How much time does social media take away from our lives?
It was a co-worker of mine from BBC, from Bush House in London, who first e-mailed a link to me about how to create a profile on Facebook. He said: “Ekram, try this, it’s amazing.” I still remember his phrases. Sitting here in Dhaka, I trusted him. I joined.
I also found it equally amazing as he did, and started adding people on my list. Friends and acquaintances from my school, journalists, and relatives started piling up on my list. I also added many whom I didn’t know. I created a page for the college that I had gone to, and a group for the club that I was a member of.
I was enjoying what I did on Facebook. It became a habit to keep Facebook open in another window while I worked, and I would have a peep whenever I could. We started creating virtual albums of the photos that were actually meant to be kept at home in physical albums. People on my list started liking the photos and posts; they also commented on whatever I posted.
And I was very pleased. I was motivated to use Facebook more and more. This is how I discovered that I was allocating quite an enormous amount of time to “Facebooking.” Nothing very fruitful.
Just liking other people’s photos and posts without reading them, and checking out who was liking my photos and posts. Sitting at my laptop, I spent time on social media, comically believing that we had become way more social than we used to be.
One day, a friend of mine who is a renowned author, enquired whether I had seen his post that day. I said, yes, I did. He said, “Oh, you didn’t 'like' it, and I thought you didn’t see it.”
That’s when I understood how important the “likes” have become. Then, I started watching the norms and trends on Facebook -- how people behaved on this platform.
Interestingly, I noticed that people most of the time were showing the fantasy side of their lives, hankering after “likes” and eulogies. They (and I) would post photos of their dreamy holidays to always display the sunny side of their lives. That’s not a problem at all, but these seem to have created a competitive mentality among users of Facebook.
Finally, as I observed, we started feeling inferior when we saw other people’s always-happy lives and perpetually awesome holidays. This has slowly led to an identity crisis for millions of people, as they started comparing others with their own reality.
Being present on Facebook or Instagram became addictive. We always wanted to look good even when we were not; we always wanted to show life as great even when it was not. People were always happy online, but we -- as friends and relatives -- didn’t know their offline reality. We only knew about their online personas.
I have seen families and couples, sitting at a table together in a restaurant but not looking at or talking to each other; they, with their heads down, were looking at their phones and browsing social media platforms. They have gone out to eat and have fun among themselves. But on the contrary, they are trying to find their fun inside their phones.
This is how we have been programmed. Is it good for our emotional or mental health? We have been programmed to think less and we have complied.
If you are a keen observer, you must have noticed that these social media platforms have become the hives of fake news and hate campaigns. It’s very easy to create (physical) social unrest; we have seen many examples of that.
At the same time, it’s very easy to demonize or harass or bully any person on these platforms. People are believing all the fake information that is being displayed on these platforms. And that’s how a fake and unreal world is being created in our minds.
Have you noticed how the heads of state have started using social media? They think these platforms are the right ones for communicating to the people.
Are they really communicating to the people properly though? Look at the US president. He tweets all the time -- several times a day. Well, if he is tweeting all day, when does he work for the people?
Think how much time your social media takes away from your real life. How much time do you spend on social media? One hour? Three? Five? That’s right, we forgot to count because our social media addiction has changed our expectation of reality. Do you have any idea what is going on in my mind when you see my post? You don’t, because you have stopped meeting me offline.
These days, we don’t go out to play or jog in the park, take a walk with our dear ones, or read some good books. The lovers or couples don’t look at each other with dreamy eyes, but they have found their fantasy world -- psychologically away from each other.
See what a narcotic it has become for all of us? I hope you do.
Ekram Kabir is a yogi, a story-teller, and a communications professional. His other works can be found on ekramkabir.com.