The lockdown fosters new addictions

COVID-19 Lifestyle

A lot of people have become addicted to online gaming and binge-watching due to the ongoing lockdown

By Tamanna Yasmin

Kolkata: “I’ve developed this addiction after the lockdown,” says Sayani Ghosh, an MSc student at West Bengal State University. “I spend four to five hours on gaming and around six more hours watching web series. It is not only affecting my studies but also messing up my sleep pattern.”

She’s aware this new lifestyle is making her increasingly unproductive but is unable to control her urge. She’s worried that she will be facing some difficulty in getting back to her daily routine once the lockdown ends.

Sayani’s mother Soma Ghosh complains about her daughter’s addiction saying, “She spends the whole day on her phone; either she is playing games or watching some serial. At times she skips lunch as she is asleep during the day as a result of staying awake all night. She is not paying any attention to the household. This newly developed habit of hers has created a gap between her and our family.”

Sayani is not alone. Caged in their homes in a seemingly endless lockdown, a lot of people have become addicted to online gaming and binge-watching television serials and films. For those already hooked, the craving has become even more intense.

Shalini Chakraborty, an employee of the West Bengal government has been addicted to multiple web-series for a long time. She says now that she has more free time because of the lockdown, she is staying awake all night to watch films on OTT platforms. “Sometimes I get so involved in a particular show that it stars affecting my mood; I get depressed or become cranky.”

Shalini’s family said that she hardly attends to any need of the household as she is always busy with her phone. Her mother Pratima Chakraborty worries that, “Not only has she become uncooperative but also this addiction is adversely affecting her health.” Although Shalini is confident she won’t have a hard time going back to her normal routine after the lockdown ends, her mother isn’t so sure.

Ali Hussein, CEO of Eros Now, in an interview with the Hindustan Times on the increase in platform’s engagement during the current lockdown situation, said, “In the era of social distancing, consumers are turning to forms of digital entertainment. We’ve seen an increase of 200 per cent in paid subscribers on a daily basis and App Annie shows a 78 per cent increase in daily traffic.”

A report by The Hindu Business Line notes, “India’s homegrown Paytm First Games announced that it has seen a 200 per cent increase in its user base in the last one month. Over the last several weeks, the company said that more than 75,000 new users are joining the platform each day.”

Dr Jayanti Bhattacharya, a veteran psychiatrist associated with the Indian Psychoanalytical Society, explains these impulses saying, “These activities provide instant gratification, thereby making them highly rewarding at a relatively low cost to the individual in terms of ease of access. The individual thus repeatedly seeks these in contrast to other ‘less rewarding’ activities with delayed gratification, resulting in addictive behaviour.”

She warns that the psychological effects of addiction to online gaming and web series are similar to other forms of addiction. “Apart from disruption in sleeping and eating patterns, it adversely affects the interpersonal relationships of the addicted individual, and to a considerable extent, erodes their social skills. The virtual environment of the online platform obviates social norms, and an individual who spends long hours immersed in this environment is unlikely to be able to motivate themselves to conform to the more strenuous efforts required for human interaction, which requires empathy and patience,” adds Dr Bhattacharya.

She believes awareness about the potential adverse consequences of such addiction might motivate the individual to alter their behaviour. Alternately, she adds, “If the content of these online platforms is made less easily rewarding by making them more intellectually strenuous and by engendering delayed gratification, it would automatically have the desired effect of a decrease in addictive behaviour.”

Feature image credit: Parentology


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