Imagine living comfortably in a house. Everyone has their own bedroom, and you have plenty of space for your belongings. Then, one day, you move to a much larger house. You have twice as many bedrooms, twice as much space, even though the same number of people live there. It won’t be long before you fill that space, even though when you lived in your small house, you couldn’t imagine needing or wanting anything else.
Then you have a hard time getting rid of those belongings, even if you’re asked to move back to a smaller house. You keep everything, in case you need it later on.
There’s a similar trend in technology and how we use it.
What is digital obesity?
Not so long ago, phones were used to make phone calls. Then there was texting and low-quality photos. Nowadays, our high-tech pocket computers are used for everything (a phone call being the least of these); we can’t leave home—or even go to the next room—without it.
And there’s no end in sight. Our mobile devices are only growing in their capacity to access and store information—and, because we have it, we’re making use of that space.
This is digital obesity. Urban Dictionary defines it like this:
“Information hoarders with a ferocious appetite for data. Digital obesity can be used to describe people…who refuse to delete old or unwanted data in case they need it in the future. The same people can often be found trying to fill 400GB Hard Drives with junk, just because the space is ‘there’. Also relates to software packages that are needlessly large and over complex.”
Is Digital Obesity Slowing Us Down?
Smartphones and other mobile devices are supposed to bring ease and freedom into our lives. However, the sheer amount of content available online holds us captive. We might start with one favorite news site and humor site that we want to read every day; then a friend introduces us to a new one, and we add that to our list. We realize we want a more well-rounded approach to the news, so we start reading multiple news sources. Someone sends us a funny cat video.
We realize we haven’t looked up from the screen in two hours, and the coffee is cold.
Furthermore, businesses are clamoring for our attention. Companies have their own apps, games, and quizzes. If we want discounts at a certain store, we have to download the app. We have to check it regularly to make sure we don’t miss anything; we’d better check their social media sites, too, just in case they make a different offer there.
None of us shop at only one store. We keep the store apps just in case, even if we don’t shop there often.
Look! There’s a new social media site! We weren’t going to join, but all our friends have joined, so maybe it’s worth looking into.
This article from The Guardian sums it up well:
“We are in an endless lock-in at the all-you-can-eat big-byte buffet and we’ve eaten the key. We are becoming increasingly immobilised by our mobile selves, screeching to a halt mid stride, sentence or sleep to answer the seductive vibration and ping of another digital missive. We are increasingly crippled by the devices sitting in front of us, paralysed by the mere thought of losing power or connection. More and more of us are quietly and invisibly suffocating under the sheer weight of multiple personas, accounts, passwords, profiles and screen devices. For some, digital citizenship is crushing, both physically and spiritually.”
Digital Obesity and Children
Obviously, this isn’t just an adult problem. Kids spend an average of nine hours a day consuming screen media. They, too, are managing multiple social media accounts, remembering countless passwords, and crafting profiles that may depict who they want to be rather than who they are.
In 2015, the New York Times reported on a huge increase in the number of photos taken every year, estimating 1.3 trillion photos per year by 2017. Many of those photos are selfies, and people spend a lot of time retouching them before sharing them. Then those photos are kept. You can’t delete a shot when you look that good in it!
Children and teens can be overwhelmed, as adults are, by the sheer volume of information available to them. They save photos of themselves and of friends, they check in to multiple social media sites so as not to miss anything, they watch the videos their friends are sharing and find their own to share, and so on. They download apps and games, and since their device has the ability to store all of that and more, they keep going. Because they can, and because they’re encouraged by their friends and a society that says, “More, more, more. Look at me. I want your attention. Use this, buy this, save this for later.”
What Can We Do About Digital Obesity?
By that, we mean lose digital weight. Go through your phone and delete your unused apps and old memes. You can even go through your friends list and delete the people you don’t know well (or at all), which will help clean up your newsfeed.
Your children can do the same, of course, but they may need a little help. This is where trustworthy parental controls can come in handy. Simply block the apps and sites you’d prefer they didn’t use, see or simply want them to take a break from. Not only does this protect them from unsavory or inappropriate content, but it also saves them from the excess digital weight. They can stay more focused on the apps they use and love without spreading themselves out too much, believing they need to spend equal time on each new app or site. You can also disable the internet for hours at a time to encourage them to step away from their devices.
You might also suggest a “day to delete” where the entire family sits down with their devices and decides together which apps and old photos to delete. Of course, your child might not be receptive to such an activity, but it’s worth a try! After protecting kids all over the world, with our parental control service, NetsanityVPN will be released soon to offer parents and other adults using Apple devices a secure way to connect and communicate through the public internet without any privacy or logging concerns. Netsanity’s new VPN service will provide customers with secure connectivity without the need for any app to be downloaded from the app store.