Proponents of ‘digital fast’, pointing to the addictive properties of technology, say it provides clarity, enhances recovery, increases motivation, helps embrace boredom and regain control. But not everyone is buying in
Smartphones are everywhere in today’s world. So how does one disconnect and decompress?
Some from Jain community in Madhya Pradesh think they have the answer – via ‘digital fast’, that is, keeping away from electronic gadgets and the internet for 24 hours during Paryushan Parva.
Paryushan Parva is one of the major festivals celebrated by the Jain community annually for self-purification, introspection and spiritual development.
The members of the community participate in the festival by fasting and performing pujas and other religious rituals.
जब बिना मोबाइल दिन चर्या की कल्पना कठिन हो ऐसे में पर्यूषण पर्व पर मोबाइल प्रयोग का त्याग कर ई-उपवास किया गया।
– जैन समाज रायसेन MP pic.twitter.com/2qHLGxpKQ3
— Anamika Jain Amber (@anamikamber) September 7, 2022
Let’s examine ‘digital fast’ and how some from the Jain community are doing it:
What is a digital fast?
Simply to refrain from using smart devices such as phones, TVs, computers, tablets, laptops and social media – basically anything connected to the internet for a specific period of time (from a day to a week).
To unplug from the world wide web and unwind. Going for a walk, communing with nature, meeting with friends or even touching grass, to quote a common refrain.
As per Psychology Today, this concept is gaining popularity among Silicon Valley companies such as Facebook and Google as well as its employees.
This comes as research from the Nielsen Company shows the average US adult spends a whopping 11 hours each day listening to, watching, reading, or interacting with media, as per Very Well Mind.
Proponents of the concept state that digital technology has addictive properties that cause harm in various ways, and we need to regain control over its use.
They compare the addiction to technology to those hooked on compulsive gambling or drinking.
A poll conducted by the group Common Sense Media seems to back that up.
The results showed, 50 per cent of teens reported that they felt that they were addicted to their mobile devices, while a massive 78 per cent of the teen respondents said that they check their digital devices hourly, as per Very Well Mind.
Advocates of this concept claim it provides clarity, enhance recovery, increases motivation, helps embrace boredom, familiarises one with solitude, enhances creativity, helps regain or maintain control.
Ashley Richmond, writing in Medium, puts it thus: “Fasts of any kind are good for you — they teach you to go without. They teach you how to be happy even in absence. Fasting can be an incredibly spiritual practice. Fasts lead to an eventual gain despite the current absence.”
But not everyone is sold on the concept.
As per Psychology Today, technology enthusiasts make an entirely different argument.
They claim there is nothing problematic or dangerous with incessant digital connectivity. They believe that there is no need for anyone to unplug at all, even momentarily and that digital technologies now satisfy many of our most basic needs and we no longer have other, old-fashioned ways of meeting these needs.
They argue that digital fasting is nothing more than depriving ourselves of basic need fulfillment and constitutes a case of unnecessary technological asceticism.
Business consultant Alexandra Samuel sums it up thus:
“When we’re online — not just online, but participating in social media — we’re meeting some of our most basic human needs. Needs like creative expression. The need to connect with other people. The need to be part of a community. Most of all, the need to be seen: not in a surface, aren’t-you-cute way, but in a deep, so-that’s-what’s-going-on-inside-your-head way.”
As per Economic Times, organisational psychologist Adam Grant in an April LinkedIn post called digital detoxes unnecessary. Grant wrote that people assigned to spend an hour less each day on their smartphones turned out to be happier and healthier than those who entirely went off their tech toys.
The respondents learned to regulate their attention and set boundaries, he added.
“Reducing your smartphone use is better for your well-being than stopping cold turkey. Experiment: 4 months after decreasing smartphone use by 1 hr/day, people were happier, less depressed & anxious, and led healthier lifestyles. Digital moderation beats digital abstinence,” Grant tweeted.
What are the Jains doing?
In Madhya Pradesh’s Raisen, during the ongoing Paryushan Parva, around 1,000 members of the community deposited their smartphones for 24 hours at a temple in Begumganj town, some 120 kms from the state capital, on Wednesday morning, a local community leader said.
“People have become addicted to the internet and use smartphones and other gadgets for a long time every day,” Akshay Jain, a local Jain community leader, said.
“An initiative of digital fasting or fasting without internet was started so that the people can stay away from this addiction. People switched off their phones and left them at the temple for 24 hours for this fasting,” he said.
Talking to PTI, Ajay Jain, a councillor and a prominent leader from the community, said this fast began on Wednesday morning and about 1,000 people are participating in the exercise.
“We are keeping away from all modes of internet including phone, laptops, computers. We have to sacrifice some of the favourite things during the ongoing fasting of Paryushan Parva. So we decided to renounce the internet for 24 hours,” he said.
This kind of initiative may possibly continue in future as well, he added.
With inputs from agencies
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