Monday, October 30, 2017

Alone Together!

What do we choose to forgo in preference to being constantly connected? As we can only focus on one thing at a time when we choose to be connected we also temporarily disconnect ourselves from our immediate physical surroundings. This leads to negative effects. Rosellina Ferraro, assistant professor at the University of Maryland, has conducted a very interesting study showing that smartphones decrease our involvement in society and our interest in and empathy for other people. According to Ferraro, the mobile phone has become a “comforter” that provides us with the confirmation we need to feel good. Her research shows that people become more egoistic when they are constantly connected and using smartphones. It is not the mobile phones themselves that make us egoistic, but the fact that we tend to shut ourselves inside our own social universe with the help of our connected smartphones. This can lead to our relationship with our phones becoming more important than the people in our surroundings.

Rosellina Ferraro’s research also reveals that the most diligent smartphone users are also the ones that are least willing to do voluntary work with aid organizations. She divided 197 students in their 20s into two groups where one of the groups was allowed to access Facebook through a stationary computer, and the other group could use their smartphones as and when they liked. After a while, all students were invited to do voluntary work by way of feeding the homeless. The result was interesting. The smartphone users were less likely to do voluntary work than the students who had only accessed Facebook
through the stationary computer. To ensure that the conclusion was not a coincidence, Ferraro conducted several similar surveys in which all gave the same result.

Smartphones make us more egoistic and less committed to the people around us. Her explanation of the results is that smartphones fill our need for social connection, and this decreases the need to interact with other people in the way we used to describe as “in real life.”

The potential of democratization, community, and access to all the knowledge in the world, in your pocket—there are obvious fantastic opportunities to be had with what the constant connectedness brings. But the question is how to really harness this enormous potential without suffering the negative side effects.

Our recently published book 'Connected Disconnected' will advise you on how to handle the challenges constant connectedness poses to our wellbeing—sleeping patterns, close relations, work-life balance, and parenting. It does not discuss whether this is a threat or an opportunity for us, because it is both.

To learn the art of Operating in a Connected World, grab your copy now!

Friday, October 27, 2017

Caste, as it is experienced in everyday life!

Let us begin with a story where a woman makes a strong gesture of anger against an old man who insists on knowing her caste before drinking the water she offers when he is thirsty. There are others in the compartment he does not ask for water for he knows their caste. When the old man almost chokes on a betel nut, one of the other passengers helps him out. He is a doctor. He tells the woman: Madam, you might feel compelled to show that you do not believe in caste. I don’t. Even though I don’t believe in it, it still stays sticking to me. I just have to keep dusting it away as I go. I should not allow it to make me, or the others who are close to me, lose self-respect. That is all I care about….

Caste, as it is experienced in everyday life, is the pièce de résistance of a recently published book by SAGE, ‘Black Coffee in a Coconut Shell’ that talks about living, loving and dying with caste as an indelible marker. Thirty-two voices in the book narrate how from childhood to adulthood, caste intruded upon their lives—food, clothes, games, gait, love, marriage and every aspect of one’s existence including death. Like the editor, Perumal Murugan says, caste is like the god, it is omnipresent.

The essays in this book are not just sad stories about the oppression of caste; they are also about existing with caste and being inextricably caught in caste. There are times when caste protects you and gives you security in the form of a goddess or god that belongs only to you; it becomes a group solidarity you can fall back on even when it limits you in many ways and includes you and excludes you in specific ways. Caste is also a quietly sleeping demon within you which comes out and shocks you in the most unexpected moments when you use language you never thought you would.

The contributors write about the myriad ways in which they have experienced caste. It may be in the form of forgoing certain kinds of food, or eating food at secluded corners of a household, or drinking tea out of a crushed plastic cup, or drinking black coffee in a coconut shell or water poured from above into a cupped hand. Such experiences may also take the form of forbidden streets, friends disapproved of and love denied. And when one leaves behind the fear of caste while living one’s life, there is still death to deal with.

To read a book where Caste has been spoken about with such explicitness, you can buy your copy today.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

What are the factors linked to vulnerability of women to HIV infection?

There has been a considerable increase in the number of people encountering HIV AIDS since a long time due to which the National AIDS Control Programme (NACP) had introduced several interventions and prevention strategies targeting the people living with HIV as well as the general population. These efforts have yielded satisfying results demonstrating a reduction of 57 percent in the new infections reported annually (NACO, 2014). Despite all these achievements, the United Nations Programme (2014) on HIV/AIDS in its report mentions that India has a large number of people (third highest in the Asia-Pacific region) living with HIV and 51 per-cent deaths related to HIV/AIDS in Asia are reported from India. According to the World Health Organization (WHO, 2013), a major concern that deserves urgent attention is the increasing rate of infection among women; the number of women living with HIV is now coming close to that of men. 

Women and adolescent young girls appear to be more susceptible to HIV infection due to various biological and sociocultural factors prevalent in the Indian patriarchal society. Cultural norms, gender roles in society and reproductive tract infections (RTI) increase their vulnerability to the infection. Thus, there is a need to explore women’s issues separately in the context of HIV as the women in India are already in a position of disadvantage. 

A recent article from Journal of Health Management aims to outline the factors linked to the vulnerability of women to HIV infection and to understand the challenges and possible management of HIV among women. The article is a theoretical endeavour to understand women’s experiences of living with HIV. This review primarily focuses on studies in the Indian set-up, but to further substantiate the arguments and describe the relevant concepts it also takes into account literature from other cultures.  Women have to face numerous challenges after the infection, such as lack of social support, a higher level of stigma and discrimination, decreased quality of life, mental health issues and adverse coping. To prevent the spread of HIV among women as well as men, it is necessary to plan strategies which deal with the empowerment of women, education, and awareness regarding the vulnerabilities and knowledge and challenges of HIV infection. There is also a need to address the management of HIV among the infected and even those at risk.  

Register now to read full article from the Journal of Health Management!