The Covid pandemic has been challenging for everyone. Lockdowns meant people had to stay at home and couldn’t interact with others in person due to the rapid spread of infections. This led people to rely on digital devices to communicate and connect with their social circle. However, this increased usage of digital devices led to digital addiction and raised the need for digital well-being.
Digital well-being refers to the intentional and informed decision-making process to improve one’s overall well-being in the rapidly advancing digital age. This involves striking a balance between the potential negative effects and benefits of digital technology, prioritising one’s health and well-being, and establishing a healthy relationship with digital devices. It also includes understanding the positive and negative impacts of excessive use of digital devices and identifying ways to maintain and control their usage to preserve digital well-being.
The term digital well-being was coined by Bjorn Nansen for highlighting children’s online resilience and crucial skills to cope with online risks and attain safety. Further, Beetham explained it in context with educational purposes. Digital well-being is basically the equilibrium between the potential digital risks and the advantages of digital involvement. Digital well-being has also been described as a subjective individualised experience of optimal stability and health in digital use.
A more positive perspective towards digital well-being was proposed, in which digital well-being is represented as a way of life which is promoted through exceptional health and well-being within the sphere of digital technology. This positive way of life is composed of our body, mind and spirit which enable an individual to live to the fullest capacity of human, natural and digital communities. Therefore, it is the absolute state of health and well-being that each individual in this digital era must need to achieve.
Later, Google officially defined the nature of digital well-being as a “state of satisfaction” when digital technology supports people’s intentions. So, technology should be designed for ‘crafting and maintaining a healthy relationship with technology’. The focus should be on how technology serves the users and moves them towards their goals rather than distracting and interfering with their routine schedules. Hence, Google launched an application named ‘digital wellbeing’, empowering users to track their use of time on various applications and balance digital and non-digital activities. The same function could be found in iPhone and iPad in ‘Screen Time’. Android phones do have a digital well-being feature where one can control the usage and lessen the pop-up notifications which hinder bedtime routines. Since then, digital well-being has been discussed frequently among technology designers, educators, policymakers, and so on.
Studies have suggested various health problems due to digital addiction such as obesity, sleep disturbances, postural effects and visual disorders etc. There are some ways through which we can maintain balance with digital technology and use:
- According to your nature of work, set digital gadget usage limitations beforehand so that you will be well aware and track your time.
- Keep in mind that digital technology usage is to fulfil your technological needs and intentions. Prioritize your tasks well in advance or make a to-do list for the tasks so that you could not control your device.
- Please be mindful whenever scrolling down your social media. Every post or story which seems to be happy and fun-loving may or may not be the exact way they are reflecting.
- Avoid the instant reaction of posting and updating out of FOMO (feeling of missing out), out of pressure or in response to others’ happier updates. Instead, give time to yourself to respond to your feelings.
- If you are feeling emotionally vulnerable, then try to avoid using the digital platform as a medium of emotional catharsis. Instead, identify and understand your feelings, configure the alternatives to release the emotions, and then decide how you are going to deal with them.
- While working for longer hours on mobiles, tablets, laptops etc. takes an ample amount of time breaks. This will protect you from irrationally using your digital devices and eventually increase productivity.
- Make simple adjustments to your screen and you will observe some important changes. You can change settings for ex. Simple home screen options, grayscale theme, reading mode, etc. These tricks can seriously make protective changes in your life.
- Single-tasking can increase your concentration level. Often, people find multi-tasking fascinating, for example, working on multiple tabs at the same time, however, studies have suggested that single-tasking increases your focus and quality of the work
- Take time off with digital gadgets. Put your phone out of sight and after the time off is over, reconnect with them. Detaching yourself with your devices provides you with the opportunity to connect with people around you and simultaneously increase your concentration level. Putting your phone away gives you a chance to regain peace as when the device is out of sight then it is out of mind also.
It is essential to understand the positive and negative impacts of excessive use of digital devices and to identify ways to maintain and control their usage to preserve digital well-being. There are various health problems associated with digital addiction, and it is important to take measures to maintain a healthy relationship with technology. Strategies such as setting digital gadget usage limitations, prioritising tasks, avoiding social media pressure, taking breaks, and practising single-tasking can help maintain digital well-being. Overall, digital well-being is an important aspect of our lives in the digital age and should be prioritized for optimal health and well-being.
Parul Kalia, PhD is an assistant professor at the University of Baroda in India.