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 Table of Contents  
CASE REPORT
Year : 2020  |  Volume : 25  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 57-59

Internet use: A boon or a bane during COVID-19


1 Department of Clinical Psychology, SHUT Clinic (Service for Healthy Use of Technology), Bengaluru, Karnataka, India
2 Department of Clinical Psychology, National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences, Bengaluru, Karnataka, India

Date of Submission15-May-2020
Date of Decision31-May-2020
Date of Acceptance21-Jun-2020
Date of Web Publication7-Oct-2020

Correspondence Address:
Manoj Kumar Sharma
Department of Clinical Psychology, Service for Healthy Use of Technology Clinic, National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences, Bengaluru, Karnataka
India
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/jmhhb.jmhhb_42_20

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  Abstract 


The lockdown has seen an increase in the use of Internet among the public. It has also emphasized the need to look into the factors related to excessive use as well as its management. The clinical interview was carried out to understand the pattern of Internet use among cases presented to tertiary specialty clinic for the management of technology use. The clinical interview revealed an increased use of Internet immediately after the lockdown. The increased use was attributed to the modality of passing time with limited options of entertainment as well as to cope up with negative emotions. It implicates the need for building awareness about excessive use of Internet during lockdown as well as strategies to promote healthy use of technology.

Keywords: Internet use, lockdown, stress


How to cite this article:
Thakur PC, Sharma MK, Anand N, Mondal I, Singh P, Ajith S J, Kande JS, Venkateshan S. Internet use: A boon or a bane during COVID-19. J Mental Health Hum Behav 2020;25:57-9

How to cite this URL:
Thakur PC, Sharma MK, Anand N, Mondal I, Singh P, Ajith S J, Kande JS, Venkateshan S. Internet use: A boon or a bane during COVID-19. J Mental Health Hum Behav [serial online] 2020 [cited 2020 Oct 29];25:57-9. Available from: https://www.jmhhb.org/text.asp?2020/25/1/57/297419




  Introduction Top


The country went under a far-stretched lockdown from mid-March 2020 to limit the spread of COVID-19. This meant people have to mandatorily stay at home, resulting in limited opportunities for occupation, remote education, and entertainment, all of which are now either being transitioned to home broadband networks or onto mobile connections. In the era of coronavirus, where the public, in general, are experiencing new phenomenon of “quarantine” and “social distancing” apart from the gloom and paranoia around this new threat, those who have confined themselves to their homes are now finding ways to kill time. From playing music on their balconies to Instagramming, Dalgona coffee to digging up forgotten hobbies, people are doing whatever it takes for the days to pass. With this confinement situation, our Internet connection has become an umbilical cord to the outside world. We now depend on it for our jobs, education, and interaction with others. It also appears to be used a lot these days.

Wurl, a company that delivers video and advertising to connected televisions, estimated the amount of time people spent streaming rose more than 20% globally toward the 2nd week of March. In some countries, such as Austria and Spain, there were around 40% increase in time spent streaming.[1] The telecom ministry data showed that Indians consumed 308,000 TB of data daily on an average for the beginning week of lockdown which was around 20% increase in data used during the lockdown period as compared before. Many data providers have converted mobile streaming from high definition to standard definition, which explains the huge surge of Internet demand in Indian households.

The pandemic growth has led to the collapse of many leisure and entertainment, from restaurants and movie to professional sports and concerts; therefore, the entertainment biz has been taken over by the Internet solely nowadays. As reported by Economic Times,[2],[3] during the lockdown, TikTok[4] downloads in India escalated by 20%, making it the most downloaded in the country. Other than that, apps like YouTube, Netflix, and Instagram have also recorded significant spikes in content consumption. Where on the one hand, public are uploading as well as watching creative content on TikTok, YouTube is used mostly for recipe tutorials to refine their cooking skills and Netflix with its various genres of web series offers ample options to binge watch for people who have enough time with them now. Online gaming industries have also observed increased popularity these days. The platform where people see gamers compete via livestreams has observed a 10% rise in its viewership. Apart from that, the multiplayer games such as carrom, ludo, and royal battle are played largely by users since the lockdown, where people appear to be playing more with their friends and family.[2] The time spent by an average user has reported to be grown to a minimum 4 h/day, compared to the earlier 1.5 h.[5]

