By Aditya Ramanda Putra
Excess of anything can be hazardous, goes the adage. And no other era has witnessed so much excess
of everything as we do in this digital age. As technology firmly rules the roost and takes control of our life, its
hassles are also increasing manifold. Your workplace often looks like the dashboard of a miniature
spaceship with computer monitors strewn all over, weird cables holding together bits and pieces of hi-tech
gadgets and numerous lights blinking from every possible nook and corner. Long hours spent at your
computer, as well as poor working practices, may result into various ailments. You may develop carpal
tunnel syndrome, back pain, bursitis, eyestrain and deep vein thrombosis, to name a few.
But once you are past that physical domain, things may get even more serious. Believe it or not,
the Internet can actually affect our mindset and thought process. Such medical conditions are hardly tangible at
first– you don’t suffer from pain, aches or pins and needles at the initial stage. Nonetheless, they can be
detrimental to your well being, especially if not diagnosed and treated on time. To help our readers, Aditya
Ramanda Putra has listed below some of the medical conditions caused by Internet overexposure.
Stress: The slow killer
This is probably the most commonly reported problem that the Internet causes. There are several issues
involved here. To begin with, the Internet is a vast reservoir of data and information. For the average user,
this is like a bombardment that causes information overload. People often feel that they may miss out on
crucial information or news which leads to a sense of inadequacy and, therefore, to stress. Secondly,
unreasonable expectations abound, especially at the workplace where superiors expect the
employees to be available 24x7. Unrealistic deadlines and working graveyard shifts also combine to
lead to stressful situations. Often termed as ‘bad’ stress, it may lead to headaches, hypertension,
high blood sugar, stomach ulcers, loss of appetite and depression.
In order to prevent the Internet and technology overkill from resulting into mental stress, it is
important to delegate tasks, realise one’s actual capacity and work accordingly. Time manage- ment
skills become especially crucial, as does the ability to switch efficiently between work and family time.
Once home, one must try and relax by spending some quality time with family and friends,
pursuing a hobby, practising meditation or by simply going around the town. It’s time to take a tip
from the Smirnoff ad: Life’s calling, where are you?
Internet addiction: Succumbing to
The constant need to visit the cyberspace and stay connected on the World Wide Web
signifies a strong ‘Internet’ addiction, akin to one’s dependence on alcohol, smoking or dope.
And the Internet addict actually suffers from withdrawal symptoms if he/she is compelled to stay
offline even for a small length of time. Those symptoms typically reflect irritability, sadness and
anger. Moreover, Internet addiction may also lead to compulsive gaming, shopping or gambling,
repeatedly checking e-mail messages, updating status on social networking sites and surfing the Net
for unnecessary, trivial information.
But there is more than meets the eye. Internet addicts gradually veer away from the real
world and starts living in the cyberspace. Even the most trivial problems will trigger anger and lead
to depression. For instance, if the person doesn’t receive a new e-mail message or finds that there is
no new activity going on at the social networking site, he/she will feel lonely and cut-off from the virtual
world. In extreme cases, the computer user tends to pile up food close by, avoids getting up to answer the door
bell and doesn’t even answer the phone. Plus, the physical syndromes of computer overuse also plague these
addicts. In fact, reports abound of people fainting from lack of sleep and exhaustion. Under these
circumstances, it is best to go for psychiatric help.
SNS depression: Trapped in a cycle
The advent of social networking sites (SNS) may have ensured a great platform to stay connected with
friends, locate long-lost buddies and catch up with colleagues. But there seems to be a not-so-pleasant
flipside that may seriously affect a person’s life. No, we are not talking of privacy or security issues, but of
behavioural pattern. SNS users almost always post every single activity on their profile pages – be it
studies, dating, disappointments, happy moments, failures or achievements. Therefore, when you put up
a particularly depressing post and people bombard you with comments, you are compelled to read the same
thing over and over and sink deeper into depression.
For instance, a teenager may talk about being angry or upset about a certain issue on a networking
site. Her friends then comment on her post and she answers back and the conversation chain seems to
continue for days together, without any respite. As a result, the negative feelings get renewed again and again,
and the person concerned cannot get over the incident. And this constant cycle of negative
emotions would often lead to depression and stress. This vicious cycle can only be broken if one can log off and
stay away from those comments for a while. Staying off the ‘overconcerned’ online community and
nurturing a detached attitude will surely cure those suffering from SNS depression. But in extreme cases,
psychiatric help may be required.
Münchausen Syndrome:Make-believe mishaps
Put simply, this syndrome compels the sufferer to fake an illness, tragedy or even physical and mental
abuse and torture to grab the attention of various online support groups and forums dotting the
Internet. This psychological disorder has been named after the famous German baron Karl Friedrich
Hieronymus Freiherr von Münchhausen who repeatedly faked illnesses and told impossible stories of his
adventures to get attention from people. The basic symptoms do not change even when one is in cyberspace.
Just like its real-life manifestation, here, too, people go to the extent of faking serious illnesses or being
victims of violent crimes like rape and assault to get attention from others. Those suffering from this
condition become online hypochondriacs and eventually, tend to believe their own lies.
A problem similar to Münchausen Syndrome is health anxiety or pain catastrophisation.
This mostly happens when Net-savvy people inadvertently get into the habit of googling every bit
of information in order to know more. Well, they may conduct a search on any other search
engine, but the outcome of those searches and the subsequent impact remain the same.
With loads of medical information freely available on the World Wide Web, a comparison of
syndromes becomes inevitable. Consequently, even a slight chest pain caused by acidity turns
into a severe heart attack; a small back pain which needs nothing more than a little exercise and
rest becomes slipped disc, and a minor skin allergy turns into incurable skin cancer. Just like the
Internet addiction or SNS depression, this problem, too, requires psychiatric help at the
Internet rage: What’s hurting you?
From blogs to tweets to status updates, the Internet offers a number of forums for users to
publish their thoughts without any inhibition. Encouraged by the relative anonymity that the Net
provides, as well as the absence of effective censorship, most netizens use this medium to vent
their anger and frustration caused by myriad issues. Be it relationship problems, health
issues, job loss, corruption, traffic jam or something as trivial as a neighbour’s dog
barking late at night –people will never run short of nasty words and abuse. You do not
get logical analyses or possible solutions from them – it is always direct and blatant
verbal attack without rhyme or reason. Worst of all, online nastiness is a vicious circle.
One angry blog post or foul comment leads to another even worse, hate groups are formed at
times and the trail of anger blazes along. This eventually leads to an unhealthy atmosphere at
home and work, and stress often rules supreme, whether you like it or not.
Typical symptoms include using foul language in blogs and status updates, posting
rude comments on other people’s blogs/walls and so on. However, people who are
irritated or angry may even display there feelings in a physical way. Conventional anger
management techniques may work to an extent but primarily, they should be made aware
that such behaviour cannot be condoned. As rational human beings, they must realise that the
permanent solution must be sought elsewhere and the cyberspace is not the right place to
express their anger so viciously.
Finally, it is crucial to remember that the Internet and all relevant technologies are
here to make our life simpler and more enriching. However, balance is the keyword when you
enter virtual space and start living your virtual life. Internet is nothing but a simple technology
medium for providing information and entertainment. And cyberspace is where one can enjoy
oneself, but never at the cost of one’s health, peace and well being!