So I did a small experiment starting in Jan 2019 this year when I thought of going off social media and to be honest it’s just Instagram and Facebook majorly. I wasn’t on Snapchat, Tinder or TiKToK and any such similar apps, so there is no coming off it. And I was on and off Twitter, so my usage was less and definitely not addicted to it, so I didn’t uninstall that. Also, my reason to uninstall Instagram and Facebook was very simple-I want to see if I my productivity would go up if I would uninstall these apps and instead use the same time to read articles or write something. Now there are a lot of interesting findings of this little experiment that I shall disclose in the below write-up and it’s not all black and white. So if you are expecting me to conclude whether it’s good or bad or sermon you over how productive I became in this phase, this article is not about that.
Okay, let’s start with the first 2 weeks. So they say it is difficult (like it’s a drug) to abstain from something you were hooked onto for so long. Now I shall admit that while I wasn’t posting something every day and didn’t have tons of stories daily. I was an avid user scrolling through pages after pages, following some of my favorite celeb stories and browsing through my favorite hash tags on andI thought Instagram is just filled with these two. But it’s just what you follow that you would see more of, so if you are a cat person or a dog person, well Instagram is full of these for you.
Anyway, unlike others maybe I didn’t have much difficulty transitioning except for mornings when there aren’t any notifications to see or those breaks in between meetings when you pick your phone and realize you got no gram to surf. So you keep it back or in my case you switch to twitter (more on that later). And every time I went to a beautiful place or explored something extraordinary I clicked a picture and then I didn’t know what to do with it without sharing it with the world. But a promise is a promise and nothing bigger than the goal you have set for yourself . So just reminisced the picture over a few weeks or max share it on my WhatsApp family group.
Ok, now that’s done, what now? Or rather what’s the alternative?
Now it’s just a routine. You know the drill. Every time there is an urge, just find another source of entertainment. So for me I switched to Twitter, Medium and YouTube and recently Reddit(more on this a little later) but you will always find alternatives that would attract or distract you depending on what you are aiming to do with all the time off the social media. And you may say that Youtube and twitter are no less social media apps so that isn’t really going off the social media entirely, however my aim was to be more productive so even if I am on social media I made it a point I was using it for something informative — I follow Twitter and Youtube to understand Indian politics and to some extent US politics from the non-conventional sources as I don’t trust news channels these days. Neither do I trust social media; but, you can be smart enough to differentiate between facts and views more on this in another topic. So concluding there I was, able to find more time on news and politics-my topics of interest.
And this time also allowed me to research a lot on this topic-coming off social media and I started finding people who have done similar experiment in the past and what they learnt about it. So I want to share all of those findings with you.
Now I saw this video on ‘Quit social media’ by Dr. Cal Newport and he mentions that the most common argument that he has heard is people who have created their social identities based on these new age technology and to dismiss them altogether is like being in a state of denial, to which his counter argument is simple-in the 21 stcentury what the market values is the ability to produce things that are rare and valuable.
So what’s easy to replicate and doesn’t create a lot of value will not be something that would lead you to success.
- Dr Cal Newport
And social media to a large extent is just like that. Even a 6-year-old can create content today. So unless you are producing content based on research, conversations with experts and market leaders, experience and a slowly roasted recipe of persistence, incremental knowledge over the years and communicating with finesse; you aren’t really adding much value to your social media eco-system. Look at the one’s who are at the top in their respective fields they would have a career even if you take away the social media from them. For instance, MKBHD(Google or YouTube him if you don’t already know who he is) who reviews smartphones has gathered immense knowledge on the evolution of smartphones and has given extensive benefit through his reviews and feedback to a million users. So if tomorrow YouTube is no longer the medium he would use something else, but that’s all it is-a medium. You can’t take away his knowledge and research on mobile phones, his communication and video making skills from him.
Now if you are merely replicating someone without having the skills/knowledge or just produce 15 second videos, sorry you might gain instant fame for one video but you’d be down to nothing the very next day, and that is what I am against-the mere ton loads of content of absolute bad quality and have a life lesser than that of a fly. And that’s when I realized if I will post Insta stories that would attract a 100+ views and Insta posts that might attract another 100+ likes but what does that really mean-does it mean I am producing some content? Not really. I am no celeb who needs to maintain a certain social identity and mind you, I am no social media star who needs more traffic to their content. So what does that mean-I am only there for instant gratification or what we call as validation from someone else that this is right and this is beautiful. When you do these things just to create those beautiful stories without any additional value, without utilising that traffic effectively to promote something to gain something, you are effectively like the next door Aunty who likes to show-off their new jewellery, new car or new travel. Period. And if that is what you want that’s absolutely fine too. Just being aware helps at times and I believe not everyone is conscious and so they post at times, get their ego boost, go off for a few months, get frustrated -don’t really know what they want out of it or why are they even doing it.
And that brings me to the next point- Are those posts even remotely like your real life? There are again multiple references to this in our movies, soap operas and even in real life. Like friends who would go through a shitty relationship but post pictures of #relationshipgoals or going through a routine boring Sunday but just posting a few pics from some other day to show the fun day you have had. Or editing a picture to make it look like it’s from another planet when in reality it wasn’t worth the effort. Really, I wish we could have some filters in our life like in Instagram to filter out the nuisance from what makes sense.
No one posts about the struggles or the miseries, they all post of the beautiful vacation trips, their beautiful lives and their perfect spouse.
Sorry to break your bubble but I feel sorry for some of them who paint this picture that their life is just perfect or much better than others when in reality it is just shallow because you only lived on social media. Switch it off and then see if your life is still that beautiful, if it is well it’s great, enjoy those moments, cherish them and share a moment or two as you feel appropriate. But don’t ruin that moment especially when the friend whose picture you just posted is trying to have a conversation while you dig your face into that social media app and act busy to see what people are reacting on that picture. You care less of that friend sitting right in front of you but more of your social perception that you have just created. And that is what I am against. I am not against the social media apps, please don’t think otherwise, I believe they are a wonderful medium to express ourselves but we need to use them wisely and not be enslaved by them.
When you realize what you were doing was to create this reality which is far distinct from who you are or what you believe in you’d feel cheated and by none other than cheated by yourself. And I think that’s an existential crisis -and if you don’t believe me watch this excellent documentary on Netflix called ‘American Meme’ wherein they show how the big 4 names of the social media industry — Paris Hilton, Josh Ostrovsky, Brittany Furlan, and Kirill Bichutsky, hustle to create empires online. Kirill Bichutsky goes by the name of slut whisperer and if you don’t know him, just do a quick google search and you shall know he is most notorious for his “Girls Gone Wild” style stunts in which he pours champagne on women at nightclubs-ridiculous isn’t it?
And I know I have escalated in my write up from the girl next door to the celebs, I understand that but we are all still sailing the same boat and the point I was trying to make is that this guy is famous and makes money for pouring champagne on girls’ booty-well if this isn’t rock bottom I am not sure what is. I mean he himself doesn’t like it, he says he needs to be drunk to do it and he thrives only because of the demand there is which is even insane. The person who created his empire off the stuff he doesn’t believe in-well that’s what I call as existential crises when you contradict what you stand for, your core values and what makes you, YOU!
So, it is not really about questioning the medium but just the way we use it and if we really think through all of this or just follow the herd.
Originally published at https://theviralblogger.com on April 7, 2019.