As Malaysians stay home during the movement control order (MCO), they are much more likely to rely on their smartphone to stay connected with others, get their daily dose of news and be entertained.
However, we could also be guilty of some bad phone habits, and now is as good a time as any to keep them in check.
Toe the line
Instant messaging services like WhatsApp and Telegram have made communication easier, faster and free.
However, the ease of forwarding messages and sometimes the eagerness to share could lead to fake messages being spread widely.
Most think they are being helpful when they are sharing news from someone claiming to have inside knowledge or is working with an authority, but don’t forward a message before verifying it first, as it could cause undue panic and harm.
The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) announced that it is ramping up efforts to curb the spread of fake news related to Covid-19.
MCMC said in a statement that it and the Royal Malaysian Police (PDRM) are investigating 169 cases, and have charged 20 suspects for spreading fake news about Covid-19, as of March 30.
They were investigated under Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act (CMA) 1998, which carries a fine of up to RM50,000 or imprisonment of up to one year, or both; and also Section 505 (b) of the Penal Code which carries a maximum imprisonment of two years or a fine, or both.
Of the 20 cases, two were eventually charged in court under Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1988 for improper use of network facilities, while 18 were charged under Section 505(b) of the Penal Code for making statements intended to cause public mischief.
“We want to see accurate, reliable and credible information but at the same time, we have also received reports and complaints of fake news which does not help Malaysians at all,” said Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah in a previous interview.
“Some of this can lead to panic, while others can raise tensions because of racial and religious undertones. Let me warn those involved that we are watching and action will be taken.”
MCMC said it is working with the police’s Cyber Crime Taskforce to deal with misinformation, especially regarding Covid-19, which could cause confusion or panic.
The regulatory body advised the public to check the Sebenarnya.my website or app to verify any news on Covid-19.
Alternatively, users can visit The Star’s webpage that tracks the total Covid-19 cases on a daily basis.
Stuck to the screen
While you are practising social distancing and staying at home, you would also be tempted to use the phone a lot more.
Maybe you just want to stay updated on Covid-19 news or watch viral videos of people fighting over toilet paper all day, but this could have an effect on your emotional well-being.
“We rely on the Internet to receive the latest news updates and memes, but do go offline after a while to avoid feeling overwhelmed by all the information you receive online,” said Petaling Jaya-based counsellor Faith Foo.
“Do something you enjoy instead like gardening and workouts at home.”
The uncertainty during MCO is a scary feeling for many and it makes us ruminate on what the future will hold.
“The information we receive online may add fuel to this feeling of uncertainty,” said Foo.
A 2017 ABC News report also said spending too much time on the phone may cause stress and anxiety.
Dr Nancy Cheever, who spearheaded the research on the relationship between smartphone use and anxiety at California State University, said phone-induced anxiety is due to being stuck in a loop.
The phone puts us in a “persistent state of anxiety” that can only be relieved by checking the phone but this only leads to more worry.
“If you’re constantly connected, you’re going to feel anxiety. The more people feel anxiety, that can lead to other things like mental health and physical ailments,” she told ABC News.
And if you find yourself spending too much time on an app, why not set an alert to remind you to take a break?
Apps like YouTube, for instance, have this feature. It’s called Remind Me To Take a Break and can be found under General in Settings.
For the Facebook mobile app, click on the Menu on the top left corner (it’s the one with three lines), scroll down to Setting & Privacy and select Your Time On Facebook. Here you will be able to see how much time you have been spending on the social media network – tap on Set Daily Time Reminder to be alerted daily.
Clogging the phone
When you receive WhatsApp messages with photos and videos, the media files are automatically saved to your phone by default. And during the MCO period, you are likely to be inundated by messages.
Also, do you really need that seven photos of the pasta you had for dinner two days ago?
As famed Japanese organising consultant Marie Kondo would say: Does it spark joy? Even if it’s digital, it’s better not to hoard.
Taking the time to manage your digital content and backing it up to the Cloud is especially important now in case you damage your phone.
Android users can check out Google Photos which will tell you how much space can be saved by deleting photos that have already been backed up to the Cloud.
Once you sign in to your Google Account, tap on Menu and then Free Up Space to view how much space you will be saving before you delete the photos.
The same goes for apps. To check when you last used an app, launch the Play Store app, tap on Menu and then My Apps & Games. Now select the Installed tab to show all your apps, along with their size and date you used them last.
Chances are your phone, a device that you touch and operate daily, is likely to get very dirty due to prolonged use.
According to an article by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, one in six mobile phones in Britain is contaminated with faecal matter.
Although 95% of people said they washed their hands with soap where possible, 92% of phones and 82% of hands had bacteria on them, according to the study, conducted in 2011.
The research university, which specialises in public health and tropical medicine, said what’s more worrying is that 16% of hands and 16% of phones were found to harbour E. coli (Escherichia coli).
The faecal bacteria, associated with stomach upsets and some serious cases of food poisoning, can survive on hands and surfaces for hours, especially in warmer temperatures away from sunlight.
The bacteria is also easily transferred by touch to door handles, food and, of course, mobile phones, and later be picked up by others.
Other than washing your hands for at least 20 seconds to eliminate all traces of the coronavirus, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also recommends that everyone cleans all “high touch” surfaces such as phones on a daily basis.
It recommends using wipes with 70% isopropyl alcohol – available in most local pharmacies – or a cloth that has been moistened with soap and water. It advised against putting the phone under running water.
Yes, it doesn’t get very exciting in the toilet for some hence the need to bring the phone along just to pass time (and motion).
However, sitting on the toilet bowl while endlessly scrolling through social media could lead to some unpleasant health-related issues.
“It’s not the actual act of using a smartphone that is the problem. Rather, sitting on the toilet (whether you are reading or just sitting there) for a prolonged period of time can definitely lead to haemorrhoid problems,” said colorectal surgeon Dr Karen Zaghiyan in a report on the website Healthline.
Trying hard to pass motion or spending too much time while doing so can “cause the haemorrhoids to engorge with blood, causing symptoms such as pain, swelling or bleeding”, she said.
So taking your phone to the toilet is not just unhygienic but could also make you spend more time on the throne, leading to health problems.