How To Go Offline Without Getting Stressed

During a recent holiday in the Himalayas I happened to lodge at a homestay. A calm, serene place which had, to my joy, no TV ! Yes, I hate the idiot box. I was very excited, feasting my eyes on the greenery, till I decided to upload a photo of this beauty. Voila! The place had no mobile phone connectivity as well!
My husband had a hearty laugh, considering I am the one, out of us two (being a writer and voracious reader) who spends most of her time online. He is just the opposite! And we had to live like that for five days! He was joyous at the idea, while I was a bit lost initially. But after those five days, I felt I had undergone a detox treatment. Yes, I confess it.

1. Enjoy the “ME TIME”

So after signals could not be accessed, I had so much time at hands which I spent doing a lot of things. I also happened to explore a place which none of you will find even on Google. I penned my first travelogue sitting there. I went for long walks with my husband, which we could never do in our busy city life; we cooked together and even sang our favourite songs. And I realised it is really not that difficult “TO GO OFFLINE, WITHOUT GETTING STRESSED.”
So here backed by many, as you will read below, I will elaborate on my new-found joy which will eventually help you detoxify as well.

2. Start a Conversation

How many times in the day do you speak to the ones around you? Whether working or not, most of us these days exchange text messages, jokes, memes and even laughs as smileys over the internet. Now, recall your childhood; wasn’t it happier OFFLINE?  We had such fun, meeting friends playing with them, till internet took over.

Going offline

“In a span of two years, the hyper use of my smartphone has gotten me used to constant stimulus, and with this comes a certain anxiety of expectation. I am now working hard to reverse this habit, at times switching off literally, to escape from the constant barrage of slack, e-mail, social media and what not. The pleasure of a real conversation, a walk in the sunshine and an organic activity like sports, baking or gardening is unparalleled by the virtual universe,” opines Merril Diniz, Content & Communications Head, SHEROES.
So Merril suggests that go…grab a coffee with a co-worker or friends, put that glowing box you call a smartphone on airplane mode and have a fun chat! Remember, human-to-human interactions go a long way in strengthening personal bonds.

3. Get out, Get a A Life

I decided to discuss this topic with some more people, whose life and works revolves around staying online all the time. I was surprised to know, they prefer to go offline before starting another day.

Nitin Bhatia, Managing Director, Executive Alerts, Meltwater India told me, “My colleagues think I am online & working 24/7. And I sometimes feel the most healthy & active part of my body are my fingers as my mobile keep them busy. But I do go offline and don’t get stressed at all. I pursue my hobbies, whether being on the field playing cricket or playing badminton or simply experiment in the kitchen. So for getting disconnected from the online world means indulging in things that me happy. And the longer you spend time in a hobby, the lesser are the chances of getting stressed. In-fact they diminish.” Nitin is a former national level Badminton player as well.

4. Cure Yourself of FOMO.

Swear upon God…do you really feel good when you see those photos of friends on a vacation while you slog at work? Well don’t lie. A psychiatric study reveals that 80-90% of the current breed of the social media generation suffers from FOMO–FEAR OF MISSING OUT.”
“So going offline for a while, say for a week or few hours daily. It will cure you off this feeling of making yourself feel terrible due to a third person. You will learn the fact of life that no two people live under the same circumstances,” says psychiatrist Edwina Scott from Ontario.

5. No Stress, Only Rest

“Checking emails in bed is what I used to do, till I was diagnosed with Insomnia. So I decided to not bring any gadgets in my room. It has been six months, no withdrawal symptoms!” laughs Sita N Sinha a former bureaucrat and a very active social worker.

So mark our words and attempt small sessions offline. And we assure, you will find yourself much more productive. And for those staying alone, Maryada Sharma, Stem Cell scientist from Harvard now working with the PGI, Chandigarh, has the final advice, “Go adopt a pet and let your smartphone or laptop feel like an orphan for a while.”
Mahima Sharma, Columnist Techthirsty.com
(Author is former News Editor with CNN-News18 & ANI-Reuters)
Do write to us at editorial@techthirsty.com or Tweet to us at @Techthirsty.
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How do you greet people? In person or Social Media?

My mom’s good morning blessings by 6am make my day…everyday. But this Durga Navmi instead of the message, I got her call early morning.

I was a bit startled…a fear of the unknown sunk in. The first thing I asked was, “Are you ok? Is everything all right? Such an early morning call?” She laughed and said, “Beta, it is Durga Navmi Puja today, I wanted to bless you..wake you up with my voice, wish you in person. What is so unusual?”

