophobia has spread widely across Vietnam due to the increased acceptance and normalisation of smartphones in everyday lives.

Digital DependenceImage source: bibamagazine.fr

She added that besides the feeling of anxiety while waiting for notifications, users have also started to find that their social skills have gradually eroded.

In an interview with VietnamNet, Khuat Thu Hong, director of the Institute for Social Development Studies, warns that a lack of attention from parents can make it difficult for children to share or discuss their problems and in some cases, this neglect may lead to depression and other disorders.

Digital DependenceImage source: thegoodbook.co.uk

She suggests parents to set up a timetable to ensure that they spend enough time with their kids. Parents should also make a commitment to live phone-free whenever possible, and engage in fun offline activities with their kids.

Ms. Tam suggests that in order to create a balance between being offline and online, mobile phone usage should be moderated and not encroach into time spent for human interaction and even work.

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