I wake up to the persistent sound of notifications from my mobile phone at 5 am. My sleepy eyes squint at the bright light of my phone as I unlock it and start searching for the apps where the notifications come from. After scanning through a hundred messages on Whatsapp, I routinely open my Facebook app. A captivating how-to video of pasta in four ways grabs my attention. Halfway through it, the video starts buffering so that it excruciatingly irritates me and I impulsively begin scrolling down my newsfeed.
In between work I habitually rest my eyes from the computer for five to 10 minutes. Wanting to unwind during this time, I instinctively grab my phone to update myself with what’s happening in the social space.
Lunch time. I have an hour’s break time but I voluntarily reduce it to half because of my dreadful work schedule. Making the most of my break, I have my right hand’s index scroll down my Facebook feed in between bites.
Taking a bus on my way home, I watch a movie from an online streaming to start getting my mind off work. My travel doesn’t seem like forever, in fact, I’d rather finish the movie before I get off the bus.
Eating out with a friend, I check in the restaurant and snap away every dish we’ve ordered and begin posting the food pics and selfies in real time, or rather #atm. In between bites, I reach for my phone and check how many likes my posts receive so far.
Before tucking myself to bed, I open my phone for the last time to check for new updates and the number of likes my posts from my dinner date have been reveling in. Browsing from app to app, I make sure every newsfeed is covered and that I am updated with the latest stories the social world has conveniently shown me at my fingertips. Before I know it it’s already been over a couple of hours that I’m hooked on my phone, and though my eyes become heavier by the second, I refuse to lay it off as my index does not feel like stopping from scrolling yet.
Striding toward a metro station in Dubai, I came across a number of pedestrians walking their way home while hooked on their smartphones, not minding the real world around them. In a mall, I saw a couple taking an escalator together while individually engaged on their respective phones – with the man trying to beat an opponent in an online game and the lady responding to a message. The sights horrified me as they were akin to that of mindless “walkers” wandering aimlessly I watch on TV.
Our Facebook feed almost always presents us graphic images and videos of children severely impacted by excessive exposure to smartphones. Despite being equipped with this knowledge, we tend to take it for granted and keep this new and seemingly harmless trend of pacifying going, denying the eerie fact that such activity is slowly plaguing our kids, and we just don’t stop until it finally happens to them.
Wherever we are – whether city-bound or better yet out of town (to, they say, get away from the “hustles and bustles of city life”), our best buddy is our phone. And although we feel the need to disconnect from the world from time to time, we’re just itching to reach for our phones, snap away and let the whole world know where we are, how we are and how much we’re enjoying the moment.
It is in our human nature to want to get people’s approval. It satisfies us. It makes us feel good, loved and important. It fills our hunger for self-actualization. For a more apparent reason, it is just addicting. There is fear of missing out things or feel of panic should we not check our social sites in one day. We’re inundated with the pressure to be part of the social world, otherwise, our virtual existence is endangered. It seems nowadays that virtual is even more real than what is genuinely real and tangible. Alarming, isn’t it?
Even before the arrival of social media, I’ve been an observer of negative impacts of technology. The mainstream one-way broadcasting media then were not as conveniently accessible as the two-way social media. Public wi-fi is a telltale sign that social connection is not only a lifestyle but a necessity. Friends in a bus no longer talk: their new best friend is someone they’re chatting with and barely know. Reading a book is no longer seen as a pastime. There is very little or no time for thinking because analytics is available at one touch of a button. Videos containing disturbing adult content are searchable by anyone at anytime.
Social addiction is definitely widespread. Can you, as an individual, do something about it? As for me, I refuse to be gripped by it. I refuse to be controlled by it, rather I have to be in control. Because my life isn’t just about that attention-seeking social world.