I had no answer. Though we spoke for sometime, but my mind was elsewhere.

Something had jolted me, her answer…followed by her question. “I wanted to wish you in person.” “What is so unusual?”

Yes, what was so unusual? I began to dig my brain and decided to pen my introspection supported by a few with whom I happened to discuss this sudden awakening. “How many of us wish people/ relatives/ each other in person?”

Email and Social Media did bring the world closer, but the personal touch got lost somewhere. So where are we heading to?

1. A ‘Broadcast’ of Greetings & Best Wishes

Social media, relationships, interactions, less social contact, long distance relationships

“Happy Birthday” to “Happy Diwali” and “Happy New Year”– all these are now a common broadcast sent in one go. From warm hand-written letters and bright and beautiful greeting cards that adorned my home’s walls each year…we graduated to E-mails. Soon even the animated E-greeting, which to some extent tried to carry forward the warmth, got replaced. We the Robots now poke at our glowing metal boxes aka smartphones to BROADCAST greetings. To add on, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are all set into motion. Virtual warmth has replaced in-person love.

Siddhartha Upadhyay, Social Entrepreneur & Sports Promoter from New Delhi says, “Digital media has given wings to the escapists in us. The boon to connect us is being mis-used to veil our lethargy. Talking, meeting and greeting people formed the basis of civilisation that gave us a sense of belonging. Lack of this feeling is giving birth to social diseases like callousness. High time we realise that social media was developed for social networking and not for social disconnect.”

2. Conversation Died a Tragic Death

Social media, relationships, interactions, less social contact, long distance relationships

 

My friend wanted to plan a holiday in Goa. She recently requested recommendations through a public post on Facebook. In the pre-social media era, we would actually walk-up to our friends or may be call them on phone….had a real conversation, over pleasantries exchanged.

“Same is with our children. Group studies, games in the garden and long-chats under the colony trees were our happy life. Now children exchange notes through mails, play games poking the plastic, glowing boxes in their hands and chat into the night over various social media messengers,” says child psychologist Shahana Singh from New Jersey.

Result? When you introduce them to your friends who have come over for dinner, they utter a small ‘Hello’ and get back to the glowing “dabba’ in their vicinity…whether a TV or a Smartphone.

On the contrary, Monita Sharma, Communication Strategist and NRI in Sydney Australia ensures she calls her parents, siblings, relatives and friends asking their well being as well as exchange greetings on special occasions. “As mother of twin boys, I strongly believe a personal touch is much needed. And whatever I do, will be picked up by my children,” asserts Monita.

3. We are Social, yet so Lonely!

One of my former’s boss’ son recently got married. I was thrilled to see that septuagenarians and octogenarians had out-numbered the youngsters. Groom’s own childhood friends could not make it and sent him gifts bought online or text messages. But these relatives made it even with their walking sticks! Why? I overheard one his grannies, “This was perhaps the last opportunity or among the last one left to meet the entire clan in person. My son wants me to learn WhatsApp, but I somehow could not.” In my heart I thanked God for not letting it happen.

How elated were the Bride and the groom to have them around! How joyous were these wrinkled faces with bright eyes and ear-to-ear smiles! And how lonely were those who could not make it. Sigh.

Isn’t it an empty feeling of having it all but then not having anything at all? Isn’t it a reminder that our journey into the age of information has come at a cost? At the cost of personal touch? At the cost for warmth in relationships? At the cost of basic communication we all must do?

“I stay in Dubai. Social Media and facilities like Skype help me connect to my family and friends back home in India. But I ensure that it doesn’t happen in the city I stay. A warm ‘Hello’ or a ‘knock at the door’ takes just a few minutes,” says Swati Smita an NRI and former hotelier.

Change begins from home. So this festival season…spread warmth, spread cheer, spread love…IN PERSON. Try…it isn’t that difficult, our elders have already shown us the way.

Mahima Sharma, Columnist, TechThirsty
(Author is former News Editor with CNN-News, 18, ANI-Reuters)

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Are You Raising a Screen Slave?

A friend’s five-year-old son refuses to eat or do his school-work unless she hands him a smartphone. Whose fault? Well, we are not here for a blame game, but let’s try to find a solution to this viral problem. First thing’s first, let’s be realistic and accept that technology is re-defining our lives. It is important for a child to have an aptitude for technology. Another thing we need to accept is that being born around gadgets, children are getting addicted faster. The question is: “How to ensure we don’t raise a screen-slave at home?” I spoke to many parents and experts to draw out some conclusions to help us ascertain we are not raising one!

