The lives that we lead these days are replete with ups and downs relating to the transient nature of the social media. The ‘high’ of receiving a thousand likes on a new Facebook profile picture can be outdone only by the dizzy feeling that accompanies the landmark of 5,000 followers on Twitter. “Facebook has replaced life itself”, laments an anonymous commentator on Whatsapp – that third vestige of the social media’s hegemony over our existence in this era.
So addicted are we to messaging and posting personal details online that we almost lead virtual lives, instead of real ones. Life has come to such a pass that our mood swings depend largely on the recognition, or lack of it, we receive through social media channels. There are even instances of depression when people are ignored on social media, and their number is increasing rapidly.
The blue ticks have thus attained levels of significance in our lives that even national awards cannot hope to match! Thus if the recipient of a Whatsapp message has not read its contents, especially if that recipient happens to be the boss or a lover, one’s blood pressure can rise to unprecedented heights. The stress of not being acknowledged or ‘heard’ in such cases can actually cause severe damage to relationships.
Youngsters are of course more prone to such lows, especially when a special friend has not liked a Facebook post or commented on a new picture with adequately gushing adjectives! Classroom romances are often fleeting and can hardly stand the strain of a Facebook ‘like’ that is not forthcoming from the desired person.
Further, when a lonely individual sitting at his desk on a rainy day, views pictures of his friends having fun on Twitter or Facebook, sadness sets in and, at times, dealing with it becomes difficult. Self-esteem can decline and troubled thoughts can start hounding such a person.
The National Institute of Mental Health of the United States recently sponsored a study on depression and its linkage with social media. The findings clearly brought out the fact that the two are closely linked in a large number of cases and those who spend more time in the virtual world are increasingly susceptible to such problems.
Whatsapp has become an addiction for many of us. Even if Facebook is painfully uninstalled from one’s smartphone, Whatsapp just cannot be done away with if we are to lead active lives in this connected world. The number of SMS users has severely dwindled in recent years, but some users have returned to simple texting, perhaps determined to de-clutter their lives.
One young lady tried ‘detoxing’ herself of the excessive compulsion to delve into social media channels all day long. In fact she went on a phone-free diet for two whole days, spending her time trekking in the Himalayas. She felt anxious at not being able to remain connected to her little world, but she went ahead with her plan. Predictably, she found at the end of her exile that she felt quite refreshed. What’s more, the heavens had not fallen while she had been away!
Actor Gul Panag was a key speaker at a session aptly titled ‘Virtually Yours’ during last year’s ‘Chandigarh Literati’, a Literature Festival held annually at the Lake Club. ‘Yours truly’ happened to be the session’s moderator. Ms Panag came out openly with the fact that she had been addicted to Twitter for several years, and had managed to curb her virtual life with sheer determination, despite accumulating millions of Twitter followers over the years.
Moderation of another kind is the key to a balanced life anyway! Those who are able to walk the tightrope between enjoying a dynamic career and maintaining their inner peace are the ones who stave off the negatives of this technology driven era. A long walk without checking one’s Whatsapp messages can be the best way to de-stress, as the aforementioned young woman discovered. And if the inclination towards technology is unavoidable even while walking, listening to some mellifluous music or an uplifting TED talk might be the answer. The wait for those blue ticks might then seem much easier!