Digital Obesity and Prevention

Digital Obesity and Prevention! According to the We Are Social Turkey report dated February 2022 published on, the number of mobile phone users in our country is 78 million, the number of internet users is 70 million, and the active social media user is 69 million. Internet use has reached an average of eight hours a day and three hours of time spent on social media.

Researchers at McGill University analyzed studies published between 2014 and 2020 that measured problematic smartphone use in the same way, ranking countries across 24 countries and nearly 34,000 participants, focusing on adolescents and young adults. In the list where the top three countries with the highest smartphone addiction are China, Saudi Arabia and Malaysia and my country Turkiye ranked eighth.

Digital Obesity and Prevention!

In the U.S., 54 percent of 16- to 24-year-olds reported that they could not bear to be away from mobile phones 24 hours a day, and 64 percent reported that they could not stand to be away from social media. According to a study conducted with 5 thousand 176 internet users in Turkey, the two groups with the highest social media addiction scores were students between the ages of 14-18 and non-working people; this score decreased with age, but it is increased slightly with retirement.

As you can see, technological tools are taking more and more place in our real lives and digital one. These tools, which we do not feel the need before use, become indispensable after they are started to be used and therefore they are called heroic devices. McLuhan puts it this way: “First we make the cars, then those tools shape us.” Technological tools first enter our lives like magic, but using them for a long time does not only make them indispensable, the relationship established is addictive and produces a toxic result.

Addiction to social media

Dependence is defined as an irrepressible desire for an object or person and means that the person is driven by another will. It arises in relation to a physical substance or behavior. In this regard, the situation is similar to physical addiction such as alcohol, drugs or behavioral addiction such as gambling and overeating. The view that smartphones, video games and social media apps can be harmful and addictive in the same ways as smoking, drugs or gambling is increasingly accepted. The dose is poison in this matter as in all other matters.

The reason people are voluntarily attached to digital media is because of the satisfaction they find in this environment. This satisfaction is provided by users; getting rid of the pressure of daily life, relaxing, spending time, obtaining information, not staying outside and behind the currents and relationships in social media. But the satisfaction provided by the consumption of the attractive transcends the limits of the hi-tech digital world. For example, research suggests that excessive internet use can lead to physical obesity.

It is thought that staying inactive for a long time, adding unhealthy eating and drinking habits to the time spent in front of the screen by sitting in a fixed position can lead to negative changes in body fat distribution and an increase in body weight. In physical hunger, which develops more slowly than emotional hunger, it is easier to maintain awareness of what you are eating and how much, while it is difficult to maintain this awareness in emotional hunger and greed that occurs suddenly and wants to reach satisfaction and being full quickly.

Microsoft Research! Digital Obesity

As with easy-to-consume and pleasurable digital content, fast foods that promise quick access and flavor are preferred. In terms of the effect of our emotions on our decisions, there is a need to approach the issue with the knowledge that different addictions can trigger each other and that this can happen without us being aware of it.

Researchers from Microsoft Research, Stanford, and New York universities suggest that while they can predict on an intellectual level that people will become habits, they are careless about their consumption choices and are partially unaware of self-regulation issues. The graphic, titled “Perception of Self-Control in Online and Offline Events,” shows the answers to the following question they asked their participants in their experiments: “For each of the events, please tell us whether you are doing it too little, too much, or the appropriate amount.”

The bars are sorted from left to right, from largest to smallest (absolute) value. Activities with this value higher indicate that perceived self-control problems are also greater. Accordingly, scrolling through social media and using smartphones are two of the top five activities that respondents think are doing “too little” or “too much.”

Focusing on harm! Digital Obesity!

However, researchers; Compared to the other three activities listed on the left of the graph (exercise, saving money, and unhealthy eating), they note that digital self-control issues have received far less attention from economists.

The fact that there are multiple breakdowns such as social media, phone, game makes it difficult to gather the subject under a single concept. There is no clear consensus on how digital addiction should be defined, but the scientific literature allows to draw a framework around the unintended consequences and patterns of use caused by the way it behaves.

Focusing on harm. Many definitions focus on the negative consequences that individuals experience as a result of overusing digital devices. Harmful social consequences; social isolation, neglect of other social activities, and relational damage such as social conflict.