Besides passing time and entertainment, Internet use in these days also incurs productive and functional purposes. According to Mindshare-Vidooly, COVID-specific content involves 98% views on several online platforms. Online portals are also found to be used to get the latest news updates over the spread of virus. In addition to this, Zoom, a video calling app has also gained popularity in the country, as more and more people are working from home these days and are relying on zoom for work calls.[6] Several firms have also revealed that the usage of tools such as Zoom, Skype, Webex, and Microsoft Teams, which connect multiple people at the same time, has increased up to double, making it possible for coworkers to share a common space and work on a target together. Apart from work-related things, video calling apps are also used to stay in touch with friends and family members with whom otherwise it is difficult to meet in person due to the restrictions.

The present case series of people were seeking professional help for their mood symptoms in a tertiary specialty clinic for management of technology-related issues.


  Case Report Top


Mrs P, 27-year-old female, married, homemaker, and registered client of a psychiatric institute having a diagnosis of moderate depression reported a definite increase in her mobile use when the lockdown started. She had complaints of sad mood, rumination regarding interpersonal issues, disturbed sleep, and restlessness for the past 3 years, and she was treated on selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI), benzodiazepine, and antidepressants. During the lockdown situation, her sadness of mood and restlessness reportedly worsened as she had limited opportunities to engage in activities that would distract her from the ruminations. She mentioned that during that time, she started using mobile for around 3–4 h a day, which was more than before. The reasons for increased use were stated as passing time, restriction in other activities for relaxation and entertainment, and getting more time to spend with the phone than before. The online activities she was mostly engaged in were checking pandemic related information and watching serials online (Ramayana and Mahabharata). She would also engage in online surfing of places to visit in the city which she was unable to visit otherwise due to the lockdown imposed and would visualize herself going to those places. She reported that after watching shows and surfing online, her sadness and restlessness would disperse for a limited time period and she would feel relaxed and cheerful. Thus, Internet use had a mood-modification effect on her and helped her to deal with anxiety and stressful situation, and it was also a medium of wish fulfillment. However, she reported that her household functioning was never disrupted due to Internet use and she found Internet to be beneficial in this restrictive environment as it helped her to overcome emotional difficulties. She also mentioned that for over a week, she got bored from Internet use and is not using mobile as frequently as before. However, whenever she uses a mobile to watch something, she feels good and relaxed. Her biological functions did not change much than before due to excessive internet use and she did not report any conflict among family members due to increased use of Internet. Hence, Internet use facilitated her with escape avoidance from the problematic situation of staying at home all the time with family members, which she might have perceived as stressful.

Mr. R is a 25-year-old male, single, who is currently not occupational from the middle socioeconomic status, and was going through an emotional turmoil (feeling of sadness, low self-esteem, and decreased Interest in activities) due to recent setback and failure in examination before the lockdown. His evaluation in a psychiatric setup confirmed his diagnosis as adjustment disorder. He mentioned as he was confined at home at the beginning of lockdown, he had almost 11 h of Internet use. The most preferred online activity was watching web series and, at times, pornography. He attributed his increased online activity to for passing of time, low mood, and negative thoughts about his capability and passivity to do work. He reported that while watching online shows, his negative thoughts would disperse for some time, and it would help him cope with negative emotions. He would spend hours together binge-watching web series online for almost 3 h at a stretch. During that time, his biological functions were also disturbed as he would sleep very late, get up late, and his daily routine would become erratic, causing brawl with family members. This unstructured routine continued for almost 2 weeks since the lockdown, and after, he started taking medications for his mood symptoms, he could feel medicine's positive effects. He was prescribed SSRI by the psychiatrist and he began to feel active and the negative thoughts and feelings decreased. He stated that subsequent to feeling better he was able to engage in other productive activities throughout the day such as exercising and helping mother in the kitchen. This mood changes also reflected over his pattern of Internet activities which now involves productive use as well. He said that nowadays he is watching work and study-related video lectures, looking for new recipes on YouTube, and interacting with a friend online every day to discuss and solve previous years' government examination papers. His video streaming and pornography watching are still present, but the frequency is much reduced as compared to before. His sleep pattern has also become normal and he feels better after having a structured routine. Currently, the time spent online has reduced to about 6–7 h/day and he is constantly looking to be more productive in his daily routine. Hence, his Internet use in the initial period of lockdown reflected the passive avoidance style of coping with the problem situation. However, as days passed by, due to medication effect and having structure in daily routine, he was able to use Internet in a healthy and productive way.


