19 days into digital detox in June, I am counting.
The “social media fast” (as a good friend has decided to label it) has been one filled with questions more than answers. Questions that dig deep for the intentions behind my urges: What underlies my subconsciously looking for the social media applications on my home screen? Why do I scroll through my Whatsapp conversations occasionally tempted to reconnect with others? What makes the endless swipe through my Facebook Feed so addictive? It is easy to say that visuals are captivating and the illusion of connectivity is alluring – but the truly difficult part lies in coming to terms with what these ‘urges’ reflect about our society and the large fraction of our beings that is a product of society.
As part of the attempt to find time for myself and my thoughts, spontaneous dates with ones who are active enough to accommodate my agendas (while I remain relatively passive) has found me reuniting with a senior who has inspired me immensely for years since we first met. Nights ago, she taught me to first understand that none of these ‘urges’ are completely natural – they are natural responses to the environment we have grown up in. Our fast-paced lives have necessitated our caving into our own spaces on public transport, seemingly addicted to our devices, as it is possibly the only time we can find time to be with ourselves. The emphasis on doing things to measure self-worth has distracted us from the fact that we have inherent worth as human beings regardless of our productivity to society; hence, the social media announcements of “things we do”. We so often think of our (over-)reliance on virtual relationships as a problem posed to our real-life interactions but rarely do we consider the possibility of this reliance being a symptom of a society impoverished of time and place for meaningful real-life interactions.
At the end of last month, my sister and I had the privilege of representing Strong Mind Fit Body at the Singapore Kindness Movement Appreciation Dinner. The invitation was especially meaningful because it came personally from Dr. William Wan who sat on the judging panel for the Housing Development Board’s Good Neighbours Project 2016. I have, for a long time, admired Dr. Wan’s belief in a better ‘us’ as a society – it encourages me to know that there is a Singaporean who so genuinely and deeply believes that we can be more caring and more gracious. He inspired my exploration in the movements of kindness in Singapore – the work of The Hidden Good and embarking on my own #TreatsOnGivingTuesday Movement. Increasingly, though, I find that our actions are based on beliefs and attitudes so much more embedded than I earlier imagined. For this mindful month, as I discover how this manifests in our social media habits, I can only imagine the gargantuan extent to which social construct has influenced our way of living as a whole.
These ‘urges’ simply do not “just happen”. They were not inherent but learned. Social media is but a tool and I am beginning to recognize that how and why I use this tool the way I do is a product of society. Then, I am carefully picking and choosing those I might want to amplify to more effectively achieve balance and those I need to gradually but surely, un-learn.