In addition, industrial or academic losses may occur, such as reduced performance and productivity. Unconscious and accelerating behavior can affect office work or school, resulting in a negative life experience along with stress. In addition, experts lead reviews and behavior on the DSM-5.

Attention deficit and hyperactivity! Digital Obesity

These include obsessive thinking, withdrawal, lack of control, continued use despite adverse consequences, functional impairment, loss of interest, tolerance development, deception, and escapism. It also emphasizes the simultaneity of anxiety, decrease, social phobia, attention deficit and hyperactivity in terms of mental health.

User focused. The other run focuses on the user experience of emotion and behavior during interaction with the digital device. In some definitions, a digital device experiencing more than four starts a day or more than 30 downloads a week is considered software development, and the habit of controlling the device appears to be important.

In addition, usage-based definitions cover dependency on specific content on the device and functionality of the device, not the device itself. This includes situations where the user does not have a clear goal of what they are achieving on the device and is overly attached to the device.

The user’s emotions are associated with control and intent. Control includes continued behavior despite negative consequences, unsuccessful attempts at control, and impulsive use. Intention, on the other hand, defines the usage intention based on time. It involves the user using the device for longer than intended and perceived.

Technology and Humanity

In a sense, today’s people live under a data tsunami. Science fiction is gradually turning into science fact, and information pollution and rights violations are becoming a part of daily life. New media platforms are deliberately programmed by their producers to be addictive. It’s no exaggeration to think that with the spread of the Metaverse, new media will be the next major public health crisis. Gerd Leonhard, author of Technology and Humanity, describes mobile devices as the new cigarettes.

William Gibson said, “Technology is morally neutral until we start using it.” Today, however, technology has become a problem in terms of morality and health as it has become the second nature of human beings, and with the spread of the metaverse in the next 10 years, it contains much greater potential threats.

Custom Jargon! Digital Obesity!

Cal Newport, in his work Pure Attention, defines digital obesity as dealing with more information than one can receive and perceive. Information on social media envelops the brain like a layer of fat in the bodies of obese people, making it difficult to function. In a sense, the damage that fast food causes to the human body with unhealthy food and unnecessary calories is given to the human brain as an unhealthy mental food and leads to mental obesity.

In early use of the concept, digital obesity appears to have replaced digital hoarding. Digital obesity describes people who refuse to delete old data on their digital devices in anticipation of needing it in the future, trying to fill up storage spaces simply because they have space. Because of their feelings of insecurity or past experience of data loss, they may develop a tendency to keep multiple copies of their data.

According to a study published in the early 2000s, music files, pictures, emails, and texts are stacked on cell phones, laptops with cameras, and personal digital assistants, and those who love technological devices are so hungry for digital data that many of them carry “the equivalent of ten truckloads of paper.”

New media and traditional media

The difference of new media from traditional media is that it is digital, interactive, hypertextual (possibility of transition between information) and virtual. New media use nomophobia (fear of being away from the phone), fomo (fear of being left out, missing the news), ego surfing (searching for news about oneself), selfitis (frequent self-picturing), binge-watching (watching a series one or two times in a row) It has features defined by many special concepts such as finishing the season in a day or two). In a domestic scale developed to determine the level of digital obesity in individuals, five dimensions stand out.

Digital Obesity Dimensions

Ego surfing For example, if the person likes to follow the likes of the photos he/she shares,
Dependency For example, feeling lonely without digital media (social media, e-commerce sites, websites, etc.),
Accessibility For example, being afraid of losing your smartphone,
Loading content For example, downloading many content in digital media (such as social media, e-commerce sites, websites) regardless of time,
For example, when he thinks he is sick, he researches his illness from the internet and applies the information he learned there.

According to some sources, being in new media environments such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp, Netflix for 120 minutes a day and according to some sources 240 minutes or consuming content are considered as signs of digital obesity. The following are listed as the symptoms of digital obesity that especially affect collective life and provide practical clues for understanding the concept in daily life:

Clues for understanding! Digital Obesity!

  • Looking at your phone when traffic stops at a red light,
  • Turning to his phone when the subject is away from him in a meeting with friends,
  • Using the phone to the toilet and prolonging the time spent there,
  • Turning to the phone and social media unnecessarily while focused on a job,
  • Spending time in increasingly longer and diversified channels.

