Unplug – Let Go of the Encrypted Lifestyle & Rekindle the Human Touch!
Last Diwali as we were cleaning up our attic, I happened to see my old collection of scrapbooks and albums from my younger days. The collection drew my attention towards the unnoticed transformation from a raw world of physical meet-ups and real-time laughter, cheer and pleasantry exchanges to a digital world of selfies, like, share, comment, and facetime. Somehow, social media had altered my lifestyle to an extent that I had lost focus on real connections while being engulfed in the digital realm of things. Hence I decided to chalk out a plan for myself to unplug, and get connected more to the real narrative of my life – my people, my surroundings, even strangers for that matter.
The first step was identification of the problem at hand. I realized one of the biggest worry that I had was getting swept in digitalization; especially Social Media and losing personal connections. With social media a culture of validation has taken over. Everyone wants maximum friends and maximum likes, irrespective of what one might be going through in personal lives. If this armchair view of the world around us is to be believed, one must think and strongly believe that everyone around is extremely happy, having the latest gadgets, travelling the world, and spending a lot of time with family and friends. But this is quite the opposite of reality. The whole premise of social media is built around how others perceive us, and it is very human of us for wanting others to like us. Social media is built around showing us “relevant” content to maximize our time spent on it and get us hooked till our next moment of mental gratification, a moment that never seems to arrive or seems to arrive continuously. This small hit of dopamine that social media seems to give us, feels like a compromise we make with ourselves in our busy lives, and call it keeping in touch. Just try an exercise, go through your social media accounts, and friend lists thereof. I assure you that you will find it very hard to remember the last time you really met most of them. In fact, you would be able to count recent face to face interactions on your fingertips, that’s it. This led me to an understanding that I wanted to keep in touch with people who mattered the most to me, in ways outside the social media context.
Secondly, I identified that I was spending too much time looking at my phone even while traveling from one place to another, or even while attending events. It was all related to work, or planned meetings or something like just catching up on the news. Given my own behavior, I was not shocked when I came to know that an average Indian spends about 4 hours a day in front a smart phone screen. There is no doubt that smartphones provide immense benefit to society, but at what cost? Studies are beginning to show links between smartphone usage and increased levels of anxiety and depression, poor sleep quality, and increased risk of accidents or deaths. We have all become highly opinionated and this has somewhere given rise to radicalism & extremism in the world. All this got me thinking, have I stopped being part of nature? Have I stopped being a real person by altering my previous behavioral aspects by leading an encrypted lifestyle?
I hence listed simple rules for myself. I decided I will at least meet or speak to 10 people in a day and attempt to genuinely find out what’s happening in their lives. This I felt was a simple and doable conscious effort to begin with. Even in flights, I would try to speak to the passenger next to me and strike up a general conversation. Apart from this I also felt the need to connect with old friends who were an integral part of my life while growing up. I made it a point to call at least 5 people who I have not called in the past 1 year about what they are faring. But the toughest and the most helpful one was making a conscious decision to keep the phone away when having a conversation, especially with friends and family. It made such a big difference to my entire mindset and the way I felt. I could free up more time in my schedule to spend time with colleagues, family and friends. I once again, had time to take walks and enjoy the beauty that nature has to offer, than being glued to my screen.
And this Diwali, as we got back together in the attic for the annual clean-up, I could see the de-cluttering that this one year “unplugging” journey had done to my own personal space. While earlier I was always on the edge, feeling jittery, now I felt much better, more productive and even happier. More than anything I was at peace and much more connected. So this Diwali, this is my message to you, as you de-clutter your house, do decide to disconnect from your devices as well. Only this Disconnect will help us reconnect to things that actually matter in the limited time that we have!