“First of all restrict the use of your own gadget in front of them. Someone is watching even if I am not acting; he follows what I do, not what I say. That someone is my child,” asserts Aalok Sharma, a merchant navy officer currently working in Hong Kong.

1. Gadgets cannot work as babysitters

Don’t expect gadgets to substitute your presence. It’s fair that with both parents working, paying attention to your child at all times can be difficult. You might not have as much time to devote to your child as you would like. But, remember that nothing can replace the presence of a parent. And if it does or has, it must raise an alarm.

Aviation Engineer Sherpal Singh from Goa, India tells me, “Rather than a ‘Gadget Bar’ we need a ‘Relationship-Academy’ at home. Understand your child’s needs and build your relationship around it; it is the only way out.”

screen slaves

“If I chose to be a parent, why outsource my child to technology? We have to build a bond beyond gadgets,” says Abhimanyu Pratap Singh, media entrepreneur and father to a three -year-old girl.

I agree. My neighbour’s seven-year-old daughter doesn’t hunt for gadgets when her software engineer mother and banker father are at work. She is either doing her homework, engaged in crafts, or taking a siesta to stay fresh.

2. Involve children in arts & craft

Child psychologist Ridhima Nair Paul writes to me from Canada, “Colours and crafts open out a new world to children–a world of imagination, a world of creativity, a world of dreams, a world of goals beyond mundane life. Rather than feeding your kid by handing over a smartphone, make her hold a crayon & paper and draw the food she is eating.”

3. Encourage outdoor activities

Let’s stop making excuses about not having enough outdoor space. Even gardening or tending to potted plants (which we all have) is an outdoor activity. A child racing in the lawn, feeding the birds and breathing in nature is likely to enjoy better mental stimulation than one hooked to a gadget.

Parenting, outdoor play

Rashpal Dasgotra–father to a son and a daughter–both below the age of 10 says, “I engage them in channelizing their energy in physical as well as mental exercises. And for this I take them to play outdoors; to travel with me as often as possible. We visit farms and explore places of interest. I gift them sports gears rather than a new gadget. Eventually, the screen will come into their lives. So why now?” Rashpal is a senior journalist with Korean TV’s India bureau in New Delhi. He is mostly busy on outdoor shoots but finds time to do this.

4. Encourage personal visits over media chats

Remember, how as kids we used to visit our friends to enjoy group study or to play outdoors? Then why are our children restricted to a social media messenger to exchange the same warmth? Think about it. “Man is a social animal. And we are our ourselves deviating our children from the same fact,” says Thomas N Sean, a psychiatrist from Italy.

5. Introduce them to good literature

Aalok’s wife Suveera Sharma shuttles between India and Hong Kong, balancing life between her husband and in-laws staying in India. Hong Kong is a far more technically-developed city than Indian metropolises. Yet, she doesn’t believe in handing over a gadget to her teenage daughter. Instead, she keeps her free to read books and novels. She also prefers to see her son play outdoors.

6. Don’t be a spy, be a cautious caretaker

Psychologist David Thompson from Sydney writes to me, “If your child is already an addict to a gadget, it will take time, patience and love to get him/her out of that zone. Firstly, restrict the use at your end. And then teach the child harms of excessive use, rather than scolding him/her, snatching away the gadget etc.” (sic).

All of the above are some great tips that parents and psychologists follow to ensure children are not addicted to technology. Shobha Rana Grover, mother to a tiny tot and an NRI in Germany sums up everyone’s dilemma well: “Parenting has no set of rules. But it is a dynamic subject like Science, which can be handled best with a little guidance from experts.”

Mahima Sharma, Columnist TechThirsty
(Author is a former News Editor at CNN-News18, ANI-Reuters)

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Sarahah-The App You Hate is Out to Help Women!

We Love to Hate Sarahah

As teenagers some of us perhaps wrote anonymous letters to teachers and classmates either for fun or to convey something which otherwise couldn’t be dared to. As adults these came to be known as whistleblowers who take shelter and pride in anonymity.

Perhaps taking a cue, the new internet sensation – an app called Sarahah (Arabic for honesty) was designed. Launched in February 2017, Sarahah was designed to allow users submit ‘honest’ comments, questions, and critiques to their peers. Though the App tops the charts for app downloads, but it has found more criticism than appreciation.

Sapna Bakshi who works at the reputed Job4Her podium, which helps women get back to work after a sabbatical, says, “I am totally against this app; if not used diligently, this app also has potential to be very risky. People tend to misuse it in a wrong way for bullying others and get into cyber crime. Secondly, this will encourage in ‘wearing a mask’—thus lack of confidence and inefficiency in a person, especially youngsters.”

