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Is Your Smartphone Really Making You Smarter Each Day?

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One of the major reasons for our superfast lifestyle is smartphone technology. It has transformed us beyond recognition. People from the 19th century or earlier will die of heart attack if they get a chance to see us glued to mobile phones.

Our Smartphone Journey So Far…

Back in the late 1800s when landline telephone system was the status quo, calling was not cheap. Actually, it was quite expensive. Calling someone and receiving a ‘hello’ from the other end was magical. Landline made a big buzz when it became a household commodity. Undoubtedly, it was to stay, and sensing the public enthusiasm the inventors had to think of more innovative connectivity solutions – something that was not tied to your home- something mobile.

Come the 1970s – the first-ever mobile phones were invented.  They were bulky in size with a big antenna which was on the heavier side. I sometimes wonder how on earth people used to travel with such a mobile phone.

Since then, humanity made a huge leap when in the late 1990s, the first smartphone made its debut. No one knew what significance it would play to shape and restructure our lifestyle. But it remarkably changed our lifestyle. With so much transformation over the years and mostly positive, a ‘smartphone era’ as I like to call it had begun.

Smartphones Are Enriching Our Lives

Fast forward 20 years, and we are here, engrossed in our smartphones. Day in and day out it has become our friend, philosopher and guide. Keeping a smartphone as an individual asset – is it worth it?

I believe it goes both ways. Let’s face it – smartphones or telephone systems gave us an immense liberty to call anyone, anytime and anywhere in the world. Connectivity provided a freedom which the 90s generation witnessed.

So whenever anyone asks me whether owning a smartphone is correct, I always say ‘yes’ and ‘no’.

Yes, because these little smartphone devices are the life saviours. Earlier people had to depend on others for guidance, answers or even referrals. However, life has now become more independent. It has never failed to entertain or intrigue me. There are so many times I begged answers from Google which I was so embarrassed to ask in public.

Smartphones keep us connected in better and cheaper ways than ever. I don’t know what the future holds but I surely do know – the smartphone has made my life smoother.

More than just a phone, it has become our map, our address book, our gaming machine, our calculator, our checklist, our torch, our messenger, our camera, our gateway to the internet and many more. So much so that we have attached our identity to our smartphone. It reflects our personality and is an emblem of our life choices. With time, it is becoming more interactive and useful.

However, is it right to disregard the side-effects of using smartphones for their benefits?

Some Harsh Realities About Smartphones

Our older generations have struggled hard to reach a position in life. They failed hundreds of times to realise that failing is a part of life. They never had the luxury of real-time navigation search for directions on a Google Map. They were not lucky enough to click pictures at their will. They had to go to places to stay connected face to face with their families and friends. They had to visit libraries or buy books to learn something. It may be a backward concept for you, but it is a hard fact. So, the question here is – Isn’t getting everything ready at hand making us lazy?

The urge to push yourself forward for the important life decisions is missing in today’s kids and even for some millennials. They are wired to receive everything they need without hard work. They may start thinking that if it is not within their reach, it is not worth pursuing. This eventually weakens their commitment to achieving something out of their comfort zone.

One of the biggest boons of smartphones is also a bane. Too much of free information about a topic disrupts the natural flow of learning. It causes analysis paralysis, confusion and can make one feel overwhelmed.

Another unnatural paradigm that is visible in teenagers is the immense pressure for social validation among their peers.

I have a cousin sister who relentlessly updates her pictures and posts on Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat. It may seem alright initially. But when you observe it keenly, you will realise her full energy goes into seeking approval and ‘likes’ for her life. She may be physically present in one place, but her mind is somewhere else. This type of dual presence causes a lot of disruption and mental fatigue in one’s life.

As human beings, we all seek belongingness and companionship – that is completely fine. But when it comes to this extent where your whole life’s existence is based on others’ mere approval, there is something fundamentally wrong.

Moreover, the worst part is that if some teens are not able to catch-up with their peers, they are considered weak or boring or not good enough. This is the sad existential crisis we as a human race are facing today.

We do need connection, but not of this kind. We need natural conversations, not text chats. This brings us to my next concern. Humans are considered as social beings, so they need real interactions. But when we are forcing to limit ourselves to smartphone interactions, things start falling apart. Since we are not exposed to natural ways of life, we get dissociated from our true self and finally get depressed and lonely.

Which Side Wins?

I am not against technology as I have seen the transition from having no phone to smartphones. Indeed it has brought the world very close, bringing every information to your fingertips. You can stay connected with your loved ones without having to be there physically.

Being on both sides, I realised that smartphones have surely made our lives easier and ‘smarter.’ However, we should also keep in mind the harm it can cause.

With all the technological advancements still going on and with the advent of AI, I am not sure how things will end up. Are we just at the beginning of a huge revolution? Or are we destroying ourselves? I don’t know. That is another decision altogether. However, I believe that smartphones are not our enemies if we know how to utilise them ‘smartly’.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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