By: J.S. von Dacre
If you leave your home right now, try counting the number of people you will see whose eyes are eyes perpetually glued to their phones. Our lives and daily existences have become dependant on these tiny handheld devices. For the average millennial, one of the most unsettling situations is having a low battery life on their mobile when there is a full day ahead. This cellphone worship has created an unhealthy obsession for those who struggle with disconnecting from social media.
I had a friend whom I had not seen for quite some time. Since we lived in different countries, it was not as straightforward to see each other frequently. I eventually booked a flight to visit her, and I was beyond excited with the prospects of seeing her again. Not only that, but I had never been to her country (rumoured to have some of the most breath-taking landscapes in the world), and I was looking forward to all the exploring we would do together.
Upon arrival, my friend greeted me with a hug, immediately let go of me, and spent the next fifteen minutes making videos for her social media accounts. We then climbed into her car to drive to her house, with her phone still firmly attached to her left hand as she navigated through the roads. I pointed out that it would be wiser to put the phone down since she was driving, and she eventually heeded my advice. Yet, it was a mere prelude to how the rest of the holiday would unfold.
At lunches and dinners, my friend spent most of the time engrossed in either what was happening on her social newsfeeds, or making video blogs. And when we finally saw the sweeping mountains and picturesque waterfalls, we spent a significant portion of the time taking photos or videos instead of talking or enjoying the nature as I had initially anticipated. She, herself, admitted that she found disconnecting from social media to be virtually impossible.
Before long, the trip was over and as my plane took off, I found myself questioning how much quality time I actually spent with my friend. Addiction is a complex and challenging thing to comprehend. Would it be kind of me to berate my friend, or should I try to understand her dependence on this gadget? Social media addiction has evolved into this century’s new opium.
To put that into perspective, there are more than 2 billion Facebook users, 95 million Instagram images uploaded daily, more than 400 hours of video uploaded on YouTube every minute, and over 500 million tweets posted each day,
Disconnecting from social media is not as easy as simply putting one’s phone down. It runs far deeper than that. Ironically, it has united people with some of those all too human challenges–a drive to minimise loneliness and a need to feel validated or loved. Yet, it has morphed into something far more sinister; people become drawn into this simulated reality that feels like “real life”–when it is anything but real.
Take, for instance, the photo taken at sunrise of the devastatingly good-looking couple on the Hawaiian beach. For singletons, this image may act as a burning reminder of their loneliness or their struggles to find an ideal partner. And for those in relationships, the photo might represent something they yearn for but are, most likely, unable to have. A romantic break to Hawaii is, oftentimes, far too costly for the average couple.
But look under the surface, and you may discover that the legitimacy of this picture-perfect image might be anything but perfect. Perhaps one of them had cheated; perhaps one of them suffered from depression; perhaps they were grossly in debt as a result of the trip; or perhaps they had a huge argument right before the photo was taken. The truth is that you will never truly know the real version of events because all they have chosen to share is a moment that lasted for one second–the result being that single polished image.
Despite what social media might lead you to believe, no one has a perfect life. The pressure of social media has invented a new form of peer pressure–one where people are the ones who are bullying themselves. It is anything but healthy or gainful to positive growth.
So, what might then happen if you do not create stories for your social media feeds, or refrain from getting constantly caught up in the feeds of others?
Here is what might happen: you might find that you are able to enjoy and truly immerse yourself in all of those beautiful moments instead of trying to capture them.
What is the point of taking a photo of that exquisite sunset as it dips behind a mountain when you have completely missed the sunset because you were too busy taking a picture of it? When you look back at that photo, it will not tell you how those last rays of sunlight could have felt on your skin, or how that person’s hand may have rested in yours as you watched Nature paint the skies crimson.
The first step to disconnecting from social media is getting into the habit of practising mindfulness. It is the concept of focusing on the here and now; it is rooted in the principle of grounding your mind to not wander into the past or the future, which often can act as the catalyst for anxiety. Every time you feel the need to reach for your phone for that hourly “social media” fix, seek out another distraction. That could come in the form of an activity, spending time with another person, or even indulging in some “you” time. You might discover something far more beautiful and meaningful than an inanimate object that rests in the palm of your hand.
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ABOUT THE WRITER: J.S. von Dacre is a writer/journalist, advocate, and wanderluster. To find out more about her work, go to jsvondacre.com.
HEADER PHOTO: Maria Symchych