Brand and Communications professional, Smriti Advani is also not very appreciative of the App. Mother to a one-year-old girl and based in the tech-city Bengaluru, Smriti’s latest social media post goes as follows:

My friend and former colleague from CNN-News18, Megha Mamgain an Executive Producer & Anchor asserts,” For millions of users, social media is a wall they hide behind to fire un-parliamentary words, threats, their frustrations at you. The anonymity the new app Sarahah is claiming to provide is just a boon for trolls as well as criminals. A girl just got a rape threat through the app – I rest my case.”

I do not disagree with these three women and many more who wrote to me in a similar fashion. After all, the reports of the App now facing flak for encouraging trolls to send abusive and threatening messages are pouring in.

Amit Garg Director – Devoir Technologies Pvt Ltd in Chandigarh asserts, “These women have a valid point. Although you can block the messages, the user will still need to read the message first. As such, women and teenagers girls fall easy prey to this kind of online abuse and harassment. So why do we need an App for more?”

So should Sarahah be banned? Was the idea a total disaster?

No, the Idea is a boon for many via two good samaritans. These two women are ‘revolutionising the life of other women’ through Sararah. Yes, you heard it right!

Sararah–The Women Healthline

Meet Pallavi Pareek, Managing Partner, Ensuring Diversity and Inclusivity through Legal Compliance at Ungender.in

And Swarnima Bhattarcharya, founder of Women’s Health Line (WHL) which is promotes informed and healthy conversation around women’s health.

We first come to Swarnima who inspired Pallavi. After seeing a downpour of hate posts on her social media feed, Swarnima decided to put the app to a better use in a country where for most of the women discussing openly about their bodies and related issues is still a distant dream. She thought ‘Why not ask women to send queries they were too shy/afraid/confused to ask anyone publicly?

Swarnima writes to me, “Not only did people love the idea, we received 150+ responses in just 3 days, and it inspired a few sister organisations to do the same. We are answering all queries on our Instagram handle womenshealthline.” The company’s page is flooded with questions ranging from sexuality and menstruation to domestic abuse.

Two users of this idea WHL spoke to me on condition of retaining their anonymity. They happen to be friends’ friend. I list one of them here, a mother whose happy tears could be felt on phone. Mrs Abholkar (name changed) a 50-year-old home-manager from Mumbai told me,” I was facing issues with my gay son. My family just doesn’t let me talk or discuss with anyone for the fear of repute. Connecting to WHL through Sararah has pulled me out of depression and given a big hope for my son. God bless the founder.”

Whether health issues or other, Swarnima informs these queries are answered by WHL consultants who are counselors and medical professionals. WHL claims to be currently the only platform in the country that exclusively deals with Women’s Health issues by exploring through various forms of media and experts. And with Sararah being put to an amazing use…they have clearly changed the game for women!

Sarahah–The Women Helpline

Pallavi Pareek, founder of  Ungender.in went a step ahead of Swarnima. I let her explain in her own words, “Few years ago we launched @AskPallavi using social media and it was very helpful to invite questions. But we noticed that people were still hesitant in framing the questions right or concerned specially with their name being visible to everyone. Eventually people started messaging us privately. With “Sarahah” we are looking forward to transparency of reality for the state of sexual harassment laws while the identity of the individual remains hidden.

Pallavi adds, “We have launched an anonymous query profile for people who have any question with respect to sexual harassment laws, incidents, remedies, authorities, wayouts, and more. If you ahem a query, Leave them here—> sexualharassmentatworkplace.Sarahah.com

I happened to discuss this with Amit Garg of Devoir Technologies Pvt Ltd again. He jumps at it, ” Wow! This effort will go a long way to help women.” Looking at his young techie wife Aditi who also beams at this idea, Amit adds,” Such message through Sarahah will go a long way in revolutionising the life of the women as a constructive feedback will help them pave a better way ahead of them. All this effort needs is a good journalism about it (please pen a story he requests) and ample positive marketing on various social media sites.”

Thus to help you connect to more such websites, who are saving both women and Sarahah from disgrace, we at Techthirsty.com are providing you a few links below:

Women’s Health LineUngenderThe AWARE Foundation

Mahima Sharma, Columnist TechThirsty
The author is former News Editor with CNN-News18 and ANI-Reuters

Do write to us at editorial@techthirsty.com or Tweet to us at @Techthirsty.

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