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DOUBLE-EDGED PHONE

Switching their phones off makes Indians bored, sad, and disconnected

Wider Image: The runaway husbands
Reuters/Anushree Fadnavis
Pros and cons.
Ananya Bhattacharya
By Ananya Bhattacharya

Tech reporter

Ask Indians to switch off their phones and they might just snap.

Indians have some extreme feelings attached to the idea of switching their mobile phones off, according to a study of 2,000 adults done jointly by smartphone brand Vivo and Cybermedia Research (CMR). The feelings vary from positive ones like relaxing and calm, to negative ones like isolated and helpless.

Two-thirds of Indians have never even tried a social media detox, the survey found. Among those who have cut off, more people associated negative reactions like sad (30%), bored (19%), or disconnected (7%), than they did positive ones such as peace of mind (18%), excellent (14%), or relaxed (12%).

The main reason for not wanting to switch off the phone is FOMO.

The “fifth limb”

Smartphones are like an appendage for most.

“Smartphones are ubiquitous in our lives today, be it connecting with friends, family, eating out or even travel or entertainment,” said Nipun Marya, director of brand strategy at Vivo India. “As the ‘born in the net’ generation grows up as digital natives, there is a fundamental change underway within society—redefining relationships, interactions and the very fabric of human emotions and exchanges.”

Indians spend a third of their waking hours—that’s 1800 hours in the year—on their phones, the Vivo-CMR survey found. Nearly 80% of respondents consider their phone a “fifth limb.”

For 78% of those surveyed, their smartphone is the last thing they see before going to bed and the first thing they look at when they wake up. Three-quarters of the respondents checked their phones within 30 minutes of waking up.

The dependency set in early for most. Three-quarters of those surveyed owned a smartphone in their teens and of them, 41% were hooked to phones even before graduating from high school.

 

Indians are tethered to their phones—even if it comes at a cost.

Hazardous to health

Most people recognise the smartphone addiction isn’t the healthiest. “While smartphone will continue to be the primary go-to device, smartphone users have realised that periodically switching-off would help benefit their personal health,” Prabhu Ram, head of industry intelligence at CMR, said.

Over seven in ten users feel that if their smartphone continues at the current rate or grows, it is likely to impact their mental or physical health. One in every four users has experienced some health issues from too much of phone usage.

These negatives aside, Indians are so glued to their devices that it’s putting face-to-face interactions on a backseat.

Compared to 10 years ago, fewer people meet family and loved ones multiple times a month now, the survey said.  A whopping 96% of people “prefer virtual messaging apps to get in touch with friends and family.”

 

Even when they are meeting, their attention is on their device. One in three people admitted that they can’t even have a five-minute conversation with friends and family without checking their phones.

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