Article in brief: the author reflects on the phase she disconnected from social media platforms and how it changed her perspectives.
Remember that article I wrote a while back on social media suicide? Well, I don’t remember it either. The truth is, I’ve postponed writing this article for so long looking to add more experiences to my social media detox that somehow, I just got busy with life, away from sharing things on social media or online platforms.
Of course, there have been changes on many levels to share, from social engagements to simple things like battery life. Yet, the truth is, the addiction is curable and the detox creates a more aware user of social media platforms with some interesting surprises.
Firstly, I cannot stress enough on how much more battery life I have. Yes, my mobile still dies, but let’s say, I have it living long enough to be able to communicate during the decent hours, and I am more cautious on how I use the little battery left, by not wasting on web or social media browsing. For those techies who are proposing an external battery, I will say no. It’s too tempting to know I have an endless supply of battery life, and it will just cause me to relapse into my social media ways (like downloading more apps because I know I have enough battery to go through them all).
Secondly, the most appalling realization was how much time everyone, including my parents, spend on social media. Well, my parents are exempted as they have only just recently started with the whole social media experience, but I will not be as kind to my friends. We cannot sit down on in a café or restaurant without: “Don’t touch the food!”, “Move your glass out of my picture”, “Everyone say ‘Hi!’ to my snapchat list”, “Alia move to the other side of the table”, “Aida just WhatsApped me, she’s missed the turn again, can you share the location?”.
I cannot express how irritated I get when someone snapchats. I would order a latte just to drop their mobile into it. However, I don’t, because I am the reason a large number of my friends decided to join snapchat. So best I leave that alone.
Jokes aside, a serious difference I have noticed is the change in my gaze. The problem with using social media is I have a tendency of looking at palm level when using a mobile that I stopped looking at people at an eye level. Not only that, in waiting rooms or situations where silence is required, I immediately pull out my mobile avoiding any potential conversation with strangers.
So, with no apps(during my social media detox), I ended up talking to new acquaintances and the subject of the conversation was pretty much on social media. After introductions often comes the exchange of WhatsApp and Instagram accounts, which I then need to explain how I’m currently offline.
That in itself sparked up interesting conversations. Some outright told me that my detox was ridiculous and they did not see social media as time consuming, whilst others thought it quite essential and they themselves were considering a detox. However, what I found very helpful was conversations about social media users who had specific hours dedicated to social media and online chatting. What I personally started doing during waiting time in cues is either read a book, or strike up a conversation with those around me.
A pleasant and unexpected surprise of going offline has been seeing more of everyone. Having no access to messaging programs, my mobile started ringing more often. I heard from my friends more and saw them more frequently. The best part is, I actually reconnected with a lot more people on a face-to-face meeting! I know some would think this experiment will prove who is really my friend and who is not, but I am not quite sure how or why I got more calls from all my closest and oldest friends more frequently. I might leave that explanation to pure chance or perhaps to the law of attraction.
Coming close to my conclusion, I will proceed to the question many have been asking me. Did I eventually end up going back to social media?
Yes I did. I relogged to my Instagram, tumblr and whatsapp but with a new approach. I opened a new Instagram account and decided to make a few changes on how I post. I decided that I should carry my camera at all times and 90% of my posts are actual images taken by my camera vs my mobile camera. Why? Because I learnt to slow down and savor life. How? By shooting with a camera, I switch to manual settings and I take my time to frame and to capture. I also reduce the amount of images I take and increase my focus. I also decided to start sharing my poetry and writings, of which the outcome has been a pleasant surprise. Suddenly my Instagram feed was linking me to wonderful accounts of users who had taken similar approaches to mine. I discovered the positive side of social media, the one of awareness and creativity. I now have a feed that suggests my next read, poetry and links to creative projects.
In the end, this little experiment of mine just proved that like everything else, social media and its applications are to be used with awareness. Have a reason to why you want to share what you are about to share, and every now and then, put down your mobile and just enjoy the moment. Not everything needs to be recorded – life really needs to be lived and experienced.
Al Shamsi’s recently published book Alayah by Sail Publishinghas been awarded the support from Dubai Culture part of their printing and publishing movement “Reading in Arabic Challenge”.