On 14th August 2022, on the eve of independence day, Vadgaon, a village in the Sangli district of Maharashtra, declared freedom from the world’s two most dangerous addictions- television and the internet.
The idea of digital detox has been gaining traction these days. In post covid times, where we have been coping with two years of online life, a digital detox is one of the voluntary coping mechanisms. Vadgaon, a population of 3000 farmers and mill workers, have to switch off their televisions and mobile phones for a few hours, every day.
How Does This Independence Work Out?
A siren goes off in the village at 7 every evening, signalling everyone to switch off their mobile phones and television sets. Both devices can be turned on at 8.30 pm when the Village Council again sets off the siren.
Vijay Mohite, the President of the Village Council said that during the pandemic, children had become dependent on mobile phones and television because of their online classes.
The children are now returning to school as they’ve reopened but the addiction continues in the form of playing on mobile phones or watching television. Mohite was also concerned about the adults not talking to each other and spending a lot of time on their mobiles and television.
Vijay Mohite, told BBC Hindi, “We decided at the village meeting on 14 August – the eve of India’s Independence Day – that we needed to stop this addiction. From the next day, all television sets and mobiles were shut down when the siren went off.”
Sacrificing One And A Half Hours of Screen Time
It was not an easy job for the Village Council to convince everyone of this idea. The men of the village were not at all ready for this digital detox and ridiculed the idea. The Village Council then convinced the women, bold enough to confess that they do get drawn towards watching the daily soaps on television and agreed to shut down the devices for a few hours.
After a meeting of the council, the decision of installing a siren over the village temple was taken. It was not easy to implement the idea. When the siren went off for the first few times, the council staff and a group of volunteers had to go around urging the people to shut down their mobiles and television.
The rule has been fully implemented now. Dilip Mohite, a sugarcane farmer and resident of Vadgaon is seeing the difference of this digital fasting in his three school-going sons.
Vandana Mohite, also a resident, who earlier wasn’t able to supervise her children effectively as they were engrossed in playing games on mobile phones, told the BBC, “Since this new norm began, it is far easier for my husband to return home from work and help them study and I can peacefully do my work in the kitchen.”
Does This Idea Make A Difference?
The problematic usage of the internet is a common phenomenon in children and young adults. Also known as addictive behaviour, it includes urges and preoccupations regarding internet use that may cause distress and impairment.
Dr. Manoj Kumar Sharma, professor of clinical psychology at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences, says that briefly switching off the television and phones can help as “conscious digital fasting as a family to engage in quality-based activities is a cornerstone for decreasing dependence on online activities”.
A study conducted by Dr. Sharma and his associates between July to December 2022 said, ”The risk for problematic usage increases with excessive non-productive usage of the internet, which can cause psychological stress. It has the potential to harm many aspects of adolescent life.”
Voluntary digital detoxing helps in having a stress-free outlook on life but to catch up with the world, the social animal has to go online. The reason behind digital detoxing in Vadgaon is the concentration level of the children in their studies and their weakening social interaction but the primary question arises- Are the devices at fault or the dealing strategies of the institutions with children and adults in post covid times not up to the mark?
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This post is tagged under: Vadgaon, Maharashtra, Digital detox, mobile phones, internet, covid 19, pandemic, post-covid, television, voluntary, compulsory, Village Council, studies, social talks, society, real conversation, online, offline, village, digital, online games, screen time, stress, adolescents, children, adults
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