A week ago, I disabled Facebook and Instagram on my mobile phone. Why?
In late 2015, I started an Instagram account to share my experience of travelling through Germany and Italy. Having no idea about location and keyword tagging, my posts received little or no attention. As time passed, I learned how to tag my posts properly but I wasn’t zealous like people who included tags in separate comments. Also, I began adding more friends, so to speak, or rather just to have more followers. I know many if not most, do not actively like my posts. I do not actively like their posts either. So, what is this about?
What began as a wish to share my experience, became a day-to-day mindless habit of scrolling through pictures which inform me about people’s lives; or rather the side of life they choose to show. It became worse when Instagram caught up with Snapchat and introduced live stories. Surely, we cannot know more about another than through following their daily schedules. Curiously, mundane lives do have elements of interest, to share about.
Of course, I did enjoy Instagram for the stunning and at times, inspirational pictures of National Geographic and adventure photographers. But I was sucked into a world of materialism and superficiality. Without knowing, I was absorbed by how people looked, where they travelled to and whatever good they had that I didn’t. Furthermore, I began to mind how many likes my post got. It was human nature to keep track of progress. I became a person who cared about whether someone was noticing me and liking what went on in my life. To be honest, this isn’t me.
Facebook had a lesser grip on me for there were more video posts than photo posts. These videos were mostly of comic nature, with okay to poor quality content. What was worse were the posts on animal abuse. Surely one doesn’t need to be constantly shocked with graphic images to know that animal abuse exists and inhumane people deserve to be hated on. Overall, Facebook was another mindless scroll of videos and random posts, of casual likes and dislikes.
Upon reflection of time – the measurement of our lives, I realise I haven’t been spending it well. In pockets of time – waiting for the bus, travelling, during meals, etc. – I have been mindlessly scrolling through these applications, and compulsively keeping my Instagram feed active. What then have I gained through this habit? A year on, I have gained little, socially or intellectually. I must come to admit that I have been wasting my time. Then one will ask, what do we do when we have nothing to do?
Surely, one can idle or be at ease with boredom. In the past, people gain inspirations and ideas in times of idling. These days, we do not allow that emptiness which can drive creativity and independent thought. Instead, we fill them with poor content, and drive ourselves along the mainstream and lose our ability to be uniquely, ourselves.
Of course, I must say that I am quite a failure at social media, or in fact socialising. That is why social media has lost its purpose for me. In the first few days of disabling the apps, I can’t help but want to feed my habit of viewing. Instead of re-enabling them, I downloaded other apps for quality content reading, such as science and other news. Yet one does not engage the intellect all the time, so there are definitely periods of emptiness. In these, I idle, and let my mind work in the way it wants to work. I do not gain inspirations everyday, but they sure come often. Instead of gazing at my phone, I now observe life around me. I observe my surroundings, people and see things anew. I hope I no longer need to search for lost time.
We must always reflect on our habits, for they make up our lives. If we find our habits meaningless, we must persist to change them.