I had been reading a lot of articles lately on how the internet, smart phones and social media are posing a serious threat to its users , sucking us into an unsatisfying digital facsimile of reality by making its users more lonely, socially inept and eroding our real-life social skills.
I couldn’t imagine how a really useful, seemingly harmless and almost indispensible part of our lives could do so much bad and that too without our knowledge. So I decided to really put it to test. I uninstalled all of my chatting apps and messengers from my phone, turned the notifications off on twitter, Facebook, gtalk and Skype. I let a few friends know of this personal experiment in advance lest they would have feared I was abducted by aliens.
The first day of the experiment, it felt really weird. I was uneasy all the time, I kept fidgeting with my phone, checking it every few seconds but there were no notifications, no Watsapp smileys smiling back at me, absolutely nothing to check/uncheck.
I didn’t know what to do during lunch breaks, while travelling back home in tube, while waiting for my floor during the long elevator ride. There was suddenly a big void in my hours that seemed hard to fill.
By the end of the third day, I was certain it was a stupid experiment, and all those articles were a farce.
I wasn’t in touch with anyone, I didn’t know what my friends were doing (including what they were having for lunch and dinner and where they were going over their weekend breaks).
I didn’t know where the world was going as well!
I realized social networks were also my major (and only)source of news and without checking my Facebook news feed and twitter updates, I hadn’t a clue what was going around me, I might as well have been living under a rock I thought to myself!
But at the end of first week, something wonderful happened.
I got a call from a very old friend I had not spoken to in ages. We were Watsapp friends…which meant we shared forwards, jokes and smileys regularly but never anything beyond that.
Not seeing me online for a week she called up .I asked her how she was and she told me for the first time in years, things that had happened in her life after we finished college.
She told me about her marriage to her crush, her hectic travel to work, her painting exhibitions, her travel plans. In turn I shared with her experiences of my MBA days, the toil to get a good job, my arranged marriage (to which she gasped in horror), and my move to London.
Before we knew it, an hour had gone and there was still so much to talk about. Finally after mutually agreeing to catch up again soon, we kept the phone down.
I made a cup of tea for myself after that and while I sipped on my ginger tea cup, I recalled the conversation back in my head, her exclamations, my giggles, our constant nonstop chatter like school girls and I couldn’t help but notice how refreshed I felt .
I didn’t remember when was the last time I had felt that way after chatting with a friend on social media. I rediscovered that day the joy of keeping in touch with friends the old fashioned way.
Giving up on social media also meant staying away from a constant source of distraction. Suddenly, I wasn’t doing everything with the phone in one hand. By the end of two weeks I realized how much more focused and alert I was in my daily life. I stopped forgetting my keys before leaving home, I remembered where I kept my documents, my handbag and the TV remote and reached 5 minutes early at the station to catch my tube instead of almost cursing and missing it every day.
Maybe It was all the free time I had on the internet, not knowing what to do as the blank Google page stared back at me – I decided to try a new recipe and before I knew it, I was making delectable muffins, pancakes, soups and curries,
I had only once seen on TV or on the menu cards of fancy restaurants.
First it started with reading articles on the internet, but since I was patrolling my online time it wasn’t enough to fill my reading appetite, I turned to books – my yesteryear favorite best friends before Internet barged into our lives, bedrooms and pockets.
And before I knew it, my old affair was all flames…
…..and my love for books was alive again
(Oh that rhymes; guess I got better at poetry too!).
After that call from Sammy, a lot more friends called up -, I called back a lot of them too. Some couldn’t recognize my voice, some were surprised, some thought I was in a problem and needed help, but in the end I was in touch with all the people who mattered to me.
Yes I still didn’t know about their weekend getaways but I knew the important stuff, the stuff that mattered. And yes, I wasn’t in touch with all my friends because I realized the people I wasn’t in touch with anymore were actually not my friends, just acquaintances, ex colleagues, people I met once on an evening out and exchanged numbers with….but not real friends.
As days passed I saw myself accomplishing a lot more in both my personal and professional life .I was actually doing double the work that I used to in the same time. I wasn’t apologising for delayed responses for not getting back, infact I was on top of things. My kitchen cabinets were full of week’s grocery,
my fridge with fresh vegetables, milk, cheese and fruits and I wasn’t running to the nearest Tesco express for filling up on last minute crisis items.
My parents were happy that I wasn’t chatting with two other friends in a side window while talking to them on Skype, my husband commented that for a change I was really listening to him and my daughter – she was the happiest since I wasn’t checking my phone while answering her questions absentmindedly.
For once, she had all of Mama’s undivided attention and nothing could take it away!