Social media and internet surfing has become our quarantine fuel for the past year. It’s now embedded into our everyday routine — be it scrolling through Instagram or Twitter, jumping on the TikTok bandwagon, browsing through YouTube videos, or catching up with work via Zoom.
We are, quite literally, living our lives online — physically apart but digitally connected. Social media is now more than just a virtual window into the global world, it has become a shared workspace for everyone to live and thrive in isolation, be it for work or leisure. All from the comfort of our fingertips.
Good thing we were born in this era, eh?
But sometimes we get swallowed into a reality that’s not quite real in any sense. Have you ever felt this innate need or pressure to exhibit your life online now more than ever? Or maybe feel exhausted after a few mere scrolls on TikTok or Instagram, disappointed by how lacklustre your life seems in comparison to everyone else? Believe me, you’re not the only one.
It’s none other than a case of a digital drain.
I can’t tell you how many times I’d scroll through Instagram with a sheer sense of disappointment in myself for not being as productive as all my friends. Like a life exam, I’d managed to fail without even knowing. It gets increasingly overwhelming and makes you feel like disconnecting from the digital world.
Let’s spell out an analogy. Imagine you’re a goldfish, swimming in a fishbowl. Everything in your fish bowl, down to the sand, water, plastic toys, and corals, are what you’re familiar with. You’ve no idea about the world out there because you’ve only ever known life in your fishbowl and assume that’s the only life there is.
Social media is the fishbowl and we’re the goldfish in this context. What we scroll through on a daily basis doesn’t necessarily reflect reality, rather, a curated feed of productive and perfect lives.
This is partially due to the Filter Bubble phenomenon, instigated by social media corporations to refine and filter content accordingly. We‘re exposed to media and information that has been specifically dictated by an algorithm put in place. What we see and perceive has already been pre-determined by someone else, rather than by our own free will. If you haven’t seen it yet, The Social Dilemma, available on Netflix, highlights the impact of what the experience does to us.
The other reason rests on us.
Social media bridges the gap between us and the world around us. In the bleakness of quarantine, we’d rather choose to impart positivity — reminiscing on old times with the perfect #TBTs and documenting our rate of productivity, an attempt at being resilient in the face of adversity. Nobody wants to showcase or document the dark and dismal times, especially when the whole world is already facing their share of it (well, maybe except for our kiwi-loving neighbours down south). It’s only natural that we’d fall into the same routine as well, even if we’re not feeling the most peachy.
But sometimes, this can morph into a case of ‘toxic positivity’. Toxic positivity, according to The Psychology Group, is ‘the excessive and ineffective overgeneralisation of a happy, optimistic state across all situations’. In other words, toxic positivity perpetrates the denial, minimisation, and invalidation of the authentic human emotional experience.
This applies when we’re constantly surrounded by this wave of uplifting quotes and posts that instill the notion that ‘we shouldn’t be unhappy’ and ‘always stay positive’. And a lot of us feel pressured to echo this similar behaviour, which in turn causes a digital drain.
Quarantine is hitting a one-year mark soon and we’re, unfortunately, still in the same state. *cue sad violin tune* With our increasing reliance on social media to fill the holes in our lives, maybe it’s time we learned to keep a healthy distance from these simulated realities. The first and last thing we do in our day is to check our phones, which goes to show how attached we are to these handheld devices.
The obvious answer to a digital drain is a digital detox; one that draws a line between the virtual reality and, well, reality as we know it. Here are some useful tips to start on a digital detox:
Remember, this quarantine isn’t a testament of our productivity or depicting a positive outlook — it’s a game of survival. And if you need time to get away from the noise of it all, that’s okay. Take time to fall back in love with hobbies that once kept you happy.
I tend to leave my phone on my nightstand and spend my days reading or taking walks around the neighbourhood. It clears out the noise and gives me time to think, away from the opinions of the world. These are simple activities, but make everyday quarantine a lot easier to bear.
It’s always the little things that bring you the most comfort. We just need to disconnect to reconnect again.
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