When Facebook friends replace friends and when life is nothing but a long cruel wait between notifications, you need a digital detox. I am on one. Started today.
What do I plan to do on my detox? Document every day so I can write a digital article at the end of the quarantine, whenever it is.
It’s a Monday. After a hard night of partying, woke up with two good old friends, went for a famed chole bhatura breakfast and streetside chai. Fantastic initiation into a week that is about re-establishing real connect.
Office cubicles are cemeteries for real connect. I knew the battle begins once I am in front of a computer and satan is just an alt+tab away. So, I reasoned that absolute bans never work. I should minimize and slowly stifle my digital life than take it head on and risk a failure.
So, the self-imposed ban would apply to Facebook, Instagram and Linkedin etc. I never was too active on the last one anyway. I decided to leave Twitter out of it. Twitter is not social media, it is an enlightenment spreading, world equalizing, Alzheimer’s repelling tool.
I deleted the Facebook app from the phone, decided to cut down on the times I log in via web. The first few hours were easy. Until, a few friends who had been out of town started tagging me on their photos. The notifications came in the mail, you see. I thought no harm done if I just check in and out in a few seconds. I called it the “Looking is ok, touching is not” principle. I loved the pics, told my friend on the chat that I am on a detox plan and would Like them once I was active again.
That went smooth. No harm done. By the evening, I had checked in a few times more. I was not interested in what was going on. I knew it was a mind game. If you tell your mind not to do something, it will channel all thought towards doing that. Therefore, my not being strict was a counterploy, I wanted to lull the mind into a false sense of freedom so that I could clamp down on day two or three. It was all a mind game.
So, I allowed myself to take it easy. I even allowed myself to glance over Instagram every now and then. It was fine. I was not participating or taking any action. Watching was alright. By the night, two more friends had dropped in via chat, inquiring where I was for the whole day. It seems I had deleted the Facebook app but had left the messenger app intact on phone. So, I could not be rude. I explained I was on a digital detox plan, explained what it was and why I was doing it. They were shocked, made fun and then they understood. Or, I thought so.
All well. Three uninitiated communications. They are like unforced errors, if you follow tennis. I could not be blamed for anything then. Thus, day one was a success. Btw, Twitter activity was unhampered, made the same fifty odd tweets as everyday.
This was the most crucial day. This was the day I told my mind who was the boss. That should not be too difficult. By the mid morning, the friends that needed to be told were told that I was off Faceboook and it was only an experiment. I had not lost my head again.
It was a frustrating day at office. Editing and re-editing a PPT is hardly what you will call a soul satisfying occupation. It was obvious that one would try to find some solace in friends. But friends can be busy and calling is very intrusive. I didn’t really have a choice when it came to logging into Facebook. In fact, for the whole of the pre-lunch period, I hardly tried to control the urge. On a day like that, one needs to be nice to oneself.
Post-lunch, I considered changing the password. At least, undo the remember password in my browser setting. But only someone with very less will power will do that. It is but only an extra hoop to jump through. I was there for the kill, nothing less should distract me.
By evening, I was mildly depressed. I was off chat, did not indulge in any active participation but it seemed I had taken the “Looking is ok, touching is not” principle a little too far. I was going to Facebook every hour and Instagram browsing had become cancerous. I was looking for an endorsement of my will power and it didn’t seem in a hurry to come.
Time to gain back some self respect. While I still avoided total bans like a reformed fascist, I had decided to do something serious about the situation. So, soon after reaching office, I logged into Facebook. Went to settings and clicked on the “Hide Sidebar” button. With one click of a button, my Facebook screen went from busy Indian bazaar to classic scripture mode. Once you can’t see who is online and what they are upto, you are safe from all temptation. It worked.
For exactly eighty minutes. I logged in, undid the hide sidebar and immediately felt the warmth of sunshine on a winter morning. I burnt with jealousy as I watched my friends eat, travel and make merry. I counted the likes, I saw who was commenting on whose and made calculations about my place in the new social order. Oh, the sweet sensation of digital life.
Predictably, indulgence was followed by shame. But I thought I had grown too old for shame. May be, it was guilt. What’s a man worth if he has no control over his silly little urges!
After lunch, I tried to avoid facebook like plague. But Instagram was like walking through a showroom and Twitter didn’t scratch the shameful emotional underbelly where it itched the most. So, I had become a Facebook addict! The mind ordered the hands and before I realised I had sinned. I wrestled with the idea of the ban and the tremendous friction that all such matters ensue. Life is hard as it is, why make it worse by taking a debatable highground.
But you should never quit when down. One day to prove my resolve, one day to gather the self respect that was strewn all over the place by now.
There are two ways a story ends. Either heroism steers the story or cowardice drags it down. I had never been a hero. But I needed to win. Something. Sometime. At least, once.
Till twelve o’clock I had stayed off all platforms. Tweeting and working with a vengeance. It was all swell till afternoon. Then, without a warning, I logged in and chatted up a friend I had not talked to in days. Then, another. And, with it came down the whole façade of resolve.
During the last four days, I had probably become more efficient. Marginally, may be. I had been able to write more than just food posts. The occasional silence had brought a little bit of perspective back into why I write.
I realised the ‘Likes’ had turned into a token of approval. And, me a seeker of approval. I don’t think I was even aiming for appreciation. Approval was fine, it was swell. For someone who had always been a socially sore thumb, it was quite satisfying to look at the analytics and feel vindicated. It had become easy for me to look at the page, feel the day was productive and sleep easy. A cycle of evil all on its own.
I had needed to step back. I had stepped back.
I don’t have the courage to write the account of one more day. First thing in the morning today, I am posting this at 10.43 a.m. and going back on Facebook. This post, ironically, serves as the vehicle for re-entry.