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Aysha Taryam: I logged off and the sky did not fall
October 01, 2017
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It has been a month since I bid farewell to a world I had been inhabiting and contributing to for almost 10 years. I wrote a few lines explaining to a loyal community that had been sharing my life and words I was to leave for an unspecified amount of time, wished it well and logged off. I cannot pinpoint the exact moment or reason for jumping off the social media ship but rather see it now as an accumulation of reasons and a piling up of overwhelming feelings.

This is not a precautionary piece on the evils of all things social media and it is definitely not one that will attempt to highlight its benefits. The cyber world, just like the real one, has both beauty and ugliness, granted the former allows for the hideous to roam faceless and free, yet it is still us humans that inhabit both. We are imperfect creatures created with egotistical defects, insecurities and an incomprehensible desire for perfection and the excessive use of social media feeds the raging fires within, most of the time adding salt to wounds we never knew existed and at times creating new ones. What social media really becomes after years of use is a constant stream of information both verbal and visual that at first drenches the mind, quenching its thirst for knowledge, and subduing its curiosity slowly but surely transforms into a torrent that renders the brain heavy and the mind restless.

The Arab poet Silm Al Khaser wrote, “He who watches people dies of worry” and his words have never been more potent than in today’s world where all people do is watch others and cater to them in return.One might say that it is a personal choice and if one did not wish to follow people’s every move then they should just log off yet,as factual as that statement is, it is by no means as simple as it sounds. Leaving social media is a choice just as quitting smoking or alcohol or drugs for that matter but the mental power and dedication to kick an addiction is not one that just any person can muster. Until the world realises that this hyper-connectivity has created a realm filled with addicts its effects will be disregarded and a viable solution will not be found. It is a serious dependence that leaves a person fixated on hitting that refresh button as if otherwise the world would come crashing down, anxious to read the latest piece of news and any updates as if the fate of humanity depended on the speed with which a person received that information.

I do not know how others have tackled this situation once hit with the reality of accepting that indeed one is addicted to social media, I can only speak from personal experience. My case is slightly different, in the sense that my job entails me being constantly connected to the news and for years I think I hid behind that fact as an excuse for my attachment to social media. This reason was sufficient and quite frankly logical enough to have me succumb and dive deeper into this world. Granted, I am not a serial Tweeter, Facebooker, SnapChatter or Instagrammer but I do check them all, round the clock, day-in and day-out without fail. Millions of random views, concerns, ideas and images have made their way into my brain throughout the years, I do not remember most of them and yet I kept on refreshing for more. When I think how many more books I could have read instead, how many more words I could have written I am filled with a sense of regret for the time wasted on fleeting, momentary knowledge. This piling up of negative emotions that I was getting from being connected eventually led me to hit the brakes and come to a complete halt, I went cold-turkey and never looked back. The first few days felt quite surreal for gone was that filtered world of perfect angles made up of people’s best moments and selves. Gone was the wormhole that one jumped into at the sign of any awkward silence or pause in conversation. My mornings no longer were dictated by a sweep of everybody’s thoughts and a knowledge of their whereabouts. My fingers unconsciously felt their way to that usual place on my phone which housed my social media apps, finding nothing there felt idle for a while. After a few days I was overcome by a sense of aloneness that I hadn’t felt in years and it was liberating. I was no longer shackled to a device, I was back in my world of tangible, unfiltered reality, looked it straight in the eye and fell in love with it for all its imperfections. 

I am not suggesting the world leave social media but my advice to all is to take a detox period of your choosing, could be a few days, could be weeks, every once in a while to disconnect from the masses and reconnect with yourself for as long as we are living vicariously through others we will never find our own way. Just as one goes on a fast or a body cleanse you owe it to yourselves to detox your mind, it will not be easy but easy never yielded lasting results.
 
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