I quit social media for 365 days and I am not going back.
Aditya Singh, a 34-year-old government employee from Delhi, shares his experience of living life without social media for a year.
Today, in the digital realm of life that transcends international boundaries and connects people over oceans, having a social media presence is the basic essence of our existence. We are connected 24×7. Whether we like it or not, we know what’s happening in our friends’ life—if she’s single, or going on her dream vacation. Wait, my best friend went on a trip without me (did he do this intentionally or is he dumb enough not to customise his news feed?). Your colleague is on a vacation and you’re sitting in the cubicle wondering why aren’t you. Ohh! I hate this guy—his perfect life with his dream job, good money, loving wife and expensive vacations.
Argghhh! Wait. That’s not it.
For no apparent reason, you know that Salman khan’s dog died and a war of words is going on between various bakth armies.
All of us have been through rollercoaster of myriad emotions which come along with your brain processing these stories/updates/notifications endlessly. The funny thing is—we are armed with so many details about other people’s life to put Sherlock Holmes or our nosy neighbour to shame. There was a time when I knew more about her daughter’s whereabouts than her (not in a creepy way!!).
This is something we go through every day but the decision to get out of this is not sudden or impulsive.
My moment of Realisation
Taking myself to be an average social media user of Facebook, Instagram, and Messenger, I would spend my time mostly surfing through stories, useless forwards, wishing people birthdays and anniversaries, liking friends pics and commenting (so that they do the same!). I would go out to click pictures not because it was a hobby but because maybe putting that on Instagram would get me featured.
My moment came when I was travelling in a Delhi Metro. My phone’s battery died and I was forced to look around at the people travelling with me. And that is when I saw it—overcrowded mannequins, all slaves to their phones; chatting, checking Instagram stories, profiles on Facebook. The guy sitting next to me had a book in his hand and yet like clockwork he was checking his phone for a notification every 15 seconds (I actually timed it).
That scene made me wonder, is this how I looked too? I was just so terrified of the answer that I tried to remember the time when I wasn’t like this.
It was the most painful introspection I had ever done because for a long time, I couldn’t. Gradually, I realised that I was at it for almost three years. The first thing I did in the morning was check my phone, open my social media apps to see what everyone has been up to in the 8 hours that I slept. My bathroom breaks became longer. Any small ting on my phone distracted me. I had issues concentrating. I had become irritable, angry, manipulative, depressed, and lonely and even if there wasn’t any notification I would still unlock my phone every now and then to check whether I missed out on something. Even when surrounded by friends or family, I was engrossed in my phone.
I didn’t have a very good memory of getting up in the morning and spending time with my daughter, her smile and her countless stories, going out for a run, going to restaurant to actually eat and savour those burst of flavours, watching the sun rise and set, actually enjoying a conversation with a person without the phones beeping or tinging, knowing real friends, and just being myself.
Yes, I had stopped being myself on social media. I was a different person; maybe because of the urge to be socially normal. I shed a couple of silent tears (which no one noticed even after 40 mins of the journey people were still slaves to their phones!), and I decided to be off social media.
Detoxing my own self was a painful process. And my brain wasn’t making things easier. In the heat of the moment, I had un-installed the social media apps on my phone but this compulsive need to install them again and be updated kept tugging at me.
With great difficulty, I manage to keep myself busy. I’d make tea, go out for a walk, and sometimes even cook complicated meals to kill time. But obviously, it wasn’t going to be that easy. So, I decided to give my childhood hobbies a go.
I picked up a book to read, started running daily, picked up recipe-following cooking again and most importantly, muted the notifications on my phone. Some days were worse than others but a month later, I was out of the claws of social media. Or so I thought. I saw a colleague posting on social media and I downloaded the app again but I had forgotten my password and that stopped me right there. I uninstalled it and well, it was a good decision.
But humans need conversations. And not being able to instantly talk to someone was beginning to bother me. So, here’s what I did. I picked up the phone, called them, and asked them to meet. Like old times. Things continued like that and before I knew it, I had been social-media-free for a year. It goes without saying that my mind was more peaceful but my constant workout also improved my physical health.
Quitting social media helped me overcome my insomnia. I wasn’t getting up in the middle of the night and checking the notifications on my phone. Because I wasn’t killing time scrolling up and down my phone, I was able to concentrate on things better. I am free of the overbearing social media acceptance. I am under no pressure to do things that everyone has been doing. My life isn’t a big bang anymore. It’s just ordinary. And what I love the most about this ordinary life is that I get to wake up not to a ringing phone but to my daughter’s smiling face.