Digital Detox

Posted on September 16, 2009


Hullo. My name is Shaahima Fahim, and I’ve been clean for 30 days.

What started out as a spiritual sacrifice, turned out to be a social experiment of sorts, when I decided to quit the biggest banes of the cyber world for a good, fat, month. Namely Facebook, Twitter, YouTube (or YouTwitFace as a friend once cleverly pointed out), MSN, and any other URL I deemed a waste of time.
So, armed with only the luxury of email (one must not be too harsh on oneself) I braced myself for the month ahead.

You gasp? I say it’s possible folks; I’ve lived to tell the tale.

Day 1- Day 3 was the most arduous of my 1 month stint. Not that I was ever an ‘addict’ in the first place; but a user is a user all the same.
So, as with anyone who goes cold turkey, withdrawal symptoms began to manifest. My fingers twitched longingly, to type in what could have been the perfect Tweet. My wrist would instinctively direct the mouse towards bookmarked pages, and I’d wistfully ‘mark as read’ emails titled ‘Soooo funny…must watch!!’

But once you’ve conquered that one insurmountable-seeming week of rehab, you finally come around to the realization that there’s actually lot to do outside the cyber kingdom. Now unfettered by the shackles of your computer chair, you’re free to read more, take a drive or two, or just take out time so often wasted to smell those metaphorical roses.
It was quite the humbling experience, I must say. I texted instead of Tweeted, I’d pop a call instead of a wall post, and I’d leaf through actual pages instead of their digital counterpart.

But what probably really brought me to terms with this so-called experiment was when I came across a stack of forgotten photos I had once stuffed into a drawer (on deciding to take advantage of the lack of distraction to de-clutter). Photos as in the sort we used to need to get developed. The sort we couldn’t delete because ‘my eyes were closed in that one.’ The sort that brings back more memories than the perfected shots we’ve got on Facebook / MySpace / Flickr.

Whoever it was that predicted the day humans would be governed by machines, couldn’t have made a more accurate prophecy. We’ve unknowingly licensed a cunning exchange of dominions; our ‘real’ existence for one behind cyber-bars.
I never did comprehend it before, but maybe my daily Reuters RSS feeds will one day negate the need for me to actually read the newspaper. Maybe I’ll reach a stage where I’d much rather hook up with friends through a webcam than in actuality.
It’s a scary thought, but the fact that I’ve already replaced my calendar, thesaurus and journal to online versions is proof enough. Most lists I make are on an Excel spreadsheet, and whatever articles / blogposts I do pen-down (note irony) are via keyboard, while my dejected little collection of stationery slowly wanes away at my desk.

We use the excuse of convenience, and while that might be a valid argument, we’re losing out on what we love(d?) most about communication; the human touch.

So yeah, I might be back in ‘civilisation,’ but I’ve decided to not conform this time around. Here on out, I will make an attempt to reduce to a minimum my online time. I’m going to start a snail-mail correspondence with a willing friend, and I’m going try my very best to ‘just call to say I love you.’ ;)

Laziness and convenience are hardly discernible anymore, and more often than not we choose to give the latter the benefit of the doubt. I say ‘choose,’ because if ever we reach that stage where we’re under the mercy of an automaton that we ourselves have created, we’ve no one to blame but ourselves.


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