Kinan, my best friend, told me about her experience. A friend of ours was going to study abroad. Kinan gave him something as a gift (Kinan is a very kind woman!) and sent it with a same-day delivery service to his home. A couple of hours later, no updates from him if the package has safely arrived. Kinan opened Instagram just for regular checks. There was a notification in her DM, a friend tagged her on a story. And it was him, with a picture of the gift from Kinan. He didn’t tell Kinan directly such as via WhatsApp chat or call and chose to post it on social media instead. Kinan felt a bit pissed. If I were her, I might feel the same. But I see that there is nothing wrong with that. Kinan and our friend just have different ways of communicating, perspectives, and values.
Kinan’s story reminds me of something, I dislike getting friends’ updates through third parties like Instagram, since a long time ago. I once wrote about this back in 2019, you can read it here. In that post, I felt that the more I knew about my friend’s life through social media, the more I felt lonely. At that time, I perceived social media as a toxic tool. I then decided to not open my Instagram main account for months, but I kept coming back. The temptation to know what others are doing or be the most updated person in the circle was just hard to avoid, to be honest.
One fine day in 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic struck and we heavily relied on online communication, I read Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport. This book was so mind-blowing that I finished it in two days straight. One of the useful tips is the simple step to start decluttering our digital activities.
The Digital Declutter Process:
- Put aside a thirty-day period during which you will take a break from optional technologies in your life.
- During this thirty-day break, explore and rediscover activities and behaviors that you find satisfying and meaningful.
- At the end of the break, reintroduce optional technologies into your life, starting from a blank slate. For each technology you introduce, determine what value serves in your life and how specifically you will use it so as to maximize this value.
So, in November 2020, because of one thing and another, I decided to deactivate Facebook and Instagram’s main account (step no 1). The original plan was to go off for 3 to 4 months. But, unexpectedly, it continues until today, almost a year. During the hiatus period, I practiced step no 2: improving my financial management. I did the financial checkup, learned about stocks and mutual funds, and made an investment plan. Besides, I also took care of my rooftop garden.
I adjusted step no 3 as I was still on break and had no end yet at that time. I didn’t go back to my main accounts, but at this point, I realized that Instagram is a resourceful tool to gain useful information. So, I have been using a second account on Instagram to discover and learn things I like such as gardening, culinary, finance, and investment. This account was determined to look for certain information and knowledge I need, not to socialize. Thus far, this method works well for me.
During the hiatus period, I logged in to Instagram once because I was invited as a speaker in a talk show that was held through Instagram live. After the event, I stayed logged in for a few days but… no, it made me uncomfortable, so, yeah, I was back on hibernation mode again.
In this phase, I realize that social media is not toxic. It depends on us, the users, how we put value in everything we do and take control of it. Social media is just a tool to maximize our value. I also understand that maybe I didn’t know my purpose yet in using social media back in 2019. That’s why I kept coming back. Now, I’m just happy I can define a clearer purpose. And since then, I try to see things from both sides.
So, how do I feel now? Honestly, I feel much better. The most significant change is my work becomes excellent. I pay attention to things that matter in my life. I have time to implement a “to-do list” that has been delayed for so long, a list of small things or activities but we always claim we don’t have time for that or are just too busy, like reading a book, cleaning shoes, decluttering stuff, and etc.
From this experience, I want to say that if you are a social media user, but often feel less, lonely, or anxious, I think it’s time for you to define your purpose in using it (please, be honest with yourself first). Is it for entertainment? Networking? Learning new things? Communicating with families? Or work duties? No matter what the purpose is, if you already define one, it will become easier to take control of yourself.
Oh, and one thing. A couple of months ago, I went to Flores for a vacation with three friends from the university club. I was still on social media hiatus, so I rarely heard about others' lives. When my friends shared updates about our friends, I was surprised a lot, in joy, like, What? She has moved to Medan? Haaa she just gave birth to her second child? Hah? What? Oya? Oh My God! I do love this kind of conventional way to hear about how my friends are doing. Believe me, it’s the best feeling ever. I don’t mind being the last person who knows all of that news. My boss said I’m an old soul.
"There's nothing wrong with connectivity, but if you don't balance it with regular doses of solitude, its benefits will diminish." - Thoreau in Digital Minimalism