Limiting social media activity to one platform, be it Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, could be your first step to taking back control
It has been four weeks since my WhatsApp got hacked. My first reaction was panic, but as I disabled my account I felt relief. For the first time in years, I wasn’t immediately accessible. It felt fantastic to be out of WhatsApp groups, even though I had mass muted them all. I also didn’t miss the press announcements, memes and fear-mongering messages. Disabling the app sieved my contact list — only the people who truly mattered (personally and professionally) were left behind. And if I missed texting friends who lived abroad, those who are close got in touch over FaceTime.
As I erased one source of traffic on the digital highway, I wondered what else I could get off my phone. Facebook was deactivated next — so long performative activism and posts that are longer than this article. As for Twitter, for me it was just a platform to read hate comments for the designated villain of the week; I was happy to leave it be. This left Instagram (IG); having cleared the highway of three massive sources of traffic, I was allowed to retain one.
IG mixes work and pleasure, but I set a one-hour timer in the hope of reining in my social media addiction. You see, I have a problem — my fingers reach out for the phone even though there isn’t a single notification and scrolling is a given, maybe 20 times on an average.
Sorry I just lost you there. I’d gone to check the ’gram, extending the timer by another fifteen minutes. The setting gives me a twinge of guilt, which is probably required to shame me into change. On the days that I choose ‘ignore timer for today’ all hell breaks loose. It is like diving into the deepest part of the sea and emerging with a migraine. Plan B for days when I’m too distracted or when a deadline is looming is to just switch off the phone.
But that is the least of my problems. The real issue is that no one checks SMSes anymore — not my editors, not my doctors, not the experts I want to interview. So I rely on emails, calls and IG messages if I don’t hear back. I messaged my doctor from my father’s WhatsApp, saying my account was hacked. It’s only partly true. Even as I stand the risk of losing all my data on the messaging platform if I don’t reactivate it within a month, I’m all the better without it.
It helps that I perceive my digital fast as a restricted diet — just like eliminating dairy, wheat or sugar, these are another form of toxins. It is unreal to obliterate social media completely, but the unnecessary elements can be weeded out. I remember a conversation I had years back with beauty blogger Ankita Chaturvedi. It was after I received negative feedback about my appearance on YouTube (gosh, I completely forgot I was on that too!). Like me, she had restricted comments on her videos. “I get to choose who comes to my house; if the guests are rude, then I have every right to show them the door,” she said.
Even though we don’t realise it, social media is our virtual home. Our phone is a parallel universe, which we need to edit heavily for our own sanity. I now use the mute, block and restrict buttons freely and frequently. In the last four weeks things have changed — I’m posting more content on IG and I write every morning. I don’t check my phone for hours after waking up and before going to bed. The self-contained feeling is possibly related to less time spent on multiple platforms. While social media is an energy exchange, it is easier to take back power in the digital realm. All you need to do is press one button. You won’t miss out on anything, I promise.