Effects of Digital Obesity

Speed and a commitment to technology have complicated our lives and begun to harm our mental and physical health. Problematic internet use (problematic internet use (PIU) leads to 6 percent sequence in somatic appearance and 4 percent in operation, paranoid cell strengthening, increasing mental and mental health. In addition, the incidence of depression and anxiety increases in those who spend these punishments for a long time, causing narcissistic tensions to strengthen in many people.

Overuse leads to distraction, difficulty focusing, decline in academic performance, avoidance of attention in daily life, neglect of personal care. In addition, muscle and labor pains, sleep disturbance, eye fatigue are reported as frequent deaths in which they spend a long time.

The fact that people enter the virtual world with their digital identities and start to replace social media with the real world reduces the real relationships between people, creates the illusion of unreal socialization and makes people smaller. These developments isolate people and prevent them from living a life. It leads to a decrease in face-to-face contact, alienation from social life, loss of family communication and problems.

Child Development and Its Relationship with Learning! Digital Obesity!

The organization called Common Sense, which manages safe technology and media for children, recently published the results of a survey it conducted with 1,240 parents and children from the same household. It was quite impressive under the five headings that emerged from the survey and were grouped.

Dependence. One out of every two teenagers thinks they are addicted to their device, with most parents (59 percent) thinking they are addicted.

Frequency. 72 percent of teens and 48 percent of content feel the need to respond immediately to text messages, social networking messages, and other notifications; 69 percent of homeowners and 78 percent of teens check their devices at least once.

Distractibility. 77 percent of puppies think wings are a distraction and pay attention to customers at least a few times a week while spending time together.

Conflict. Owned and a third of teens (36 percent and 32 percent, respectively) say they argue about device use every day.

Risky behavior. 56 percent of prospects admit to checking their mobile devices while driving; 51 percent of young people see their parents checking/using their mobile devices while driving.

The results suggest that those who are concerned about the negative effects of smartphones on their children should first review their own usage habits.

Serve and Return

The “serve and return” interactions between child and parent shape brain architecture. If your child makes a noise, moves his pack or cries; When adults respond appropriately through eye contact, hugs, or words, the child’s brain uses communication and social skills to build and strengthen neural connections.

It’s like a game of tennis or volleyball that shapes development from infancy, where the player appears in a game where the player passes and the parent greets him. It’s not just their looks, emotions, and heartbeats that make babies safe and synchronized, but also brain functioning.

Researchers at the University of Cambridge conducted a study to determine whether babies can synchronize their brain waves with dimensions and whether eye contact affects this. The researchers found that both their size and the babies’ brains responded to the eye contact signal as it became more synchronized with the reciprocal. They suggested that this mechanism could prepare communication devices that connect parents and infants that protect restrictions and communication parents, which in turn could strengthen learning.

However, it is known that the interruption of the interaction moments by the phone negatively protects the learning. The hated effect of not interrupting interaction by cell phone was investigated, an effect where 38 mothers were assigned to two-year-olds for two new word functions.

It took 30 seconds for the cell phone to ignite when the learning was interrupted by the phone. Meanwhile, the experimenter chatted with the mother about her morning coffee routine, and the interview ended when she instructed the mother to continue teaching the target word before that phone call.

Absence of the interruption! Digital Obesity!

Mothers were given additional time for the target word, equal to the interruption time. In other words, the total run time for each word was set to be the same (60 seconds) as in the control operation without interruption. Despite this, the results showed that individuals could not learn the target words on the mobile phone, and their words were learned in the absence of the interruption.

Digital obesity causes parents to miss opportunities to bond securely with their baby. However, secure attachment develops significantly in the first years of life and affects the type of relationship that the baby will take when he/she grows up and becomes an adult. A fascinating concept related to this is “phubbing”, which is a combination of the English words “phone” and “snubbing”, or sociotelism. Phubbing is defined as focusing on the mobile phone and ignoring them instead of interacting with other people in the environment.

