Social media constantly engage people in some activity or the other and drive people to get on the campaign of trending activities. We have embraced it so tenaciously that social media is now an integral part of our lives and is prevalent in almost every sphere of ours. Though social media provides a global platform to express and share our views and opinions, its constant engagement with it is affecting individual relationships, productivity, and society as a whole.
The ear-piercing scream of your morning alarm jostles you awake in the mornings and today is Monday, the first working day of the week and we get up affected by Monday blues. A long week ahead of you with work that emerges in front of you is thick like fog. Outside, the pitter patter of rain falls on your ears and you realize that soon you are going to be out there, following the steps of the other miserable commuters. All that awaits with open arms outside your comfortable and comfy bed is the stack of emails you purposefully avoided on Friday evening, so that you could bunk off early to go to the theatre to watch your favourite actor’s movie.
All this happens only next. First and foremost , you slide the ‘alarm off’ on your smartphone—the inanimate object that is no longer just what it is , but an addition of your arm, a third hand at that; and the quintessential spirit of your being. Without thinking anything, your thumb out stretches towards the Instagram logo, with your long term memory fully alert. Your hands move down, glancing at six-pack abs, beach snaps, and a silk stole so fabulous that you can almost feel its silkiness through the screen. The passing images are posted by a smash-up of celebrities; close friends and colleagues; models……….. the list is endless.
You look through the window at the rain that is still drizzling and ponder over the emails that you had received. You pull the bed cover over your head and place your phone down asking yourself how you got to where you are now and why you are not a model tanning yourself in the beaches of Goa wearing a 2 piece swimsuit. This is the scene happening across several houses in the mornings that affect a generation of young people, both men and women. Do we even pause to think why we are not attempting to control the damage done to us by social media which has an uncanny effect on us?
When I refer to social media, it includes big guns like Whatsapp, Instagram, Face book, Twitter, Snap chat, Tumblr….. The list goes on considering the fact that several apps do get added over course of time. These apps are intended to attract us into a false sense of connectivity with our near and dear ones. I have been ghosting these apps for quite some time now and have mixed feelings about the future of our relationship. I also feel that my life will in no way be better, but keep thinking whether cold turkey is the way forward. “Will I ever cut off my ties with it” wonder I.
I decided to take a break about a couple of years ago, retaining just Whatapps and Face book for staying in touch with my folks. I was scrolling through status updates and it was then that I realized that I really was not interested any longer in the posts of several people I was reading because they hardly played any appreciable role in my life. Yet, I found that for some strange reason, I was upset with what I was reading. I really do not understand why I cared, but Shika getting engaged to her new boyfriend Sandeep, threw me off the gear. How come Shika, my close friend who of course is no longer close to me, heading towards marriage when I was still waiting to hear from the guy to whom I texted a week ago. This one post had pushed me into a corner. Why was I in such disarray when I learnt about this piece of information about someone with whom I was no longer friendly? That is the power of social media!
For better or worse, through social media, you are continuously connected with almost each and every person you have come across. I have around 500 friends with whom I am connected through Face book. But, I can definitely count on my fingers the number of people with whom I am in touch regularly. I can definitely tell you what these guys are up to through their posts online, even though I hardly remember some of them whom I would have met more than a decade ago. But I also know that my contacts filter the posts they share over the social media. They manipulate and control the posts which they would want or not want to share about their lives. People want you to think that they are ‘living their best life’ by posting pictures of some weekend party and making it look picture perfect with cozy movies and cocktail nights. The reality however is left out flinching behind the ‘X-Pro II’ filter.
This filtering is the crux of the problem. The superficial side of ours which is visible to the outside world through social media is much more interesting than the reality faced by us. In order that we may be a part of the community to which we belong, we are forced to exhibit our life as ‘perfect’ as we can to one another, not thinking for a moment about its emotionally damaging consequences. Life is not flaw-free. Yes, yes there are quarrels, tiffs, we break things, we shout at one another for trivial reasons…… So why do we not show that side of ourselves to the world? The perfect picture post of ours is hurting several of our loved ones. Several are the hitches that occur before a grand event, which are not shown to the outside world. I know of my friend, Radhika whose wedding was nearly called off due to some misunderstanding amongst the groom’s and bride’s families. The matter was resolved amicably and what followed was a fairytale wedding. Details like these are never made known in the social media. Many a time we suffer a heartburn thinking that our life is sliding down the drain whereas our friend’s is all hunky-dory and has nothing but happiness and peace!
We can still argue on this and say that I could control my emotions and distance myself from my friend by unfollowing her. But doing this does not seem to go well with me. Being a good friend of mine for several years I have this feeling of camaraderie and loyalty which makes it difficult for me to delete her name. I find it heartbreaking to remove her from my list of social media friends. This act of taking off her name has the same kind of social faux-pas as walking past an acquaintance in the street in my mind. It is highly unlikely that Radhika would know that I have unfollowed her. There is this expectation from the Social media that we act spontaneously on any emotion that we may feel at that particular moment with little room for thought. On the other hand, by keeping off from social media, I can avoid confessing my mistakes of unfollowing someone because by default I have ‘unfollowed’ or shut-off everyone. As if relationships were not difficult enough to manage through these platforms, the social media game has transformed dramatically in the past few years when celebrity and advertising recommendations threw their hat in the ring. This has lead to our following not only our friends but even brands and celebrities that we love, thereby forcing open a totally new inaccessible world in front of us. Celebrities from various fields convince us to buy the brands they endorse, the price of which may not be within our reach. Actors convince us that if we buy this soap or that tea or this toothpaste, we have every chance of looking like them –attractive and beautiful! We do get carried away but fail to see any appreciable difference in our appearance after buying them! The dawn of this realization damages our self esteem and self confidence. Is this really necessary? It should set us thinking about the negative effect of social media.
Do you for even once think why social media is free? We are the products themselves and not consumers and all we do is sell our selves to our friends and acquaintances. Posting an attractive picture from your beach holiday in Goa is quite likely to goad yet another friend of yours to plan a trip to the same Goan beach and post another picture of the lavish party held by that person. This in turn will set another friend thinking on the same lines and the chain continues… all this is totally uncalled for. Why is it that we blindly follow our friends and heroes without giving a second thought to it? This is an indicator of the fact that we have tripped into the rabbit hole and are struggling to find our way out. I am happy to confess that I have successfully taken off the hook from Snapchat, Twitter and Instagram. Face book has proved to be much more challenging than the others to delink myself from it due to the ‘Events’ element added ; yes, missing out on real-life events , get-togethers; invitations from friends…. seems to be rather difficult. Turning my back on social media has been pretty hard than I imagined it to be as I find it difficult to carry on daily conversation with my friends without referring to the happenings on social media. During my meeting with my friends, there seems to be discussions like-‘Did you see what our Deepak has posted on Insta?’, I end up feeling totally lost when they are refer to friends and celebrities and their culture. I feel that I fail to notice certain things as I am no longer ‘online’ now. Well, Twitter and Linkedin are ‘the’ websites to look for jobs that are frequently posted. It sets me thinking-are even career opportunities slipping by me? Social media is so much enrooted in our daily lives that I think whether plugging and really get away from them is something which is possible by many of us? I am now on the lookout for an answer to my question!