A Break from Technology Can Make You Happier

Posted date: May 09, 2018

In the third series of Black Mirror, viewers get to follow the vicissitudes of life of the main character, Lacie, who lives in a world where practically every interaction receives its own rating from 0 to 5 in a special app. Are you having a chummy conversation with your neighbor in your backyard? Be ready to be rated for that. Got into fight with your colleague? You are going to be punished by having a poor rating. Did you bully or scoff at someone? Oh, in that case, do not look at the rating. Everyone is trying to mend their ways, knowing that big brother is watching them and that every interaction they engage in can influence their general rating as well as their life. Seems unconventional yet imaginative? Well, that is the concept of the entire episode. 

First off, Lacie is complacent about the rating she reached, i.e. 4.2, until she discovers the upsides of having a rating of 4.5+. The rest of the episode focuses on the things she is ready to venture on to make her personal number skyrocket, and on how quickly she can recognize the triggers that can affect it. Being in quest of high numbers, she gives in to her own emotions and gets embroiled in adversity that leads to further damage. No wonder the episode is dubbed Nosedive. Considering all the episodes of Black Mirror, I am sure that this one strongly resembles a reality of the contemporary generation, which is virtual life on social media.

I am pretty certain I am not the only person who has always had a bumpy relationship with social media. I cannot say that I am a detractor of social media as it has helped me come into contact with incredible people and even establish long-lasting friendships not only with locals but also with foreigners from different cultural backgrounds.  But I am also getting the feeling that it takes its toll on a daily basis, and the truth be told the influence is rather negative than positive. Frequently, I catch myself comparing myself to other people. I feel down in the dumps when information or images I share are not rated in a way I expected. And these tiny disappointments grow bigger when times are complicated, which they have been lately.

It is partially linked to the fact that the majority of the stuff being shared these days is about negative content not always related to the new president. The same way as I declutter my room from time to time, I tend to unfollow profiles with lots of negative posts or comments, but the situation is not improving. Apart from live-tweeting examples of people’s foibles, failures, or perennial problems, many social media users seem to have developed a habit of complaining about everything. It is now difficult to trace the origin of the practice of slandering and embarrassing each other online, but it has surely become a part of Twitter routine.

What I am trying to say here is that I feel people are trying to employ social media for their business, and the large percentage of people I follow work in the same area: writers, bloggers, podcasters, and companies we collaborate with. For us, social media is more than just a tool for instant communication; it is a way to show our work to the world and potentially increase revenues. Here, we have to present ourselves in the best light possible, because anything less impressive may have an unexpected effect. As a matter of fact, public activity on our page, i.e. the number of followers, comments, likes, and reposts, carries much weight and boosts our ego.

When you are self-employed, you have to have a finger in every pie to run your business successfully. One of such pies is social media management. Your task here is to devise a tactic to share you content and even purchase products or apps that would make your tactic fly. Then, you have to be able to handle a pile of messages on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Lately, it got me thinking if being in the social media manager’s shoes could be deflecting me from my other obligations related to business. And with the increased miasma I come across online, I have been wondering if I would be better offline.

When I set off for my road trip last fall, I decided to document all my feelings and experiences. One of the most vivid thoughts that sprang to my mind was on the day I came to realize that I was generally jubilant all along. I started to wonder if that was because there was no one in tow who could influence my perception of reality. In fact, I did not have to tolerate anyone’s mood swings or hear a single complaint. I had a chance to meet dawn in solitude, opt for what I yearned for, and simply enjoy a day. Now, it arises the question: is that what life would be like if social media did not exist or at least were not among the priorities?

Last year, I noticed that I was despondent about how much time I squandered on Facebook, and how unhappy Facebook made me. So I decided to make a drastic change in my life – I quit. In May, 2016, I deactivated my personal account and have not had any regrets so far. When I noticed that checking Twitter left me feeling anxious, and that using it was aimless and futile, I tried to stay away from it as much as possible. Now, I am satisfied. I am not going to delete my profile any time soon, but it feels good not to fuss over one additional thing that is not worth that fuss. This month I decided to carry out a small experiment called “Life without social media.” I have already made a couple of giant steps over the years to embrace slow technology:

  • I do not check my personal accounts on Facebook, Pinterest, and Google+.
  • I do not receive any notifications on my phone apart from text messages.
  • I do not dash to my computer to check my email as soon as I wake up.
  • I forego cable 5+ and watch only Netflix.
  • I do not have any TV at home.

This time I am more serious as I am trying to figure out what triggers my anxiety. I have been planning to bring my social media life to a halt and decide for myself what role I want these things to have in my life. Here is my checklist for the upcoming month:  

  1. Follow a 30-day social media diet.
  2. Decide on the position social media should occupy in my life.
  3. Use email less often, and whenever possible not check it whatsoever, especially on the phone.
  4. Decide on the position of technology (TVs, computers, phones, etc.) in my life.
  5. Engage in a paper book daily.

The motivation behind this slow technology experiment lies in my desire to get rid of excessive negativity that permeates my life. Part of it stems from the social pressure of having an online life. What is more, I have reached a mind-blowing revelation, which is that when I am upset, I tend to while away hours pointlessly scanning social media feed and digesting information I do not really need. We resort to it to feel less alone, but it is only sugarcoated lies or self-delusion. In reality, we may wind up feeling lonelier than ever.

I want to clarify here that my objective is not to completely lock myself away from the virtual world. What I am trying to do is to ensure that I am utilizing technology in a rewarding manner to optimize my life rather than escape from it.

You may wonder what I am going to do with all the technologies gone. I am going to make the most of my life and enjoy at full blast! My itinerary is already filled.