Urban youth is consciously cutting off from all things digital. Here’s why | art and culture | Hindustan Times
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Urban youth is consciously cutting off from all things digital. Here’s why

art-and-culture Updated: Oct 21, 2016 20:46 IST
Poorva Joshi
Poorva Joshi
Poorva Joshi
Highlight Story

From travelling without smartphones to adult colouring books to bullet journals, the youth is opting for an analogous life.

An anti-trend is seeing the youth cut off consciously: From travelling without smartphones to adult colouring books to bullet journals

Author Jules Verne wrote his classic travel novel, Around the World in Eighty Days, in 1873. In the tale, Phileas Fogg was on a mission: to travel the circumference of the earth and be back in London within 80 days. Fogg and his valet, Jean Passepartout, set out at a moment’s notice — no phones (they hadn’t been invented yet), no reservations and no recommendations.

Almost 140 years later, freelance videographer, Sidrah Fatema Ahmed (26), too, had to leave home at a moment’s notice for an assignment. She was to tour Uttarakhand for a travel documentary. “It was a two-month project. I remember thinking this was my chance to experience what getting lost feels like,” says Ahmed.

Also read: From Bulgaria to India in 511 days: The journey of two hitch-hikers

She even misplaced her smartphone before her departure. So, armed with just a Nokia 1100, Ahmed went for her solo trip in July. “I reached every shooting location 45 to 60 minutes late because I had to stop and ask for directions,” she says.

What’s remarkable, however, especially in today’s digital age, is that the time she spent without a smartphone, wasn’t taxing for her. She didn’t mind the unavailability of Google Maps, or care for what the trending topic was. She also never felt the urge to validate her travel through Facebook and Instagram posts — a complete tech detox, if you will.

The latest addition to this trend is the bullet journal — a concept that’s gaining momentum in the West.

She’s not the only one. Ahmed is a part of a movement — a gradual shift to an analogous lifestyle. Be it a smartphone-less vacation, a weekend spent playing old-school board games, or dedicating a few hours a week to indulge in adult colouring books, the battle cry is limited use of technology.

The latest addition to this trend is the bullet journal — a concept that’s gaining momentum in the West. The Independent called it the “next big anxiety-busting time-saver”. Simply put, a bullet journal is an offline planner that doubles as a doodle pad and a personal diary.

Pen it in

The bullet journal first surfaced when a YouTube video by a Brooklyn-based digital product designer, Ryder Carroll, went viral (with 2,663,546 views on YouTube). It explains a novel way to write a journal. It involves marking the blank pages of a notepad with numbers, putting in self-assigned tasks in bullet points, and recording your life, in sections — future log, monthly diary, short term planner, and daily checklist.

Sounds complicated? It isn’t. Imagine a combination of multiple phone apps — notepad, calendar, weekly alarm, even Facebook’s live event. For instance, Mumbai-based Teach for India fellow Onathan Martin (23) has been using a bullet journal since June this year. He saw Carroll’s video, purchased a notebook, and personalised it. “I spend about 20 minutes every night on it striking out the completed tasks, and making a fresh list for the next day,” says Martin.

A revolutionary spark

Most importantly, the bullet journal helps Martin get some much needed break from social media — a major cause of anxiety in the urban youth.

Hvovi Bhagwagar, a psychotherapist at Manashni Clinic, Powai, says that social media-related anxiety has been on an upward swing over the last five years. The fear of missing out (‘FOMO’), constant comparison with friends on your timeline, and using the number of likes to measure one’s self-worth, have been recurring causes of anxiety.

Social media-related anxiety has been on an upward swing over the last five years.

To combat this, one of the earliest indicators of an offline shift was in January 2013, when acclaimed New York restaurant Momofuku Ko banned food photography on its tables. Closer home, The Daily Bar and Kitchen, Bandra (W) launched a Hang Up and Hang Out campaign in May 2015.

They asked patrons to leave their phones at the reception, to keep the social media distraction a bay. Eateries such as Doolally’s Taproom and Hoppipola also introduced board games to discourage excessive use of social media.

Also read: Here’s why board games are the coolest toys in town

Then came the adult colouring books — one of the biggest trends that caught on in India as well. So much so that author Devdutt Pattanaik even launched colouring books inspired by his novels Jaya and Sita. The activity turned out to be an effective method to manage stress: a break from constant digital invasion. And that’s more or less what bullet journals offer too.

Adult colouring books — one of the biggest trends that caught on in India as well. (Photo: Poorva Joshi)

“The process is called externalising the memory. The constant influx of digital information causes stress. Bullet journals reduce anxiety by promoting clear thinking,” says Bhagwagar.

It is important to note, however, that the use of bullet journal is time-consuming. The elaborate, meticulous entries might make maintaining such a journal an overbearing task especially in our attention-deficient daily lives — a reason that might limit it to being just a fad.

Yet, for now, its making millennials — be it out of hipster curiosity or legitimate digital fatigue — willingly detach themselves from their phones to experience analogous life. Who thought that would happen?

Pages from Honathan Martin's bullet journal. (Photo courtesy: Jonathan Martin )

Trial and error: We maintain a bullet journal for a week

First things first: the best part of the bullet journal is the excuse to buy stationary supplies. Shopping for a black leather diary, colourful pens, paper clips and post-it’s was most definitely a highlight.

The Making: Ryder Carroll’s tutorial is lengthy for a first-timer. I simply divided my journal into a monthly planner, a weekly log, and a daily checklist. I assigned a section to keep a tab on the number of TV series I follow and how many episodes I watch in a day. A section of the notebook was dedicated for doodling.

Reflections: It is tough to jot everything down in the diary. I made four entries in the weekly log. As for the daily checklist, I didn’t make one after the first two days. The section dedicated to the TV series log was a reality check — it was evidence of the amount of time I spend with fictional characters. The doodling section was most used.

- By Poorva Joshi

The doodling section was most used. (Photo: Poorva Joshi)