Words Zahra K. // Header Credits @AlifsMurt.
I love Instagram and the thrill of looking at pictures, with the full knowledge that social media is addictive and creepy. That we are all living in some kind of a controlled bubble, where all of our online activity is simulated and our behaviour offline is, more often than not, a repercussion of it, is no news. I have struggled with Instagram addiction and have constantly tried to manage my screen time, and take regular digital detoxes, for a while now.
With practice I learnt to take a break, and also trained myself for delayed gratification by not immediately responding to a notification bell.
I would regularly comb my Instagram feed. The rule? Follow accounts that add value & meaning to my present life scenario. Only to realise later that it wasn’t enough.
The entire rigmarole seemed useless and inefficient after I watched ‘The Social Dilemma’ on Netflix. I was bummed to know that Social Media addiction wasn’t an unintended consequence, but rather a well-planned objective. I wasn’t to be blamed entirely for being glued to my phone, procrastinating, feeling low, and having unreasonable meltdowns.
“If you’re not paying for the product, then you are the product.”
The Social Dilemma
My love was true but I felt conned, exploited and a tad heartbroken. Being sold at a price, exposed to & engaged with sponsored advertisements all at the cost of my attention and time, didn’t go down well with me.
Apart from the fact that I found social media thrilling, as an occupational hazard I need to spend a lot of time on Instagram. Post, interact, track, research, repeat. The documentary allowed me to make some concrete changes in the way I invested my time in this alliance. The awareness that my brain was constantly being stimulated with a barrage of information and temptations helped me gain more control over my Instagram behaviour. I became more cognisant about how I perceived content.
For instance, I now know that when I stare at a post/ad for more than 5-7 seconds, I run a risk of being lured for profit & fed with similar content more often. Like Pavlov’s, ahem¸ ‘subject’.
As immediate after effects of watching ‘The Social Dilemma’ on Netflix – I stopped looking at Instagram, deleted apps and tried to stay away from social media as much as I could. Obviously, this wasn’t a solution!
Social Media is my l’amour, an integral part of my life and I cannot divorce it for cheating on me. The only way I could make the relationship work was to make some conscious changes in the way I accessed & consumed online content. I understood more about how the algorithm works and ways in which I could manipulate it for my benefit.
That being said, here are some changes I consciously made after watching the documentary:
- Turned off Post Notifications – allows me to stay away from unnecessary engagement.
- Decluttered more rigorously than I did before – I ask myself questions like: Do I need to follow this content creator? Do I need to get constant life updates of this person I only meet once a year? Do I need to buy more Ridas? Why am I being shown this Ad so often?
- Stopped the mindless scrolling propelled by 1 interesting post – When REELS was introduced, I often found myself in a rabbit hole of outfit change videos. I love them too much but it took away a good portion of my rest hours.
- Downtime – No phone after 9:00pm. I am still working on it. But I follow it at least 10 days in a month. It is a good start, no?
- Stopped checking my phone last thing before sleeping and first thing after waking up. The latter works better for me, since I feel more in control in the morning.
- Started choosing my own YouTube videos. It became exhausting after a bit. I find following a schedule in which the phone isn’t involved much easier than choosing YouTube videos every single time you open the app. I let the algorithms get the better of me here. Guilty!
- Work from Home sometimes means working all the time. It isn’t difficult to cross that line every now and then. So, I started allocating time slots for responding to messages on WhatsApp & Instagram.
This, for me, has worked the best so far.
The long and short of it all is that I realised that we are living in times where if we do not exercise self-control and manage our time well, we are doomed 😊.