Mobile phone addiction

According to a study, internet addiction, fomo and self-control predict smartphone addiction, while smartphone addiction predicts phubbing behavior and experience. In addition, the data shows that phubbing is seen as the norm in an environment where people consistently exhibit and are exposed to this behavior.

The researchers state that reasons such as assuming that those around him act like him, finding this frequently witnessed behavior socially acceptable, or acting as he is treated with the principle of reciprocity may play a role in this. It reveals that phubbing significantly predicts the level of exposure to phubbing. The findings of another study indicate that there is a positive relationship between the phubbing behavior of the parents and the mobile phone addiction of the adolescents.

The Solution is to Create Conscious Media Readers

As technology begins to take more and more place in our lives, there are more and more people who think that it is starting to distance people from their humanity. Because it is not possible for people to find the happiness they seek on the screen, in the cloud and in applications. In order to prevent the use of technology that has turned into addiction, as futurist Alvin Tofler said in 1981, it requires going through the process of erasing what we know and entering the process of relearning.

In response to people’s passion for speed and technology in the digital world, Benedict Köhler and his friends started a movement called slow media. The aim of this movement is to create a conscious media reader who can manage unlimited information. The new media movement is also a movement against careless and careless consumption that contributes to sustainability.

Albert Einstein said about Digital Obesity!

While the slow media movement wants all users to focus fully on the medium they are interested in, it inspires, constantly affects the thoughts and actions of users, and aims to be consumed in a way that will be remembered years later. Albert Einstein said in 1941, “The human soul should not be defeated by technology”.

Another method that can provide a solution to this issue is critical ignoring. It’s challenging to critically think through so much data in the face of information overload, but supplementing it with critical disregard can lighten our digital burden. Sam Wineburg, who introduced the concept, defines this skill as the ability to choose where to spend one’s limited attentional capacity and what to ignore.

It refers to a form of “deliberate ignorance” that requires selective filtering and blocking to control the information environment and reduce exposure to false and low-quality information. As a thoughtful act, it requires cognitive and motivating resources (e.g. impulse control) and, ironically, knowledge. Because in order to know what to ignore, the person first needs to be able to understand and detect the warning signs of low reliability. Accordingly, experts recommend 3 strategies to lighten our burden.

Nudge yourself

Nudge yourself. Take a behavior change approach where you redesign your environment to bring out the best behavior for you. People can deal with information that attracts their attention by nudging their online information environments. Interventions such as imposing time limits on social media use or changing the color tone of the device screen to gray, making it less engaging are known to be effective. Another more advanced nudge is to disable the social media apps that distract the person the most, at least for a while.

Do a lateral reading. To verify online information, search for the publishing author, organization, and claims elsewhere (eg Wikipedia). Instead of spending time (i.e. reading vertically) on an unfamiliar site, it is profitable to ignore that site until you open new tabs to learn about the organization or person behind it. Because the credibility of a website or social media post cannot be known by thinking critically about its content. If the lateral reading shows that the site is unreliable, it will save the person wasting time and energy.

Don’t give credit to trolls. Do not respond directly to trolls, correct them, argue with them, retaliate, or respond in kind to their trolls. Instead, block the trolls and report them to the relevant platform. Because sometimes it’s not the information that needs to be actively ignored, but the people who produce it. Trollers are motivated by negative social force, and their trolling behavior is reinforced by the negative experiences that occur when they make people angry or upset. The appropriate response is to ignore them and resist dealing with them or their claims.

The Source of the Problem Starts in the Family

One of the solutions mentioned at the Digital Obesity symposium organized by TED and supported by the Ministry of National Education in Ankara in May 2022 was that this problem should be a lesson in schools. Considering that in many families, the starting point of digital obesity is to distract children by giving them phones and iPads starting from the age of one, it becomes clear that the source of the problem is the family itself.

The adults around the child, especially the mother and father, should leave their phones instead of dealing with the child and set an example for the child in this direction. Basic training of manners and politeness begins in the family and is reinforced at school. For this reason, the Ministry of National Education can only play a supportive role in family education. Considering the extent of digital obesity and the problems it will cause, it would be appropriate for governments to see this issue as a public health problem and to prepare their fight plans without delay.


Semih Bulgur

l am a knowledge worker who works hard to make you informed about original knowledges from international sources!

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