Whatsapp Fever in Seniors

With over 1.2 billion active monthly users WhatsApp is the most popular mobile app for sharing messages. Its impact on how the young socialise is phenomenal, but equally unsettling is to know its influence on the 50+ age group of users and the advent of new therapeutic challenges borne out of New age Digital Disorders.

India has witnessed an upsurge in the payment application launches after the government decided to demonetize the large denomination bank notes, in November. And India’s most favourite messaging app WhatsApp with its 1.2 billion user network decides to bank on this opportunity and soon plans to launch its payment service in India. We hope that the payments are real since India’s WhatsApp trend and rumours have not been so genuine and healthy for consumption!

Last night on reaching home after work, I greeted everyone, the way I normally do. I hugged my mom, and like each day, she urged me to relax on the sofa for a while. Usually, the conversation starts with ‘How was your day?’ or sometimes even with a ‘What would you like to have for the dinner?’, but a surprising question pulled my tiring posture into an alert straight-back one, “Did you check that video I had WhatsApped you this afternoon, where a dolphin helped a dog to swim across the ocean?” My refusal got her upset, and her next sentence literally made me feel guilty about the offence I had committed. “You stay online all the time, but you can’t spare several moments to watch a 10-minute video sent by your mother.”

This incident was alarming! As then I noticed that my mom is constantly swiping through her mobile phone, at any and every available instance. Being a journo, this was enough to pep up my curiosity and I started my search for a story on this eventuality. The question in my mind was – The impact of Whatsapp addiction and how damaging it can be?. And sharing this concern with few other friends and people belonging to my socio-economic zone revealed that their parents were also going through the same addiction of smartphone. Infact it wasn’t tough to get a nod from my editor for this story, as he too shared similar observations.

Here are the three specific things that plague the Whatsapp:

The Faking News

“Please switch off your phones tonight as there will be *Miscellaneous* rays passing above the earth that can harm your phone” sort of rumours are certainly harming the authenticity value of content on Internet and not the phone. It is also something that should not at all be encouraged, but thanks to the over caring nature of our parents that flourishes these faking news pieces as an important one!

The Futile Forwards

While talking about this forwarded news, how can we forget the family groups where each one sends minimum 25 good morning messages every day and also notifies about Sharmaji’s son’s achievement which keeps on being appreciated over the group by each family member. We are talking about this time consumption that one can productively delegate to other activities unless playing Candy Crush!

The forced Reciprocity

Festivals and Special Occasions are the days when intense inward traffic of messages is received, and this has turned into a social norm to respond to the slurry of undesired messages. Not responding to such slam messages leads to social awkwardness, when the seniors physically meet up with the same group of people.

The Unfiltered Content

Facebook is comparatively safe in terms of content consumption because they filter the uploaded content according to the viewer’s discretion as soon as a user posts it. But WhatsApp, thanks to the end-to-end encryption that ultimately narrates that one is free to send whatever he/she wishes to. Even if it is a disturbing beheading video, violence provoking religious text or even filthy accident images that no one wants to see at any time of the day. And so many of the daily exchanges that seniors indulge into, are the unfiltered ones.

The above can affect any user of any age bracket, but it seems that children and elders are most affected. Technological advancement is welcome, and what needs acknowledgement is the fact that elders’ eagerness to adapt to new technology has gone up. Never before a 50+ generation has adapted to a technological shift so quickly and immensely. For parents with children and relatives living geographically away, Whatsapp is a boon to stay in touch with them, at every instant.

Having said that, what needs attention is the impact of injudicious usage of these tools? The seemingly interactive messaging, really enhancing the interpersonal relations or truncating them?

Research shows that this phenomenon has resulted into huge untenable Digital Disorders which the 50+ age group are vulnerable to. Gone are the days when people suffered common sprains and aches. Welcome to the 21st century when WhatsApp Neck and Selfie Elbow are the trending diseases. Using WhatsApp for an extending time can definitely affect your neck and backbone. The addiction to these digital utilities can be a symptom to unnoticeable mental ailments. Few of these ailments borne out of the ‘Smartphone’ or ‘Digital’ usage and also accepted by the medical community are as follows:

whatsapp-fever, WhatsApp addiction and Digital Disorder in Seniors

Whatsapp Addiction Disorder*

Excessive and compulsive use of ‘Whatsapp’ that it starts affecting your daily life. This constant urge is often unhealthy and could be a symptom to a larger psychological problem.

Nomophobia

The term is an abbreviation of No Mobile Phobia. There are many phobias listed under the medical literature, latest among them is the anxiety attack that one feels while the mobile is lost or drained out of power. The seniors who have attributed too much importance to Whatsapp as their social engagement channel, are vulnerable to above-normal anxiety during such an occurance.

The condition has found its way into the most recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) and has prompted a dedicated Nomophobia treatment program at Morningside Recovery Center in Newport Beach, California.

Social Media Depression*

The number of social interactions enhanced by Whatsapp is humongous, and one would consider this to be a positive sign for validity seeking human individuals. But the fact of the matter is, that the exact opposite of this is happening. There is a correlation between Social Media usage and emotional issues such as depression. An inactive WhatsApp life, when equated with social isolation has the potential to lead to depression.

( *This are not the listed medical names of ailments, but similar effects are acknowledged in various reports)

Technology per se is not harmful, it is its in discretionary use and compulsiveness that can be dangerous. The only thing that can help our above 50+ smartphone users is to give them a more pleasant diversion, which should be creative, engaging, social, yet productive, less physically draining and non-addictive; one may recommend logging on to CreativeYatra.com and find something enriching and knowledgeable which is beyond mindless amusement.

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