SCENE 1 (A few years back)- People are sitting at a restaurant, ordering their food, enjoying it, having some conversations with their family or friends, and leaving. This was pre-social media era.
SCENE 2– (A few years later)- People are sitting at a restaurant, they take out their phone, click some pictures, order their food, food arrives, they click again, they engage in conversations, partially with people around them and partly with the phone. This is today, an era where social media has become a basic necessity along with Roti, kapda and makaan (food, clothing and housing)!
Social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, Twitter are ubiquitous now; they have changed the way the world works. Social media has changed the way the world looks, and undoubtedly it is one of the most revolutionary inventions in the history of humankind.
My first experience with social media was in 2012 when I had created a Facebook account, initially, I was reluctant about getting into this because I didn’t feel any need but then a close friend of mine told me that I could find many girls here to talk to, and for an introvert guy like me this was a good enough reason, and suddenly I felt the need.
Years have passed, I have had my own experiences of using some of these platforms, and the need to have them has changed and evolved. I have also spent a considerable amount of time without any of them( including WhatsApp), and yes, I survived. I experienced, observed, read about it, and it took me a lot of time to fathom what this is all about and how to go about it. I will present a few important takeaways in the below lines without demarcating what is right and what is wrong.
This is a no brainer. All of us have heard that social media can be more addictive than alcohol or tobacco. People are working in these companies who are paid to make these apps and websites more compelling and persuasive. From their mission of ‘connecting people’, they have moved to keep you hooked on the screens as long as possible.
In exchange for this small amount of dopamine, they take away a lot of time, energy, sanity, privacy, and they still don’t care. Some might argue that it depends on an individual that how they use a product or a technology but what this argument lacks is the sheer fact that not every product is made with the same intention, for example, nobody gets addicted to using Paytm, they use it when they need it and turn it off, that’s not the case with Facebook or Instagram.
Many former employees of these tech giants and some other experts have voiced their critical opinions on using social platforms and why they think we should do away with online life. I would suggest that you listen to a few of them-Dr. Cal Newport, Tristan Harris, Sean Parker, Chamath Palihapitiya.
A common statement people make to defend their usage of social media is that it helps them stay connected with people, and I agree to some extent. It helps to re-establish connections that were lost, feels good to see the whereabouts of our old classmates from school or college, but the catch is we need to redefine what connection means.
What do you do when you get in touch again? Are you interested in knowing about the person, his/her health, personal life, the good, the bad, the ugly, or he/she is just another ‘digital account’ knowingly added to increase the count of likes or comments?
People usually have more than 200 or 500 people added in their friend list, yet they engage in actual conversations with hardly 3 or 4 of them.
They wouldn’t know if anyone of them loses a job, breaks up with their partner or if any untoward incident occurs for that matter because they never actually conversed, but boasting about their own personal life( marriage, vacations, food, promotion,etc.) becomes an important affair. ‘Connected’ has a broader meaning. It involves being aware of the ups and downs and being with the person in tough times, and all these require conversations and real conversations.
Social media, Netflix, Amazon Prime, are great mediums for entertainment, and there is no harm in getting entertained. Still, since we are already aware of the addictiveness of such products, great caution is needed.
If I were to ask 100 random people that how many of them play sports, play musical instruments, read books, write blogs, cook, sketch, paint or do anything healthy and rewarding regularly, I am certain that number isn’t going to be impressive. Now ask them how many of them use Netflix, do binge-watching, how many hours they spend before screen playing games, the results won’t surprise you.
Digital entertainment is fun because we feel good without putting effort and should be done once in a while but making it part and parcel of the daily routine is dangerous and have serious repercussions, heed this.
Gone are the days when we used to go out at someplace, roam around, click pictures so that those moments remain intact, now the reason we go out and click is that we want the world to know that we have a life too. This is unhealthy! Seriously, not every moment needs to be captured; not every moment needs to be shared. Some do it out of boredom, and that’s again an ill effect of technology, we have lost the ability to be patient and embrace boredom, people act as if they are in constant need of something.
Recently, I finished a book called Deep Work written by Dr Cal Newport, a computer science professor at Georgetown University, whose Ted x video link is present in the above lines. He talks about why deep work is the need of the hour, what are various ways of inculcating deep work, and why he doesn’t use social media.
He explains the mindset of people who justify their use of a networking tool as “Any Benefits Approach,” which means a person uses a tool/product even if it offers at least one benefit no matter how irrelevant it might be. What this approach ignores are all the negatives that it has. I, too, used to use social media because of XYZ reasons.
Still, I never took a moment to ponder about the actual necessity, and later when I realized that such sites are not adding any value to my life, I decided to go cold turkey. The digital detox phase was delicate, people used to give me a strange look when they would know that this person still thrives on phone calls and SMS, but nothing bothered me, I was doing what was best for me.
So until or unless you don’t have a good reason to use it, a good ‘why’ you can choose to live without it, just take a call, don’t fall prey to peer pressure. Many famous personalities, celebs have no digital presence yet they have a meaningful life.
But wait, have I not created an Instagram account recently? A social media platform that has been tagged the worst for mental health? Yes, I have, and as I said, you need to have a clear ‘why’ for using it. My why is what you are reading right now, this article, frankly speaking, I have never enjoyed social media, I like to keep my personal life restricted to family, and close friends and acquaintances and WhatsApp comes in handy for that.
A few months back, I developed a knack for writing and decided to use writing to share my learnings, perspectives, failures, success(awaiting), good decisions, bad ones, and so I felt the need to have myself on it. As far as my ‘why’ is getting fulfilled, I don’t mind being on social media, my source of happiness and peace is not confined to these tools.
Gradually, I have learnt to get my dopamine from things outside the screens, a lot more to be learned and inculcated in the coming years. The world is changing, and we need to adapt accordingly, technology has its worth that can’t be denied, yet it only eases our lives, basic needs will always be Roti, Kapda and Makaan!