Everyone hits a rough patch in their lives at a certain point. While these phases, just like the good times, are temporary, they do affect a person in some or the other way. One of the solutions widely recommended is taking a break from everything — go on a short vacation, be with yourself and come back as a positive person. But that’s easier said than done. Vacation is a luxury not everyone can afford, and most importantly, being cut off in this era of instant connectivity is next to impossible. The hunger of being active on social media, urge to know what everyone is up to, or just to check notifications make it difficult to achieve a ‘digital detoxification’. Also Read - WhatsApp COVID-19 relief efforts: How you can get resources during the pandemic
I, for one, have been a hyperactive child on social media. From nonsensical, drunk and unfunny social posts to liking and commenting on almost everything that appears on my News Feed, I have loved being active on social media. Just like this study says, I am also one of those who checks my smartphone first thing in the morning to see what I missed overnight on social media. Being connected hasn’t ever really been a problem for me, in fact, I have enjoyed every bit of it. Also Read - Good news! Jio users can now check COVID-19 vaccine slots on WhatsApp - here's how
My outlook towards social media though changed a couple of months back when I hit a hiatus in my life. Keeping my sob story short, I’d like to say dealing with heartbreaks and other sorts of emotional challenges is far easier in your teenage years than late 20’s. Now I have a lot of responsibilities on my shoulders, and don’t have the luxury to take a break. Dealing with responsibilities and a deluge of emotions is easier said than done, and I soon saw myself submerged into a severe depression. Also Read - Facebook smartwatch to feature cameras alongside fitness functions: Yes, detachable cameras!
During this time, the social media loving me started getting affected by exactly what I loved — social media. When you are unhappy, other’s happy posts, fancy road trips or just check-ins just make you feel worse. I constantly found myself battling questions like — How are these people able to lead such near-perfect lives? Why don’t I have enough positive things in my life to post on social media? I even questioned if I was a failure by the parameters set by today’s society. Following this, one day I simply deleted the Facebook app from my phone. But I could successfully stay away from social media for not more than 10-15 minutes. Yes, you read that right, I could not stay away from Facebook for even an hour.
Contrary to my nature, I chose not to post what I was really going through, which were mostly negative and full of pessimism. I just stopped posting anything on the social media. My last social post went up on October 20, and there was nothing for over a month. Initially it was difficult not posting anything, especially when you consider I used to literally vomit anything and everything on social media. People with whom I used to actively engage in conversations did tag me in a few posts, but I chose to ignore them.
Gradually, it became easier to ignore my impulsive urge to post or like or comment on the platform. Surprisingly, very few noticed that one of their most hyperactive friends on Facebook had suddenly disappeared. This continued for about a month where I simply stayed away from social media, and eventually I would go for two or three days on a stretch without checking Facebook. I started to see this as a milestone, and yes, my phone’s battery started to last a little longer too.
During this time, I mostly relied on Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp-based one-on-one conversations. I’ll admit I tried to fill up the vacuum left by Facebook with excessive instant messaging. I was actually only looking for someone to speak to. I felt alone when someone would not reply, but at these times I wasn’t able to stay away from my mobile phone. Here again I learnt a lesson the hard way — it is nigh impossible for us to be digitally disconnected.
I did return to posting on social media after a month. My first post on Facebook after my pseudo-retirement was an elaborate post, and a confession about my tryst with depression. It was also a thank you note to people who chose to talk to me during this phase. Till date I have no idea why I posted that message. Maybe I was seeking attention or maybe a part of me seeked gratification. As is the case with social media, I had people supporting me, while there was also one who slammed me for confessing such things on social media.
Did the partial sabbatical from Facebook help beat the depression? Well, not a lot. But then it did help me stay away from frequent spikes of self-loathing when looking at other people’s lives. What I also learnt from this unintentional one-month-long experiment is that social media is just a fantasy world. From being hyper vocal about their political views to fancy vacations, I think I everyone tries to portray what they like to be, rather than what they really are, through their posts. I now find Facebook mostly a platform for attention seekers, desperate for vindication to their opinions or making a big deal out of their small or grand events in their life. I am no exception.
But then, what I am on social media is just one part of me, and in reality, I don’t like to tell people, ‘hey I really hate demonetization’ unless there’s actually a real conversation about it. I don’t like to be witty all the time, and most of the working days I am just sitting quietly staring at my work laptop. That’s the real me, even if my virtual avatar is of a funny and sarcastic guy, actively taking part in all sorts of conversations.
Over a month later I am back to being active on social media. With a slightly better frame of mind, I am trying to engage in conversations with people, which usually I wouldn’t have with someone in the real world. I have come to accept that social media is a big part of my life, and I cannot do without it. The number of friends or posts isn’t directly proportionate to how happy you are in your life. But if you want to pretend to be happy or need some gratification by ranting somewhere, social media is the right place to be. Digital detoxification is a next to impossible thing to achieve in this era. Though you can reduce your dependency on social media, you cannot completely do away with it. At least in my case, I could not.
BONUS VIDEO: Twitter Top Moments in India in 2016