My reasons for doing so might not apply to anyone of you at all. According to one of my most favorite bloggers, a better term for social media is 'alienating deception' and I concur.
My decision is no surprise to a lot of my closest pals and a few family members. I have found that social media in general makes it difficult to understand who is having a conversation, argument, disagreements, debates and so on. Everybody who has access to your information, feels it to be their right to jump in with an opinion, solicited or not. I have seen and heard people complain that they felt disappointed, insulted, heart broken, let down and so on. I have seen people get into discourses, which are very rude and thoughtless. Thoughtless because they forget whatever they put online is forever. What saddens me even more is that I know how all these folks are in their real life, no matter how much they portray to be learned, intellectuals or celebrities online.
To provide a context from my Indian culture, in the Hindu epic Mahabharta, the Yakshya asks Yudhishtra (the eldest pandva) to answer many questions before letting him drink water or take it for his dying siblings.
The Yaksha asked, "Who is truly happy? What is the greatest wonder? What is the path? And what is the news"?
Whereupon Yudhishthira replied, "He who has no debts is truly happy. Day after day countless people die. Yet the living wish to live forever. O Lord, what can be a greater wonder? Argument leads to no certain conclusion, the Srutis (what is heard) are different from one another; there is not even one Rishi, (sage) whose opinion can be accepted by all. The truth about Dharma (religion) and duty is hidden in the cave of our hearts, therefore that alone is the path along which the great have trod. This world full of ignorance is like a pan. The sun is fire, the days and nights are fuel. The months and the seasons constitute the wooden ladle. Time is the cook that is cooking all creatures in that pan (with such aids). This is the news".
Time is currency today. Most people tend to glorify being busy or having no "time" for anything worthwhile. Thanks once again to the social media too. To put things in perspective, FB takes 50 minutes of your time daily and on an average a teens spends 4-9 hours online. How they do it? By "multi-failing". For me its annoying and mind boggling.
For some people, this maelstrom of "information" provides a pleasurable diversion, but it's pure torture to me (and RR). When I was growing up, my adoptee grandparent required that I write letters before I could visit my relatives during vacations to find out if it was alright with them and send thank you notes after the visits. Ever since then, perhaps due to my upbringing, I have always been a stickler for answering nearly every letter, email (for around 30 years now), text and phone call I receive, but others are not of the same mind. This clash of habits leaves me dissatisfied (sometimes annoyed) and them indifferent. (RR and I always joke that we'd have never dated if we were Facebook friends. I am glad to have met him in person first, instead of bharatmatrimony or shadidotcom, (Indian versions of eharmony and matchdotcom and so on)
Many argue that we are only now starting to understand the social impact of continuously browsing without paying attention, I have been seeing some issues already for sometime. Screen-addicts meandering on their bikes or walkways; couples "talking" with one eye on their screens; lunching friends and dining relatives/family members picking up and putting down their phones as their "just a quick look" interruptions overlap. I understand this is because people are constantly distracted by FOMO (fear of missing out), such that they cannot pay attention for more than 30 seconds to a real live conversation before they get fidgety and turn to their urgently beeping devices.
Put differently, we are directly losing time to social media that spins by and indirectly losing time by the distraction of potential social media when we are doing something else (for me, this manifests as "oh no! I need to answer that comment someone made to me or argue/defend my point of view"). Combine these feelings within one person with those of another person, and you get a bad mix of two (or more) people, who cannot be present with each other because each one's distraction increases the distraction of the other.
This article on the "death of the telephone" has an interesting description of how we have gone from talking to each other about casual, intimate or curious things to texting or commenting terse instructions that are often misunderstood but always more distant than their vocal equivalents.
So I'm not just talking about social media but a general problem of people losing contact with their friends as well as strangers as they leave the here and now for a virtual cacophony of casual nothings, missed intentions and empty "likes."
I said something to this effect as RR and I were walking into our local GAP store. A teenager overheard us and said "well, you don't have to participate." "Exactly," I replied, "That's why I have been actually cutting back on that." I have almost stopped tweeting @pallavibhar and have pledged to not comment on Facebook, LinkedIn and insta. My Facebook "friends" complain that they do not know what's going on in my life and why there are not any updates from me in the past. My one word answer, it's all "fake". They argue that it's only my perception. Agreed, I say. However, how can someone be just happy, successful and winning all the time. To me, that is simply not humanly possible that everyone has 'made it', whatever 'made it' is...
On one hand, I can see a real problem for the world if I stop sharing my views on these platforms. On the other, I can't see that my input has made much difference -- especially compared with the rich, interesting and fulfilling conversations I have face to face with friends, or the calls I make or Skype or FaceTime talks with family. Yes, I can send 20-30 tweets or write 10 comments in the same time as I can make one phone call, but the quality of that phone call is certainly higher than the value of social media likes or impressions. Thus, I am hoping that my gain is also yours, as I reduce my contribution to the cacophony.
You want to get in touch? Simply pick up the phone and call or send an email.
As always please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section or at pallavibharatgmaildotcom.
I am still going to be blogging here and on my professional blogs, so you can opt to receive those email updates. If you reply, then we can also have a nice one-to-one discussion :)
I am also available on FB messenger, whatsapp and viber (guilty as charged because of convenience to family and a few very close friends from India)
Please feel free to read this piece by Andrew Sullivan -- the world's most famous blogger -- on how social media nearly killed him and this viral article from NYTimes that cemented my decision even further this year.
This post Lessons from social media dieting for the past 4 years and counting..., first appeared on hugglesbugglesmakesbubbles.