Education

Untangle the web you weave

Illustration: Satheesh Vellinezhi

Illustration: Satheesh Vellinezhi  

Strike a balance between using social media wisely and not losing touch with the real world.

The article, “Tangled in a web of distractions?” that appeared in this column, elicited a large number of responses from readers. Letters from readers were a testimony to the addictive nature of social media, and many shared ways by which they were trying to exit from their daily dose of distractions. An overwhelming number of readers also requested an article that would outline ways in which they could overcome their “addiction”. A few said that they were so consumed by their addiction, they were not even aware that they were entangled in the snare of constantly checking, updating and responding to various mediums and messages. While, finally, it is up to each individual to find their own ways of balancing the various mediums they choose to juggle, a few signposts might be useful for readers still trying to find a way out.

Distractions

A number of readers wrote how homes were being invaded by these addictions. Letters from both senior citizens and youngsters showed that they felt that gadgets were an obstacle to, as one reader called it, “good old-fashioned conversation!” Some felt that the only topic of conversation were the video links and photographs shared. Others felt it was easier and better to be with their gadgets, as after a point, they shared nothing in common. Also, it avoided any “conflict” and it was safer to write a text or send a video rather than face the discomfort of disagreement.

If you feel that your home is being invaded by an addiction to gadgets, perhaps the first thing to do, is to recognise it. Instead of pointing fingers at everyone else, it is best to start with oneself and see how, as an individual, you are contributing to the communication gap. The next thing to do would be to let everyone know in your own way, how gadgets are interfering from just being with each other. (You might use a text to convey this to add a dash of humour). As a family, keep a specific time/place where gadgets are not permitted. This could be meal times or any time when the family comes together. Family gatherings or functions are another place where texting is taking over. There is a beauty in just sharing, even if it is stories you have heard many times before and something more real about an argument with each other, than hiding behind a screen.

Many students wrote in to say how they feel fatigued by keeping up with a universe of contacts, often to the same people in various groups. They say they are afraid of losing a connection, if they regularly do not respond to requests or update information. Almost all readers who wrote from this point of view felt that social media was interfering with their ability to make friends, in the “real” world.

An article in the New York Times, spoke about groups of youngsters who are choosing to move away from social media. All of them interviewed said it began with noticing how anxious and time consuming the constant texting was.

Next, they said that they started with talking or meeting with a small group of friends (leaving their gadgets behind) and saw the difference in the quality of friendships. In many instances, the change was initiated by them. One youngster shared how she realised how destructive this was when she started feeling an emptiness every time there was no post or text from a friend. All the young people interviewed say that less time on social media gave them time to indulge in new hobbies, learn new things and make deeper connections with fewer people. One person also shared that he learnt the value and beauty of spending time by just reflecting and introspecting.

As in any scenario of change, observe the thoughts leading you to constantly reach out to communicate. Most times, it is fear of not being important or “losing” someone’s friendship. Observe the anxiety with which you are constantly living your life. Realise that true friendship is based on something stronger than an update. For those people in the groups you meet in real life, you could suggest that all of you could spend time without gadgets. Keep a journal, write down your thoughts and feelings. Give yourself time and be confident that, you will never lose connections with those who are your true friends. Imagine the joy of just meeting friends, talking, sharing without revealing every detail on a Facebook page? Go ahead and joyfully experiment how you can make the best use of gadgets. Master the mediums and do not be its slave!

Success stories

A number of readers shared ways in which they have managed their distractions. One wrote of how he has restricted his communication to email and how disconnecting from other mediums helped him feel better. Others set limits and schedules for checking or responding to messages. Many students preparing for entrance exams said they used the opportunity to keep their gadgets away from them while studying. One reader wrote in detail of how he felt much freer and happier since reducing his dependence and how many others seem to be following his lead.

Social media can be a wonderful tool, if used wisely. Go ahead, fearlessly experiment with finding your perfect balance. Always remember, as a scientist in humour remarked, “Something automatic, only works if you push the button”. Yes, the power is in your hands!

To all the readers who responded, thank you!

Enjoy the journey towards balance!

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Printable version | Feb 20, 2020 12:31:08 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/education/Untangle-the-web-you-weave/article16153175.ece

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