  Discussion and Conclusions Top


Hence, both the case reports described an increased use of Internet immediately after the lockdown, the reason being considered as a way to pass time with limited options of entertainment or to cope up with negative emotions. This contention of Internet use as a coping strategy is theoretically supported by the model of compensatory Internet use[7] where the author proposed that increased Internet use is a reaction to an individual's negative life situation as it gives rise to a motivation to go online and alleviate negative feelings. This is done by engaging in online activities that holds the person's interest and has a positive effect on their feeling. Video streaming was the most preferred online activity seen in both the cases. However, with the passage of time into lockdown, people appeared to have lost their interest in online activities and became more preoccupied with their daily chores and work-related functioning.

Hence, we found that in this extraordinary and novel situation currently faced by the global population, Internet use had emerged as one of the instrumental ways to deal with the distress and emotional upheaval associated with it. Although, initially, people perceived it as a medium of leisure and entertainment, however with time, they realized the dependence on Internet for productive and functional purpose as well. Another phenomenon of information fatigue syndrome related to Internet use is observed among people nowadays, which can be explained by a high amount of distress among them due to excess and unverified information related to the COVID-19 situation.

Another effect of Internet use behavior among people popular these days is that because of imposed restrictions on locomotion and inability to visit the workplace, most organizations are getting connected at a common platform through video calling apps, and this trend is becoming popular. Hence, this lockdown situation has paved the way of using Internet in many possible ways that we would not have thought of otherwise. It has been speculated that postpandemic era would be different in terms of lifestyle changes that might result in a long-term upward shift in the integration of digital technologies into our everyday lives.

Declaration of patient consent

The authors certify that they have obtained all appropriate patient consent forms. In the form, the patient has given his/ her consent for the clinical information to be reported in the journal. The patient understands that his/her name and initials will not be published and due efforts will be made to conceal identity, but anonymity cannot be guaranteed.

Acknowledgment

We acknowledge the support of the Department of Health Research, ICMR, Delhi, India, that awarded the grant to Dr. Manoj Kumar Sharma.

Financial support and sponsorship

Nil.

Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.



 
  References Top

1.
Shaw L, Kharif O. Available from: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-03-18/netflix-twitch-traffic-booms-because-everyone-needs-an-escape. [Last accessed on 2020 Apr 26].  Back to cited text no. 1
    
2.
3.
Sengupta D. As India Connects to Stay Connected, Net Loses its Zip. Available from: https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/industry/telecom/telecom-news/as-india-connects-to-stay-connected-net-loses-its. [Last accessed on 2020 Apr 28].  Back to cited text no. 3
    
4.
TikTok becomes the most downloaded social media app in India during lockdown- Technology News, Firstpost. Available from: https://www. firstpost.com/tech/news-[Last accessed on 2020 Apr 08].  Back to cited text no. 4
    
5.
Mitter S. Coronavirus: OTT, online gaming surge during lockdown; box office, traditional media suffer. Available from: https://yourstory.com/2020/04/coronavirus-ott-online-gaming-surge-lockdown-box-office-media?utm_pageloadtype=scrol. [Last accessed on 2020 Apr 22].  Back to cited text no. 5
    
6.
Mandavia M. Zoom app usage explodes in India. The Economic Times. Economic Times; 2020. Available from: https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/small-biz/startups/newsbuzz/zoom-app-usage-explodes-in-india/articleshow/74894577.cms. [Last accessed on 2020 Jun 14].  Back to cited text no. 6
    
7.
Kardefelt-Winther D. A conceptual and methodological critique of internet addiction research: Towards a model of compensatory internet use. Comput Human Behav 2014;31:351-4.  Back to cited text no. 7
    




 

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