I started a new tradition this year. Every January I plan to be completely off social media and chat applications like WhatsApp. Of course plans are worthless till execution. I started on the tradition this year.
I uninstalled WhatsApp and Twitter. I was never on Instagram and I don’t picture myself there any time soon (pun intended). Of course I don’t use the Facebook mobile app- it’s clunky and Facebook has just become this uncool thing even for an uncool guy like myself. I simply stopped visiting the Facebook website.
To go with the objective of experiencing real physical relationships and not to suspend them to benefit virtual interactions, I switched off the sync on my mobile email app as well.
For the first few days I kept reaching for my phone. It was crazy to see how this had become such a reflex since 2009 when mobile internet became a reality in Zimbabwe.
I didn’t experience the number one symptom I expected though: FOMO. I didn’t immediately have any fear of missing out on anything.
And then they switched off the internet
That fateful Tuesday when the government first restricted access to social media and then switched the internet completely off, FOMO hit me. I not only missed general access to the internet for those long hours but I missed social media too particularly. This was because:
- When connectivity was restored before being switched off again and when it was then restored, I just wanted to see how people were reacting to this whole thing.
- I wanted to be off social media by resolution and determination and not be forced off by a minister of state security
I almost re-installed the apps. I’m glad I didn’t.
I re-installed the social apps a few hours ago and it was an anti climax. Yes there were thousands of WhatsApp messages from a hundred people but it didn’t feel like life had been going on somewhere without me. There was no single message I felt would have been important if I had read it when it came.
Instead of feeling sad that I had missed so much, I was actually sad to realise that social media takes such huge and important amounts of time in our daily lives yet has not much value to be missed if we were off it. The real relationships around me increased in depth very noticeably during this month especially relationship with my wife who decided to join my sabbatical a few days in.
There were no pauses to conversation as one of us attended to the ever intruding and ‘urgent’ WhatsApp notification.
Just so we are clear
I am in no way advocating for the silly move to block social media and worse still the whole internet. I am just relaying my experience and aha moment. I stand by all I wrote about why the government must never have switched off the internet and I am convinced social media is still a very good thing for humanity.
All I am saying is that we may need to individually be very deliberate about where WhatsApp and other social platforms are placed in our priority list. Do we use social media to enhance our lives or has social media become our lives? The latter is not necessarily an evil thing as long as it’s a deliberate choice by us.