This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Yash C. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Give Me A Break! Fed Up Of My ‘Internet Persona’, I Quit Social Media

In a world largely taken by logging in, signing up, subscribing, registering, accompanied by the struggle to figure out a distinct and creative username along with a password that is strong in terms of how many special characters it has, I made the decision to quit social media, in March 2020.

Social media apps have become a source of anxiety for many. Representational image. Photo credit: Knowledge @ Wharton.

How did I reach this decision?

I started evaluating my life in the context of social media and the Internet. After two years of activity, where it provided me with enthralling and time filling entertainment, it no longer had that effect… especially in the stationary pandemic-fueled life which I was living.

Everything about it became repulsive. I looked at my feed, saw all the aesthetic photographs with poetic captions I had put up and the only feeling I got was as if I was maintaining a persona unlike who I really am, for the Internet.

I Was Fed Up Of My Internet Persona

My opinion posts about politics and issues made me feel like I was jumping on bandwagons because I wanted to follow the trend of having an opinion, instead of honestly sharing my thoughts.

I remember after the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won the elections in 2019, it caused a flurry of outrage from people who did not want it to win, people who I followed. While my political inclination was also the same as them, I didn’t really have a problem with the BJP’s victory to the extent where I had something to say about it.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi waves to a horde of his supporters as flowers are showered on him. Representational image. Photo credit: India.com.

But, seeing everyone around me being dismissive of their victory, I put up an Instagram story doing the same. It felt alien doing that because my opinions were always reserved for three places: the debating podium, my personal circle and for my own pondering.

Slowly, social media started seeming toxic. It constantly felt like I was oversharing parts of my life for the sake of online activity. My experiences lacked authenticity because in every eventful moment, I had the crave of documenting it instead of living it.

Going to a new restaurant to meet a friend? I took out my phone and posted a photo about it. Sitting on my terrace and seeing a sunset? My mind automatically told me that it was an Instagram post-worthy moment. Everything became about sharing online or doing it so that I could share it online.

Living started feeling like I was trying to put on a show for the viewers. These realisations brought me to a point where I craved privacy and the room to breathe.

I yearned to take time off… To really understand how much my personality and mental health had been affected. I wanted to be forgotten and forget this unreal persona of me on the Internet. 

I Decided To Take Time Off

If I have to describe the feeling I got after leaving Instagram and Facebook (the two main platforms I had created profiles on), I would probably compare it to driving in the opposite direction on a one-way road. It was almost strange, the feeling of disconnect and the withdrawal I felt in the first few weeks.

I could no longer be regularly updated on my friends’ day-to-day lives. There was no scope of connecting with new people online or being aware of what was going on in the world; because social media was the biggest source of connection, entertainment and awareness in my life and I no longer had it.

That’s just how omnipresent social media is. This feeling was most recently reinforced when I was trying to find people who had taken similar indefinite breaks like me for this piece and I was unable to find anyone in my immediate circles. Not being a part of social media can often feel out of the ordinary.

Eventually, the feelings of my FOMO (fear of missing out) subsided. Feeling a lack of connection transformed into a realisation of how much time I could devote to myself now.

The lack of entertainment was overtaken by reading books  gathering dust on my book shelf. I read “All The Light We Cannot See” by Anthony Doerr and “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love” by Raymond Carver, among many others.

I ended up watching all the movies that I had saved for a never-coming later. Some of them include “Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind”, “Goodfellas”, “Nightcrawler” etc.

I Choose What I Want To Consume Online

As for awareness, I could now be selective about what kind of news and matters I wanted to be exposed to.

I started living life and experiencing things for the sake of my own satisfaction. Life became less about filters and more about filtering out the unnecessary white noise created by social media for me. Life changed in ways where every experience felt real and I was completely absorbed in them.

I started sleeping better, stopped wasting endless hours on my phone and in turn, picked up new things to try and do. It was at this time that I discovered my love for cooking. Being in the kitchen, trying to whip up something innovative or… for the most part in the beginning, something burnt.

Exercise became an integral part of my daily routine because I suddenly found the time to devote to it. These habits added to a new healthy lifestyle that I had inculcated. My mental and physical health, which was bogged down until now, felt uplifted.

This piece is not my plea to the world to completely give up on social media. In fact, I would even go as far to say that exposure to it at some level is advisable.

I believe so because it is an environment that, at the end of the day, provides a lot of opportunities, resources and connections that old school networking can no longer match.

I Recommend Taking Social Media Breaks

I am, however, a proponent of taking regular breaks from it. I think when your online life starts interfering with your offline one, logging off is probably in your best interest.

Taking a breather, away from the everyday rush of leading a social media life, is a remedy I would suggest to everyone who has experienced what I have described earlier. I hope that no one ever does, though. I hope it is a space where you can feel safe and be a version of yourself that you can accept.

Featured image is for representational purposes only. Photo credit: Pxfuel.
Note: The author is part of the current batch of the Writer’s Training Program
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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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