A Social Animal

It’s been an ordeal. Yes, that is how I’d like to describe this ‘no social networks’ self-imposed abstinence. This ‘ordeal’ was compounded by the fact that on day 2 (Monday) I formatted my phone and lost my phone contacts. The online backup I managed to bungle and ended up with nothing. 0 frickin’ phone contacts. Upsetting? Yes. Pissing off? VERY.

I had made a note of what I did all through out the first 24 hours and lost that as well. Coupled with a about 2 dozen other notes, some very important. I’ve managed to survive that alongside.

I’m not saying there haven’t been positive developments which have come as a direct result of my fast. It’s got me going out a lot more, making more calls, just wanting the company of people. I think that social networks take care of that to a large extent for a lot of people.

Man is a social animal. That is all I remember from my civics textbook back in school. And it’s something that has been reinforced in me over the years. This need for being a part of a group or society has its roots in our ancestry and is, to a great extent, why humans today are the superior race on this planet. Being social enabled us to fight off stronger foes in the jungle, raise our offspring in a secure and loving environment and work towards the general survival of the societies we were a part of. This is still, largely, how our brains are wired. Our brain rewards us every time we partake in any activity that is deemed as a group or social activity, because it directly influences our survival in a positive manner. On the other hand, if we stay away from interacting with others too long, our brain releases stress hormones that adversely affect our well being. It definitely is a physical response that you feel when you can’t log in to facebook or twitter. Ever heard of solitary confinement and wondered why prisoners dread it? People have gone insane and have been severely psychologically destabilized as a result of being incarcerated in solitary. THAT is how much being alone or without company affects us.

Logically speaking, social networks are a great way to stay in touch with people you can’t reasonably connect with on a regular basis. But take that too far and you end up disconnecting yourself from the real world, preferring to stay connected to people from the comfort of your armchair or through a phone. Ask me if you have any doubts about whether that really happens to people. The thing is, although social networks may give the illusion of being connected, what it really does is allows you to connect and disconnect as you please, switching on or off as your mood fancies. This may seem great at first, having the choice to be with people or being alone, instantaneously, at the push of a button. But ask yourself, is this a really healthy way to maintain or build relationships? Is the time when you switch off spent in fruitful contemplation and productive activity or is it just the interim period between ‘log ins’?

I’ve completed 100 hours of staying logged out of my social networks. I will be the first to admit it has been hard. It definitely wasn’t a walk in the park for someone who’s connected 16 hours a day. I sleep the other 8 hours, just in case you wondered. I’m going to quit with this experiment now, for what I had to learn, I’ve learnt while also having a deeper understanding of how things work and my personal duty of going out and meeting people more, as opposed to being virtually connected.

Over the past 100 hours I’ve heard people call me crazy, asking me how I’ve managed to stay away and basically shaking their heads in disbelief. The most important thing I learnt about quitting something is that you don’t try to ‘wean’ yourself off your addiction. That’s never worked for me when I tried to ‘cut down’ cigarettes. What was finally successful was going ‘cold turkey’ and not giving in to the temptation of puffing on a cigarette. Resist long enough and you’ll get used to it. It’s the same with quitting any other bad or unproductive habits I guess. You give it up cold turkey and not think about what happens or how much you need it. Pretty much ignoring every plea your body and mind cry out. Stretches the will power, it does, but you’ll be the better for it eventually. Peace.

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