Few months back last year, I went in for what a lot of people call ‘digital detox’ these days. This meant going off social media. No Facebook. No Twitter. No virtual relationships.My detox was not ‘total’ though. I kept my Instagram feed alive for a few close friends who could follow me and appeared passively on Quora – but in essence it was cutting off my ties with people not known to me in real life. Before I dwell upon what happened during that phase, let me try and give a few reasons for why I did so.
WHY I WENT OFFLINE
I was one of the first few hundred people in India to have a Facebook profile and a Twitter handle. I caught social media on its upswing. By last year I had four pages on Facebook and my twitter posts were upwards of 5000. Since I didn’t post trivial details of what I ate and how I looked, I was never a compulsive poster. Yet, my interaction with my followers was getting out of hands. Being a minor celebrity, I sometimes had a barrage of questions to answer and posts to react to. The number one reason I quit was to spend more time with family, my ‘real’ friends and myself. But even selective sharing has its limits. It seemed to me that my life was becoming too‘open’ and my privacy was getting compromised. The other reasons included disillusionment with social media, fear of personal attacks and unnecessary debates. I also was going through a dark and depressing phase (being a writer I should be allowed to, at times) and I didn’t want to share the ugly side of my mind with anyone. Familiarity breeds contempt. Excess breeds boredom. I was‘bored’ of social media. I felt that a few weeks of keeping away from excess information will improve the signal to noise ratio in my head. Of course, I was petrified of losing friends and ‘falling back’ in the race of popularity. But the fear of losing myself was much bigger. When I first announced that I’m going offline, a few friends ‘mourned’ my digital death and urged me to come back as soon as possible. I also thought at that time that this will only last for a week or two at most, ‘cause how can one live without social media in today’s times? We can conclude safely now that I surprised a few friends and myself.
A lot. What happened in last few months is too much to cover in a single article. But, suffice it to say that I squeezed more juice out of every single day on both personal and professional front. I am in the best shape of my life now – a personal milestone I was pining to achieve ever since I left college. I feel the youthful energy of my 20’s coming back as I build epic blanket forts with my two sons at home, or as I go on arduous treks and travels. In a span of just 6 months, I have written and recorded more than 10 songs and two full film scripts, while regularly tending to my prior commitments and taking out time for pursuing poetry that I wasn’t able to in the last 14 years. Professionally, I couldn’t have asked for more and personally I couldn’t be happier for myself. But also, what happened is not just a dogged pursuit of goals and achievements. What happened was an overhauling of my life towards healthier habits, healthier thinking and a healthier lifestyle. In effect it was a complete re-alignment of mind, body and soul towards a drastic change in my life, focusing on my needs and helping me realize my potential to live a happier life than I was living all these years.What happened really my friends, is nothing short of a rebirth.
As I look back at myself earlier and myself now, countless images of ‘before’ and ‘after’ flashing through my brain, I am more than overwhelmed with a feeling of joy. I want to run out and tell everyone what I have learned, felt and experienced. This is what brings me back to social media. But now I have a purpose. I now have something worth sharing. So here I go… starting off with a few lessons I learned while I was away… Read them, share them, be blessed, be happy.
LESSONS FOR BETTER ONLINE BEHAVIOR I LEARNED WHILE I WAS OFFLINE
1. It is important to have a voice but it is more important to have a vision.
2. Everything personal should not be shared. But everything shared should have something personal.
3. Some people will miss you if you go away but real friends will seek you out. Best friends will seek you out and still let you be.
4. Having an opinion is not a sign of intelligence. It’s just a sign of being opinionated. There’s perfectly good reason why you may not have an opinion about an issue, however pertinent or popular it might be. There’s no reason why you should be forced to form an opinion.
5. Consider the option of saying: ‘I’m not informed well enough to make this choice’ before taking sides in any discussion.
6. Be loyal to ideas when it comes to the well being of humanity and society as a whole, but be loyal to friends if you have to make petty choices.
7. Silence is golden in person. Online, a reaction, however mild and non-committal is expected. Even if you don’t want to say something, take out the time and make the effort to type: ‘I’d rather not say.’ Add a smiley. It always helps. 🙂
8. Social media is addictive because it fulfills all six needs (Google: Six Human Needs -Tony Robbins) at some level or the other. It can be a healthy addiction (like exercise) if you DO NOT depend on it exclusively for all six of these needs. You must choose which needs you want to satisfy and ignore the others. My choices are Variety, Connection and Contribution. For the other three needs, (Certainty, Significance and Growth) I keep pursuits in real world rather than the virtual one.
9. Trolls degrading you or friends excessively praising you – both – are best left ignored beyond one initial response. It’s like holding a knife from the blade side. It will sever your personality. But if you hold it from the handle it will serve your personality. The handle side is your side. Your opinions, and experiences – that’s what this is for. Not for reacting to others opinions and feelings.
10. Someone has posted something good / impressive and you read it. Fine. It was meant to be that way. The best you can do about it is share with others. Don’t jump in the bandwagon to make it known to the poster that ‘you’ especially were touched by his/her post. Once you react in a personal way to a generic post, the poster comes under the obligation to react to your personal post. You may be meaning well, but this actually dissuades people from posting more content. Let the river flow. Admire it from a distance. It is rude to comment on a generic post just like it is to not reply to a personal message.
Feel free to comment. I check my Facebook feed now, though not frequently.