Human brain, no matter how awful a decision maker it is, always finds a way to witness things in the light of right and wrong. Take for example, a thief formulating the plan to execute a bank robbery which can subject him to the risk of being caught and imprisoned. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he’s very much aware that it’s unethical and harmful. But he still decides to flip the coin hoping for a positive outcome which can drive his problems away.
Until an year back, I was this thief shying away from the problems. The thief who had found her bait in social media. It felt like some alarm clock embedded in my head. Something that would buzz every few minutes (and sometimes even seconds) as a wake-up call to the fact that I have a virtual existence on the internet too. And every time it felt that something new wasn’t coming up, I would give the alarm clock a reason to buzz more frequently by posting something not necessarily relevant to anything or anyone out there. But it’s all good until it isn’t.
I was sitting on the bed scrolling through the phone screen. I can’t happen to remember the date but there’s a blurred memory of the IPL track ‘Ye dus saal aapke naam’ being played on the television screen. So it must have been the first week of April, 2017. I had just completed my MBA and there was still a month and a half to go for the joining of my first job. Mom came over to my room and asked me to clean up the shelf and have the irrelevant stuff kept aside. Still scrolling through the screen, I assured her it’d be done by the next one hour.
After what appeared to me a few minutes, I decided to keep the phone aside to get the shelf cleaned. I scooped out the entire stuff from the shelf with a plan to keep it back in an organised manner. While stacking the papers together, I noticed that the clock had just struck 4. I turned towards Mom in order to ask her if she remembers the time she came in to my room.
I got back to work but a sudden feeling of guilt set in. Three and a half hours, and all I did is running my fingers up and down a screen? Three and a half hours! I consoled myself with the fact that those weren’t the first ‘three and a half hours’ of my life spent like that and like those umpteen number of times in the past, this time too, the wave of guilt would pass away. But I was wrong. This time, it was different. The guilt soon turned into anxiety and it started feeling terrible. I spent the next few hours thinking what else could I have done during those ‘n’ number of hours I previously chose to spend on Facebook and Instagram. I consoled myself again, “Maybe you’ll wake up tomorrow and it would all be gone. The guilt and the anxiety.” The consolation worked fine and I felt better. Contended, I hopped back on my phone to get an idea of what I might have missed all this while. The more I would scroll down the phone, the more anxious it felt. But I kept scrolling until I was tired of being stressed out. I knew I wasn’t fine. I wanted to cry. I secretly did.
Next morning was no different. “Maybe tomorrow”, I told myself. The next two weeks were largely about deactivating and reactivating the Facebook account and in the meantime, I lost half my appetite. My family knew I wasn’t in the pink of health. Buried in my phone for like half the day, only I knew how I was hiding myself from the reality. Thinking of how my life had been like for last two weeks was only turning it bad. And yet, I wasn’t ready to give up on that ‘piece of shit’ in my hand.
One fine day, Mom finally confronted me and asked blatantly, “What’s the problem? Just tell me, what’s the problem?” I still ponder over how I put that fake smile up on my face and assured her that I was fine and the loss in appetite was possibly because of the ‘change in weather’ as they say.
Trust me, folks! You might not know it but your Mom knows everything. They’re called ‘Mothers’ for a reason.
So Mom kept looking at me until I decided to shed away the made-up smile. I finally told her about the anxiety and how it would make me want to cry all the time. She sat with me the whole day trying to comfort me. Had I known that merely speaking about the problem would have eased it off, I would have done that way back. After two nightmarish weeks, I finally went to bed feeling hopeful. That I was happy would be an understatement. It was rather this newly found hope that motivated me to finally take the leap. I jumped off my bed and walked straight to the living room.
“Just do it before you change your mind.”, I told myself.
Across the next few minutes, I unfriended everyone off my facebook and Instagram accounts, exited each and every group on whatsapp and finally killed the ‘Delete My Account’ button out of everywhere it once existed. I slept peacefully but what came after looked like a transition and wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be.
The very next morning felt like a big shift to a yet undiscovered world when I unlocked the phone (before really opening the eyes) only to realise that I had kicked facebook, Instagram and whatsapp off my phone. The moment of truth had arrived and the next two days were hard to pass through. I’d be lying if I say that life didn’t feel empty. It sure looked like the world has spewed me out to let me be on my own. After hours of watching TV, listening music, studying, reading newspaper, I would look up at the clock to realise that the day wasn’t even half passed. But it was better than the guilt and the regret. Within a couple of days, I came on terms with the newness that I had chosen for myself.
After almost an year, I joined whatsapp back but FB and instagram still stand deleted. Life has certainly changed for good in an year. I now find myself looking for something new every time it feels boring. The hours that I would otherwise spend wondering what others might be uploading are now being spent thinking “what shall I do to make the day interesting?” I cook, I talk, I sing, I write, I think.
There seems to be a little world of my own which doesn’t make me feel ‘Available’ just because there comes unlimited internet for limited costs. I now spend my time talking to people who really matter. People who bother calling me up because they care and not because they have free internet. People who are walking around and people who I call my family. I look them in the eye (and not in the phone) and I feel more confident. The birthday wishes I now get are all which matter because I know that those have not been reminded of by some social media alarm. Of course, I too have learned to remember birthdays and anniversaries. I might join social media back at some point but this time, I’d know there always will be a trusted option to kick them out.
The anxiety is long gone. The bright blue wall of facebook is a distant memory now. To say that I’m not worried about anything would be a lie but at every step, I now experience a change. There’s no bothering others with what I’m eating, where I’m walking, how good I looked in the party I attended last night, what my beliefs are and what do I feel about the movie I recently watched. Because honestly, no one really cares. The small breaks during the day which were previously taken as an opportunity to go through the happenings on social media are now being used to watch an episode or two of ‘ShinChan’ or ‘Motu-Patlu’ which is obviously weird for a 24-year old girl but that is something which cheers me up.
Life doesn’t feel invaded by some unrealistically happy world and I now feel mature enough to understand that happiness and grief are a part of life and no facebook or Instagram or twitter can help me get away with it.
Because Life is exactly what was happening around me while I was busy looking for it in my phone.