Around the same time last year and till the middle of 2018, I wasn’t so addicted to social media. I still don’t think of myself as someone addicted to social media. For example, I’m very inactive on Facebook and Twitter. And I don’t understand why people even use Snapchat at all! Yes, I’m that dumb/old school. But, I get addicted to people. And I am not sure which is worse.
I had been spending a lot of time on Instagram lately. Besides following some motivational speakers, quotes pages, school-time crushes (truth is I always have a crush on someone 😉), I talked with a few people on the app. And few of these are my favourite people! But it’s not your usual chat app. And I don’t know what is with it that even when there are no notifications, I would open up the app and mindlessly scroll through the feed.
While mindlessly scrolling without any notifications, I knew I was not making the best use of the time but, I also started feeling like my friends were too busy in their lives. At one point, I started feeling like they don’t want me around. I think I had a pretty bad anxiety situation that I had dragged myself into. And things were getting worse for me with every passing day. I had to get back to being sane again.
In the past, I have uninstalled Instagram a number of times because I started observing the mindless scrolling behaviour. But with the advent of chat feature, it became impossible to remove the app since it would mean cutting off the communication with closest people.
What did I do about it?
I wasn’t feeling well last Saturday so I messaged a friend about it, took medicines, had a chat with my wife and went to bed. I was in Europe (Brno and Brussels) last month and along with bringing back a lot of chocolates for family and friends, I had brought back a really bad flu as a personal souvenir - especially for me!
Next morning, I and my wife were supposed to be travelling to a nearby town for her work but I decided to stay back due to the flu & fever. Rest of that Sunday, I didn’t turn on the data on my phone since I wasn’t feeling well. Maybe it was flu getting into my head that I felt like staying offline on my phone for some more time and I challenged myself to do so for a week. So, just like that, without notifying anyone, I kept the data on my phone off for an entire week.
What was I hoping to achieve?
Well, quite a few hypothetical things actually. Here’s a list:
I was hoping to get a call from the people I thought were really close to me. Not many. Just 1 or 2 persons who I communicated with on a daily basis through Instagram and WhatsApp because I thought I was important to them.
I was hoping to get my thoughts sorted. I am turning 30 in a couple of days and I feel like I have not accomplished anything that would make me feel proud. Like really proud!
Writing is thinking. And I recently started doing it. I wanted to write more about what’s going on in my head.
Hours of boring time. At least 1-1.5 hours a day because that’s how much I used to spend on Instagram. I hoped for some ideas to come up when my mind was busy being bored.
Read more. I managed to read 10 books last year and have challenged myself to read 15 this year. Since I have not made any significant progress in the first two months of the year, I was hoping to make some during the quiet period.
What did I really achieve or, how did the experiment really go?
First off, the flu fucked me bad enough to take two days of sick leave from work. But it was a blessing in disguise. No internet on the phone, no work, not an ounce of energy to even take a shower - boredom unleashed (if cough let its leash loose.)
No phone calls. Not from the few close people, not from anyone. But, to be fair to them, I went off without a warning. Just the way most people die. Isn’t it very common to miss someone when they’re dead? I’m not sure how much of time and effort it would take to simply check on someone you love. Not even 5 minutes per person per day, I guess. Anyway, this was neither surprising nor disappointing. I just gotta stop whining and welcome myself to the 21st century living. 😉
I did manage to sort my thoughts to an extent and gain clarity on what’s important to me and what’s not. I’m surprised to realize that this is possible for me.
I also wrote more. Not that I have a life as interesting as Tom Marvolo Riddle but I still blurted out a bunch of stuff in a diary/journal/whatever-the-fuck-you-call-it I maintain since a few months.
Boring time! This was really crucial. Besides coming up with ideas to do certain things, I also felt more confident about myself due to the detox. I had some ideas and more importantly, I felt like I can take them to fruition! I’m yet to start working on any of them but hey isn’t positive attitude nice shit to have on your side?
I finally started reading the book I was very excited to read when it released in early 2019. I read about 100 pages. Quite slow than my usual pace but this is not some runaway fiction novel. It’s a book that explains some of the most complex texts in easy to understand language.
Okay, what else?
I started spending less time on a commode because I wasn’t mindlessly scrolling through Instagram feed while shitting.
While I spent most mornings coughing the fuck out of me, I think mornings will become quieter if the cough dies away and I keep the data off during the first few hours of the day.
It’s Spring season in India. That means, it’s more beautiful outside the house than inside (unless you’re just married). The sky is more blue than usual. Or maybe the lack of blue light of smartphone has made the natural blue light look sexier to me!
More books, more boredom, more writing. At least that’s what I plan to continue with. I know I can’t stay off the social media forever. In fact, I turned on the data this morning. But I don’t feel the itch to keep checking my phone frequently.
I have been staying away from mainstream media since over a year. But in the past week when tensions between India and Pakistan were high, I was watching a few news channels. And all the while I was feeling like turning it off already.
I couldn’t stop thinking of the asshole I had once become when I had issues with my ex-girlfriend (she’s my wife now - I’m a one-woman man). And I missed that me real bad. I still do. That was a positive change in me during a crazy time.
Parting thoughts (mostly crap)
I know you’ve got better things to do than reading the crap I write.
Maybe it’s just me (I know I’m getting old) but I don’t really like the way the advent of social media has changed the way we do some very basic yet special things. For example, not a long time ago, we would call up someone on a birthday; these days a “Happy Birthday” on WhatsApp/Facebook is all we do and mostly we don’t even mean it! I’d rather not wish that person instead of faking a wish!
Or we would go to a cafe and have a talk without clicking tonnes of selfies or mindlessly scrolling through the feeds and looking like two strangers just sharing the same fucking table. Or we would actually savour the food at a restaurant instead of clicking pics from different angles and eating the meal while simultaneously checking the number of likes we got!
Maybe it’s just me but relations feel more real outside the virtual world than inside. When the distance is the barrier, it makes sense to use these platforms. But being glued to the phone all the time has made me more depressed and anxious than I ever thought was possible!
I’m done. I don’t know why I wrote this post. I don’t know if I did the right thing by writing this here. I don’t know if this detox was the right thing to do or if I should have continued it for more than a week. Heck, I don’t know anything. But a week of self-imposed Instagram exile made me feel good about myself. Better than I have felt in a long time.
And in this entire week, there was only one friend who pinged me a few times on WhatsApp to know about my whereabouts and if I had blocked them or if I was dead (too bad for you that I’m still alive). Guess I’m lucky to have one such friend. It’s scary how small the circle of people gets as we grow old. Or maybe I’m being a wrong kind of an asshole in my life so far. 😉
Until next time… 😄