The Night I Ditched My Phone

The internet is a very useful place, if you know what you want from it -Noam Chomsky.

Well, most of us don’t. Why are you on social media?

Exactly, when you ask anyone that question their mind will probably go blank. Maybe because they didn’t expect the question, or most probably because it sounded so stupid to them to ask a question so obviously simple.

I don’t know about you, but I personally think it’s not. At all.

Most of the times when I ask myself why am I using social media, my answers tend to lean towards all sorts of excuses like: what if I miss something, etc..

The upcoming December marks my sixth year on twitter, after my Facebook account was hacked in 2011, I needed an outlet and a new way to connect with the world; A friend really pushed me into creating an account. Twitter was there, fresh, gleaming with new people and new ideas. Anyone anywhere in the world can follow the person that resembles their thoughts or ideas or dreams, it seemed to connect people, it gleamed with new ideas and perspectives; it promised something.

After The 25th of January revolutions people started acquainting with Twitter even more, it became a tool, it gave people power to connect with one another: to discuss and debate and share their opinions freely. It seemed to me that Twitter is a safe haven, that people there were really connecting, and indeed I saw projects starting there and friendships, it actually helped to alter my path a couple of times. It changed my life as casually and as easily and as open as it appeared.

Instagram was the late recruit, the new wave. It came with an air of art, of exploration and adventure. It was the avenue for people to spread their artistic instincts, fast. It enabled you to edit your perspectives in ways that were accessible to everybody, it was magical how you can edit your life on a touch screen. You were finally able to share your life the way you see it, and the way you want others to.

Last year I fulfilled a long lost dream of ditching my smart phone. After ending my last year in college I decided it’s the right time to finally do it. I sold my iPhone 4 to my younger sister (who wanted so much to have an iPhone) and bought one beautiful simple dumb phone that provided me with the most peaceful 5 months of my life, yet. So many thoughts raced through my head the night I ditched my phone, what the hell did I just do? How will I connect with people? What am I going to miss?

During this period I was introduced to minimalism, it turned my life upside down. It pushed me to ask myself the hard questions: Is this person/thing/activity adding value to my life? Do I really need this? Is it just a want or a luxury? Is it important or just urgent? I learned that things cost me more than money, that attention and time are the most indispensable assets I’ll ever have. That our material possessions are a reflection of how we feel inside. That everything in our lives take some space, nothing is for free, so we need to decide what deserves to be let into our lives and what needs to go, and leave space for something better and more important.

During my time off smartphone I became more mindful, more patient, my relations and connections with people I cared about grew stronger and more meaningful. I felt peaceful and aware and living.

I spent six years off Facebook and I never felt like I missed anything. I lost connection with some people, but I developed more meaningful ones with others. Sometimes I felt that I couldn’t relate or identify with most people, turned out to help me identify with myself, with what I really want and what I relate to and resonate with. I felt like an uninformed social illiterate who didn’t get the joke, which forced me to search for knowledge in the uncommon places, to understand the whys and the hows of things: of social behaviors and all those jokes I don’t get.

More than 11K tweets later I’m a different person, I go through my archive and can’t identify with my words and thoughts back then. I can’t help but wonder to myself what could’ve happened if I expanded on these thoughts instead of throwing my junk on people the way I did thinking of how brilliant and quotable and deserving of RTs and Favs I am.

Twitter does not connect people anymore; it’s become so crowded and cluttered with people too busy trying to protect their persona and presumed status to connect with anyone. We have become so consumed with our thoughts that we don’t bother to think them twice before sending them out in the world. There’s nothing more compelling than not needing anyone’s permission to publish your own thoughts.

I’d be flattering myself if I said I’m a mediocre photographer. I know I’m not one, but Instagram filters aren’t really helping.

Although I always thought it’s a positive sign that people are in a way getting back to art, I’m not really sure that Instagram promotes art the way it seems to. Art can’t be junk. Simply because junk does not bring fulfillment, junk is at most gratifying, a momentary pleasure; just like Instagram’s likes and comments and post-to-post attention span. Art brings fulfillment because it comes from suffering or from deep joy or from another intense feeling that transcends self promoting selfies and latte shots.

Naive as I am, it occurred to me that maybe just maybe a photo I posted would inspire someone, or bring them joy, or make them feel good even for an instant. Later on I asked myself deeper questions like: does it help connect with someone? Does it make someone cry? Does it make someone leave their job? Not really.

Matter of fact we all forget about the last photo we posted the minute it’s time to post another, or the photo we liked while we’re double tapping another. Try it, go into the Photos I liked section in your account, you’ll find plenty of photos that you don’t even remember you liked; each replacing another in a never ending loop of self gratification.

Bottom line is, social media is affecting us way more than we think it does, which is way more than it should. Taking too much space, time, attention and delivering so little value, satisfaction, fulfillment.

Maybe the question of “Why are we on social media?” is hard, or maybe it’s not hard enough. I’m not really sure, what I’m sure of is that it’s answer is not really that obvious. What’s really that obvious is the consequences, of what we became, of how we’ve changed for the worse and not as much as for the better.

These consequences make a seemingly obvious question even more obvious: what is social media really doing to us?

As for me, I know the answer: I’m writing this on my phone.

Photo: One of my favorite Instagram posts