It’s good to step back once in a while. To step back and take a look at the bigger picture, to try and see if this point in your life is really where you want to be, and if not, where you want to go and how you’re going to get yourself there.
We often overthink the power that these little technological devices have over us. We feel like we owe the world something in trying to keep up with the latest trends and social media flutters, and still pretend like it doesn’t take its toll on us. I’ll be the first to say that I’m a sucker for all my social media platforms, I invest time and effort in growing them, so much so that it’s become a hobby, and with it, has come an interest in photography, food and the chance to be influenced by some truly amazing bloggers and influencers.
The internet is a beautiful place. But it can be a destructive place too. And some of us will go our whole lives never realising just how much of an effect it has on our lives. It’s a vicious circle, because here I am telling you how the internet has irreversibly impacted on our generation, after I posted a picture on Instagram 5 minutes ago and am now uploading this on the very internet I am criticising.
So, I tried a 5-day technology detox and here is what happened.
I turned off my phone, gave it to a friend and told her to keep it safe for me until I was ready to come out of hiding. There it sat for 5 days, while I took some time to observe the world around me and clear my head. I know it was only 5 days, and not 30 days or a few months, but life must go on, and in this day and age, to not have google maps on hand is sentencing oneself to a cold afternoon getting lost in the rain.
Not having the notes app means that you have 5 little bits of paper sticking out of your pocket that you’ll forget about and find the next time you take your pants out of the laundry. The only way anyone could truly get away from it all is to take a trip to Tibet for 6 months and live with the monks or visit an Ashram in India and meditate (someone’s been reading Eat, Pray, Love if you can’t tell.)
So after 5 days my phone came back on, and in swooped the ding ding dings of incoming messages and the evidence of how the cyber world could carry on just fine without me. And it made me wonder what the point is. Not in an existential kind of way but in a ‘dependence on technology’ kind of way.
Why is it that we depend so much on something we barely understand? We base our friendships on being able to communicate every second of every day. We forget the power of face to face communication. Emojis, memes and LOL have become masks to hide the otherwise expressionless faces behind the screens. Of course, social media has done so much good. Look at YouTube for example. It’s given those influencers, who have admitted that they were shy and otherwise introverted, to find a way to express themselves and share their messages, which I won’t deny I am a big fan of.
However, it’s also given people the impression that having a whole load of followers is the key to life when in fact, yeah, it’s fun to know that a whole bunch of people support you and like your content but what’s the point if all you’re doing is fooling yourself and seeking validation in an invisible world of ones and zeros that could come crashing down at any time.
I was ashamed of myself during those 5 days when I began to feel like I was missing a limb. I would reach to my bedside table every morning then remembered that I was looking for something that wasn’t there. I should, in fact, have been looking for my watch in order to figure out what time it was. I would sit in bed wondering what on earth am I supposed to do with the first half an hour of my day if I’m not scrolling through my social media like it’s the morning newspaper. Guess I just have to get up and get my day started?! Who would have thought you could actually be productive and actually realise how much of your life you waste staring at a screen?
We hear these stories over and over again and we tell ourselves that we know we could live without our phones, but you never really know until you try it. The majority of this generation have no idea what it’s like to leave the house without the weight of a phone in your pocket. Over the weekend I left my flat with literally my house keys, some cash and my oyster card. I would highly recommend it. Not only does it allow you to take 5 minutes to actually see that for once the sky isn’t covered in dark and gloomy clouds, but it makes you realise how much time other people spend on their phones; crossing the streets, getting coffee or getting onto the trains, fingers flying across the keyboard.
It makes you realise how bad it looks, and how bad you must look doing it. Don’t get me wrong, I do it too! And I highly doubt it’ll be an easy habit to get out of, but awareness is the first step towards making a change. We talk about how climate change upsets us, how pollution is killing the seas and the wildlife and how construction is creating ugly facades on our beautiful planet but how much of our time do we actually spend looking at this same planet?
Another thing not having my phone taught me was that it’s okay to take time off for yourself. You’re the only one in charge of your life, in charge of your sanity and your happiness. Five days is nothing, but when trying to get out of a habit that’s ingrained in the very core of your generation’s way of life, it feels like forever.
It’s okay to be selfish sometimes, it’s okay to take time to reevaluate and re-stabilise yourself, because everything truly important will still be right where you left it when you get back, and if it isn’t, you’ll know that maybe it wasn’t meant to stay.
It’s okay that in a moment of unhappiness, and of feeling like you’ve lost control over a part of your life, to just shut it down. It’s okay to want to make it stop, and if it’s something as easy as pressing the off button, then go for it. Obviously, it’s not a permanent solution because hiding isn’t helpful either, but pressing pause for a minute can really help you take a breath. All you need to do is switch it off. Put it away and just, breathe. Just exist for a little bit, taking in the sunlight and oxygen and just trying to come back to that zone of peace within yourself.
And when you get back, the earth will still be orbiting the sun, the Kardashians will still be causing drama with their baby names and your loved ones will still love you just as much as they did when you left.
You may just see that your problems and your woes, although never to be considered insignificant because we’re all different and are affected by things differently, may just not be as consequential as they may have seemed before. Never tell yourself that what you’re feeling is immaterial, or that you shouldn’t feel a certain way because there may be bigger problems in the world. There are, but you are a part of this world, and your energy forms part of the entirety of energy that flows around us. So you’re allowed to feel whatever it is you are feeling, embrace it, hold in there for a moment, take a break, do what you feel is right by you, and then you’ll see how easy it will be to let it go.
I’m so grateful that I have a platform on social media and on the Internet to put my words onto, that other people get to read and perhaps relate to. But sometimes, just sometimes, I wish we could go back to the days when a guy would have to muster up the courage to speak to you face to face and couldn’t hide behind eggplant emojis and winky faces. Back to the time where friends had no choice but to send letters to one another with adorable little stickers and lipstick kisses and when waiting to meet someone in person was filled with the excitement of hearing all about what they’d been up to. Back to when 6 pm didn’t mean optimum time to post, but meant let’s all go outside and watch the sunset.
Maybe I’m being dramatic, but I refuse to believe that just because this is our way of life and it’s a bit late to change it now, that I can’t be nostalgic for a time that I didn’t get the chance to live in. I realise that we’re in far too deep now, and I should just accept that this is how things are. But I can’t do that, I refuse to. If we take a minute to weigh out whether this way of life does more damage than good, maybe we’ll finally make our way to becoming a group of adults who are more in tune with the world that we spend so much time posting, tweeting, snapping and blogging about.
I don’t know. Just a little Wednesday evening pondering.
Sit back, grab some Oreos, and let’s see what life has to offer us next.