Skip to main content

Advertisement

Advertisement

Gen Y Speaks: Why and how I cut down on my use of social media

As I thumbed through Instagram Stories last year, an animated review of a Netflix show caught my eye. It featured spliced clips from The Social Dilemma, a documentary warning against the perils of social media use in excitable all-caps. Intrigued by the snippets, I added the show to our watching list and convinced my husband to watch it with me that weekend.

Gen Y Speaks: Why and how I cut down on my use of social media

After watching The Social Dilemma, a documentary warning against the perils of social media use, the author and her husband decided to try banning themselves from social media for two weeks.

As I thumbed through Instagram Stories last year, an animated review of a Netflix show caught my eye.

It featured spliced clips from The Social Dilemma, a documentary warning against the perils of social media use in excitable all-caps. Intrigued by the snippets, I added the show to our watching list and convinced my husband to watch it with me that weekend.

We were instantly hooked. The documentary presented its message simply: Not having to pay money for your favourite social media platform doesn’t mean it is free. In fact, if you aren’t the customer, it’s more than likely that you are the product.

These ubiquitous platforms are constantly vying to capture our time, attention and clicks, to better serve their advertisers.

None of this was new information, but the way it was presented made me start to think.

“Do you think you could live without social media?” my husband asked me as the credits rolled.

“Of course,” I scoffed. I was old enough to remember a world without Facebook.

Our generation had grown up as digital hybrids. My childhood harboured a strange combination of memories. I remembered plenty of MSN Messenger conversations that began with the hieroglyph-like “hii3=)”, but I had also dialled my best friends’ landlines enough to have memorised all their numbers.

My husband and I decided to try out a two week ban on social media, each betting that the other would cave first. The loser would wash the dishes for the month, so the stakes were sufficiently high.

My husband used Facebook almost like a news aggregator, to read articles and judge the comments left by strangers.

I was more partial to Instagram. I had grown accustomed to sharing the small pleasures in my life — a pretty cup of coffee or a good book — with my very modest group of followers, and occasionally ranting to an even smaller group of close friends.

A fortnight, though, would be easy.

Or so we thought.

The first hurdle to overcome was pure instinct. I didn’t realise how programmed I had become to constantly use the app. From the moment I awoke, even before my brain had fully registered what my fingers were doing, I found myself reaching for my phone and swiping to the app.

When I stood in queues at the supermarket, or waited for the bus, again I would fish my phone out of my pocket and itch to open the app.

Next came the notifications. After going only a day without using my social media accounts, prompts began to pop up on my phone, timed to uncanny perfection.

Over lunch, when the urge to destress with a mindless scroll was at its peak, a cajoling message would appear, gently suggesting that I check out a new update.

As the days passed and I resisted (determined to win the bet), the notifications became more aggressive. So-and-so has just posted a new picture — always spotlighting a user I was dying to stay updated on. The apps knew me better than I’d realised.

The author says while she still uses social media, it plays a much less important role in her life now than before. Photo: Ili Nadhirah Mansor/TODAY

External triggers abounded too. When my friends discussed the latest memes, I had to beg them to send me screenshots.

I was falling behind on the latest news. Even trying to place an order for a box of stay-home brownies, I ran up against the Instagram login page.

I had no choice, I rationalised to myself, logging on. I’d just make the purchase and quickly leave the app. My husband would never know.

Two hours later, he caught me glued to my screen. He could barely hide his victorious smile. I had managed a grand total of five days without my apps. So much for the digital hybrid life. I was far more of a slave to social media than I wanted to be.

After that day, the two of us made a pact to help each other stay off social media platforms as much as possible, for good. We left our accounts up instead of deleting them, but consciously stopped using them.

It has now been almost a year since then, and I’m glad to report that the itch to scroll has mostly faded.

There have been a few adjustments required. Tired of being the last to hear of things, we downloaded a few news-specific apps that provide daily notifications.

This has also had the effect of considerably widening the range of news I keep up with. Instead of relying on a feed programmed to show me only articles shared by my friends or clickbait tempting me into a reaction, I now have access to a steady stream of headlines that span far broader than my pre-specified interests.

Staying updated on our social circle has also had to become a more conscious effort. Previously I was kept up-to-the-minute on engagements, weddings, new jobs and babies through status updates and pictures.

Without the crutch of social media, I now learnt of these milestones only when actually meeting the people involved. Facebook’s helpful birthday reminders were also sorely missed.

After one-too-many forgotten incidents, I laboriously added birthday and anniversary reminders on my phone’s offline calendar.

I do miss the convenience of using social media to record and reflect.

When small group dining-in briefly resumed, I found myself the only person at the table who didn’t stop to take a Boomerang as a flaming pineapple was served. I bought myself a diary again after many years. The effort taken to sit down and write far exceeds that to fire off a witty caption, but when I do take the time to journal, my reflections go far deeper.

I still log in occasionally, but social media now plays a much less important role in my life. Based on the screen time tracked by my phone, I used to spend an average of over 12 hours a week on various social media platforms.

That is down to just 20 minutes every month now, freeing up a substantial chunk of time for sleep, hobbies and offline interactions.

Overall, I’m glad to have made the change. I might know less about my acquaintances now, but have more time to keep directly in touch with my closest friends.

Walking home last week, I was greeted by a dramatic purple-pink sunset. I would have immediately reached for my phone a year ago, ready to serve as paparazza for the sky.

Now, it was enough to simply watch it darken into the night.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Pratyusha Mukherjee, is a 27-year-old Singaporean who works in the financial sector.

Related topics

social media tech Facebook Instagram

Read more of the latest in

Advertisement

Popular

Advertisement

Stay in the know. Anytime. Anywhere.

Subscribe to get daily news updates, insights and must reads delivered straight to your inbox.

By clicking subscribe, I agree for my personal data to be used to send me TODAY newsletters, promotional offers and for research and analysis.

Aa