The inspiration for this article is a blog post in which the writer describes how limiting time online has had a positive impact on her life.
The Internet has transformed the way we gather and assimilate information. Social networking has made it possible for people across the globe to connect seamlessly. But, somehow, the trend of being online hasn’t found favour with me. People find it strange when I say that I’m not on WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. Truth is, very often, I don’t even know where my cell phone is. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a recluse by any means. I enjoy conversation and good company. I, just, avoid social media like the plague. Call me old-fashioned, but I find it intrusive and impersonal. And, though it may not always be possible, I prefer to call or meet in person with friends and family. There are times when months pass by before I talk to a friend, which is not ideal. But on the flip side, there is so much to catch up on.
Many people share every part of their life online. But if people know about everything that is happening in your life, what do you discuss when you meet them? When I attend social gatherings, I end up feeling like a social pariah. To begin with, I get the overwhelming sense of being a dinosaur because while I am seated there wondering where to start, everyone else is glued to their phones. I’m not sure whether people want a conversation. Also, everyone else seems to know what the other is doing except me. I don’t know whether the lack of interaction is a result of being on social media or the other way around. But, the art of conversation seems to be heading towards an early demise. What irritates me most is when I am mid-sentence, and people pick up their phone to find out what’s changed since they put it down a couple of minutes ago. I don’t know whether this is because of a constant need to be updated or the fear of missing out. There is nothing more cringeworthy than asking a question only to hear, “Oh, you don’t know? I had shared that on WhatsApp/Facebook?” Forgive me for expecting information from conversations rather than a bulletin board.
Even when people are travelling, they are so engrossed in their devices, they wouldn’t know if their own parent was standing next to them. For some people, the need to be connected is so strong that they carry their phones to the toilet. I fail to recognise the urgency. Will someone not understand if they’ve taken a break to answer nature’s call? Social media aims to satisfy the innate curiosity that most individuals have about what’s going on in others’ lives. It is also an outlet for those who like to shout from the rooftops about every little thing. Whether the desire is to be appreciated or envied is open for debate. But, in my opinion, living so much of your life in the public eye is not just invasive. It’s outright exhausting. It’s human tendency to turn things into a contest which makes it easy for one-upmanship to creep in. And, in an intensely competitive world where so much value is placed on professional accomplishments, the last thing you want is for that to extend to your personal life.
I prefer to live by simple rules. If there is an event in my life that I wouldn’t call and tell someone about, then it is not worth sharing. Period. Just because there’s a medium that allows you to put this information out doesn’t mean you should. Every piece of information you share is being used by someone to target you – for better or for worse. If that doesn’t scare you, I don’t know what will. I understand that it is cheaper and convenient to use social media than to call someone. You can use apps to make calls on the internet. But when was the last time you did that?
Children, nowadays, learn to use the cell phone before they start talking. They are handed electronic devices at an age where they should be learning to play and bond. Will this not affect their ability to communicate? Social media prevents the cultivation of deep-rooted relationships by reducing our interaction with colleagues, friends and loved ones. The more time we spend online, the less time we spend talking to them. Our bond with those around us is dependent not only on shared thoughts but also on shared experiences. Then, there are people from the previous generation who are not tech-savvy and rely on conversations for exchanging ideas and emotions. Their inability to use social media results in them being ignored, isolated and lonely. Ask them what they prefer – messaging, Skype call or a visit.
Social media was created to make it easier for people to communicate. But if we use it as a substitute for personal interactions, the purpose is defeated. If a medium makes you contented with messaging or broadcasting a part of your life rather than making a call, where is our future headed? A conversation is about more than what is said. The spoken word has a tone, an expression, an emotion that a message cannot capture. For me, there is no substitute for the sound of a person’s voice. But it is second best to sitting across from them as you spend hours in conversation because nonverbal cues add another dimension to dialogue.
So, take a break from social media. Pick up a phone and call someone who you haven’t spoken to in a while. Better yet, have a face-to-face conversation and forget about your cell phone while you’re at it. You’ll be surprised at how much you enjoy yourself. More importantly, you’ll realise what you’ve been missing all this time.