DO IT FOR THE GRAM?

18 February 2020 | Columns

Octavia Tsibes



We are at the peak of great technological advancement. Everything is digital. Too digital, I might add. And it’s only getting greater, more and more each day. A reality so thrilling, exciting and maybe scary – who knows what the next big thing is. Sometimes I wonder how our parents, their parents and the ones before them did it, surviving without technology, I cannot even fathom the thought of it. The frustration of writing a letter and waiting days, maybe even weeks to receive a response. That sounds like a nightmare in the era we live in right now. But as much as something can be great, it can be bad at the same time.

The internet comes with so many advantages – we can stay in touch with family and friends who are many, many kilometres away with just a few clicks and swipes; buy and sell things online, which is very convenient and fast; also, many people find it much easier to scout for love on the web, yes, it happens!

The list is never-ending, but I feel that it is engulfing, swallowing us whole. We are so addicted to the internet, especially “the Gram”, Instagram, “IG”, whatever you call it. Sometimes I wonder if we’re truly achieving, living, growing and experiencing life for ourselves or whether it’s all for our online profiles.

We are so consumed by impressing strangers online – fixated actually – trying to orchestrate a non-existent façade just for a few double taps, it’s an international disease, and our parents are getting in on the action too. It’s no longer “put away your phone”, it’s “how does this app work”.

And I completely understand it being human nature. Curiosity is what drives us, wanting to know what it is and how it works pumps in our veins too, apparently not just blood.

I wonder… Would it have been better if we all just never went with the whole technology thing? If writing and mailing letters would have kept some of us sane instead of the ‘seen’ or ‘blue tick’ notifications. We no longer enjoy physical human interaction, we’re constantly staring into screens, just drawn to the fascination of the internet. How some of us feel alive when we’re connected via Wi-Fi or buying that one data bundle with money you swore was for a loaf of bread. How? And this is the saddest part: Great occasions are spoiled for us unless photographed. This is a disaster!

Eye contact is deteriorating and intimate, genuine human connections are decaying. We forgot how beautiful our surroundings are, how breathtaking the sunsets are, the moon and stars are. If only we could put down our devices, if only we could check up on our friends and them on us the old fashioned way. Quality time has translated into texts and selfies, which is kind of annoying because family and friends meet up, take a few snaps and reckon that it is quality time. (Aunty Moreen doesn’t really know how I am, but hey, say cheese!)

I’m done talking about the sentimental stuff, allow me to get into the dangers of this life- and time-consuming habit we’ve all picked up. Since our focus is always our screens, we zone out, unaware of our surroundings – while crossing the street, while driving. Did you know that 41% of car accidents are caused by texting while driving? Sad someone had to lose their life over one notification.

I’m not saying using technology is bad, or having online profiles is bad, it’s a lifesaver sometimes. All I’m saying is, everything and I mean everything is useful in moderation. Once we pass the borders of normal and healthy, we’ll find ourselves stagnant between a rock and a hard place. It’s an addiction, just the same as heroin and cocaine, it gives a high. I’ve heard people say that they can’t get enough of being online, people who even experience withdrawal symptoms, which isn’t even crazy if you ask me – the kids call it FOMO nowadays (Fear of Missing Out).

I once was addicted to my phone. It was like a safe haven, an escape, my escape – then I noticed my grades dropping slightly. I was chubby at a young age, kept watching the screen instead of the calories. My eyes gave in, and I was okay with just texting my friends and family, which is not okay. My parents got worried that I spent way too much time on the internet, and I didn’t find any fault in that either.

One day, I woke up and realised that I actually became a mess. I went on a digital detox, and never felt more at peace. I focused more on the things that truly mattered in life. I kicked myself for the time I lost while I was caught up in technology.

I’m not saying I’m 100% clean, I’m saying I’ve cut back, and if you’re reading this right now, thank the universe because this is the sign you’ve been asking for. Ask yourself: ‘Am I doing this for the Gram, or myself?’

Godspeed.

[email protected]

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