“Please keep that phone away,” or “Please switch the TV off,” may sound like regular pleas in any household. While earlier, these could be said only in the context of children, they have now become valid, even for adults. This is because so many of us knowingly or unknowingly have become addicts to mobile phones, be it just looking into our messages, social media, or even answering emails. Television, too, occupies our leisure time to a large extent.
A small village in Maharashtra’s Sangli district named ‘Mohityanche Vadgaon’ has shown the path to de-addiction to digital media. 3000 people reside in the village, and everyone in the area turn-off their televisions, cell phones, and other electrical devices for an hour. At 7 pm, a siren is sounded, and everyone has to turn off their mobile phones, television sets, and any other screen they might be watching till 8.30 pm.
A British reporter has brought this village into the limelight by talking to the villagers about the benefits of this practice. While the homemakers say that they miss their television time, they also so that they are spending quality time with their families. The children, on the other hand, say that the quality of food their mothers prepare has improved, and more conversations occur at home. In addition, the school teachers have observed that children have become more attentive, and their retention ability has also increased.
The sarpanch of the village enforced this rule about six months ago after observing the effects of digital media on his own family. He wanted the entire town to benefit, so he extended this rule to the whole village. The fact that a reporter from Britain has come down to cover it highlights the importance of this practice.
However, on the other side, when I go to a restaurant, I often see young couples handing over a mobile phone to their three or four-year-old child. While they interact among themselves, the child is engaged in playing games on the mobile. Also, I have observed when young students go to a restaurant. They, too, are glued to their phones while sitting in a group. It makes me wonder whether one goes to a restaurant to enjoy happy moments and interact with each other or just be engaged in digital interaction!
Also, during meetings, it is seen that people keep looking at their mobiles to check their Whatsapp messages. Symbiosis is a health-promoting university, so we have taken several measures to stop this. I will soon initiate that everyone attending a meeting should keep their mobiles on silent mode or switch them off or in their purse, including laptops. Furthermore, when one sits at a table for a meeting, one should give 100% attention to the matter being discussed.
We should recognize the importance of this digital detox and do it on our own without any enforcement. A simple practice is to avoid looking into the mobile phone when talking to someone right before me. Instead, I give my undivided attention to anybody talking to me, whether my grandchildren, family, colleagues, or anyone else. I have often observed that even while people are talking to each other, their eyes keep flitting back to their mobile screens, which are very much there in their hands, a habit that I have stayed away from. A mobile is a gadget used for communication and information, but it cannot take precedence over someone in front of us.
Digital media has helped bring the world together to a large extent, but it is also essential to realise the value of people around us rather than those behind the screen.