Monday isn’t the worst feeling. Realising on Monday that you have wasted your weekend, is.
It is the feeling I get, when I fail the weekend. I totally felt like a Jack (suffix avoided) few weeks ago for giving away the precious weekend just like that. It is not that I don’t do interesting things over a weekend, it’s actually about how I used to do them. I kept doing two things at once, one of which was checking my phone frequently. It is sad because this can barely be categorised as multi-tasking! More importantly it is not what I deliberately do. Well done, Social Media!
This compulsive-obsessive behaviour made everything so much less fulfilling because I would be distracted the whole time. I was distracted when I was watching a series, listening to music, or even when I was eating an amazing Sunday lunch. I didn’t enjoy those things as much because I was not really paying attention to them.
Commitment makes us feel rewarded. It heightens the value of both anticipation and realization of the outcome.
‘So what is the way of repatriation? What is the way to go back in time when everything used to be more satisfying? This time was not so long ago. This was the time when Social Media didn’t happen to us. So how about I give myself one less reason to check my phone?’
I got a tinker. Eureka! I got WhatsApp from Surekha (name changed here). She had sent me a joke that wasn’t even funny. (This is coming from a guy who just rhymed Surekha with Eureka for no apparent reason. The point is, her joke was worse.) I realised that I get so many WhatsApp messages every day, most of which don’t bear any implication on my life. Also, I can’t not check them as soon as they come.
The one who can sit at ease, possessing the knowledge of having unread messages in his phone is no less than a monk in this digital age. #PeaceOfMind #PieceOfMind
To confess, I am active on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat (with varying levels of activity) but personally I don’t find it difficult to ignore notifications from them. Personal trivia: I check my Facebook only on desktop & not on phone (expecting to raise a few eyebrows here). But WhatsApp had a special place in my heart and we were sort of in a love-hate relationship!
Although addicted, I had been considering to go off WhatsApp for some time now because of untimely, unruly and unfunny messages, or rather my inability to not check them every now & then. So I changed my status to ‘Off Whatsapp. Call if anything.’ and uninstalled it. It was like a mutual relationship breakup that a less committed person enforces on the other one.
Had WhatsApp been my Girlfriend I would have said, ‘Hey listen, you’re a great girl you know. You mean so much to me and to so many people. You really are important. But I’m afraid it’s not working out anymore, we are different people… (blah blah)
I don’t have any quantitative data about how strong is the correlation between our social media usage and focus/ productivity/ satisfaction in general, but they are certainly linked. With no WhatsApp in phone, I did many things and had a fulfilling weekend after a long time! (I could tell you all about how I could spend more time with my parents and music that I explored but instead I will tell you my scene with WhatsApp…
- All for one, one for all…
It just gets to me how we use the same communication platform for leisurely/ personal/ urgent/ professional needs. If I may draw a 2 by 2 grid with personal & professional on X axis and trivial & urgent on Y-axis, WhatsApp would sadly appear in all 4 quadrants. Because it is so, does it effectively underline our intention of communication?
- Too cool to care
Taking my point 1 ahead… WhatsApp has truly revolutionised the way we connect and it certainly offers a great deal of convenience in our busy-busy lives. In fact, it has made it too convenient for us to connect with each other. Because if you have been using the phone for long, studies show that it takes at most 3 seconds for you to type ‘I really want you to be ok’ and at least 3 minutes to say it and mean it, over a call. (Statistics are unverified/made up.)
- Converse (Thought of it as brand and not verb? You probably buy more shoes than books on Amazon)
The beauty of WhatsApp is that you can always bother someone with something that they don’t care about! You can talk about something that they may not want to discuss. You can talk everyday but you may not necessarily converse. (Remember Surekha?)
- I’ll be there for you (cause you’re there for me too)
Being on a receiver’s end, how much do you want to be available for others? Do you want to say, ‘Yes, I’m available (that is in fact one of the pre-set status updates). I’m available for all of you. Go ahead, send me a forward just as easily as you send me a personal message.’
After reading all these reasons, you would ask that if it was so bad then why was I in this relationship at all? Good question but your question hurt me (Any Bollywood fans?). It hurts me because the answer is simple & stupid…
We always need someone. Someone who will validate us. Someone. Anyone.
We all want to hear and be heard. I used to overdo it with the help of WhatsApp. There are other Social Media platforms as well which help us in constantly surrounding ourselves with people and their murmur. Sometimes, these people shout out in the name of ‘self-expression’, at times for nobody’s sake. My objection is not to connect over social media, my problem is with mundane engagement while so much value addition can be done doing other things like reading (online or offline), watching (movies, series and documentaries) or talking to real people about real things.
These days we can get anything online, from pseudo intellectualism to armchair activism. Yes, there are powerful ideas and collaboration too. For what it’s worth, we must be sure of what and how much of it do we want. Because there is no end to it. You keep scrolling and you will be led on.
Take a step back from this Social Media paranoia. Let go off the Fear of Missing Out. Don’t give in to this fascinating chaos of constant chatter. There are a lot of people who want to talk to you. By people I don’t mean just people, but brands, causes and even governments. Don’t be flattered. Because, some of them don’t even want to talk to you. They want to talk to someone ‘like you’. 26, Indian, follows football, digs certain type of music, does certain things on internet, etc etc. That is my digital sketch. It is statistically accurate & behaviourally synthetic.
Talking about something as personal as WhatsApp, you will agree that people send each other information because they ‘think’ that it is relevant for the other person. That’s why you don’t enjoy humour in your family group; they don’t get it that you don’t get it (or need it).
With technology, it is now easier to typecast people.
We are exposed to certain type of content because of algorithms of these sites which track our digital footprint and neatly dissect our digital personalities. They create echo chambers, as they expose us to the views and opinions similar to what we currently express. This is all staged for achieving content stickiness by showing us the content that we tend to Like, Share or Comment on. It leads us in a direction to believe that this world is what we think it is. Had the algorithm of these sites been neutral, the articles I share would have reached to as many people as my newly updated profile picture does. It’s so unfortunate that with such an uninteresting face I get more views and Likes than I get for sharing an interesting article.
It is not that Facebook doesn’t want you to read or indulge in something more meaningful than just a pretty-pouty face, but it is designed to majorly push towards you the content that you are more likely to engage with (Like/Share/Comment). In that sense it is more likely for us to be engaged with a photo or a video than an article.
We need to seek better things. Because we can.
It’s true that the marketers of our age have to find their ways to talk to us, it’s their job. I know how badly brands, governments and even people want to reach out to people. Sure they all want to talk to us. But so what? Whom do we want to listen to?
What needs to be done is we need to consciously prioritize on what we choose to hear & what we choose to see because that in turn will fuel what we want to say. ‘If you make your opinion by listening to others’ opinion, then really what’s your opinion?’
Let’s not make chat-bots out of ourselves; all sounding so similar. Let’s try to consume varied content that we choose for ourselves, so that we turn out to be ‘individuals’ in true sense. Let’s break away from Social Media loop and go beyond ‘Recommendations’…
PS: I had been off WhatsApp for 3 weeks, just enough time to form a habit or break one, in my case. Now I’m back on and I’m not addicted anymore. After returning from 21 days of exile, I had 65 unread chats. I went through them one by one patiently, reading almost everything in group chats. After I was done I realized that there was nothing that I had ‘missed out’ on.
Jack and Jill got digital quill
To share a bit of chatter
Jack fell out then Jill fell out
And it didn’t really matter!