Day 2: Square pegs, round holes

Day two took place with three unconscious attempts to check FB, a confirmation of that earlier theory that checking our social apps has become part of our muscle memory. Give me a similar smartphone and I’d probably be doing the same thing, even if the phone weren’t mine.

It ended with a splurge, too: in bed already, after that 24-hour gap without checking my social apps, half-asleep, I reached out across the bed where my phone was, as if embracing a lover lying beside me. But there I was, instead of looking at someone’s face, I was peering into my phone, face aglow not with postcoital satisfaction but with my phone’s blue light. I was counting likes, retweets, not the soft kisses that one often gets on the forehead during the tender after-hours of sex; measuring virality – yes, I am aware that my posts do get shared with regularity, certainly with above-average metrics – and not weighing romantic options.

Which human need does this desire to be always present, alway online respond to? Why is persistent, an addiction of sorts?

I have lately become self-aware that I reach for my phone when I feel socially anxious, which happens quite a lot. I can manage small talks when it is about the grim-and-determined subjects that I am involved in, from work to my advocacies, which overlap, I must admit. But in social settings, talking about these can only  deliver so much; topics end up meandering to unfamiliar social terrains, such as fun, or having a relationship. I am one of those who accept that life-work balance is a myth, so I understand that my share in conversations almost always diverge towards the intense and stressful subjects, which either ends the conversation or compels me to control myself, at which point my hand goes to my pocket to grab my phone. Then I get into a half-trance, counting 140 characters, word-smithing for posts that will resonate, that are relevant, for soundbites – finally not a round peg trying to fit into a square hole, but a crafty rabbit merrily sliding, descending into a rabbithole.


Day 1: Muscle Memory

It’s become part of me, this desire to be constantly online, and to share. And it’s as if our mobile devices have become the second-most important limb in our bodies – second only to our chargers, without which humans are transformed into listless zombies. 

Day 1 started with me waking up reaching for my phone, then realizing that the challenge has started. So I skipped FB and social media, and read my emails instead, and my work IMs. 

Something was lacking. I took my breakfast and prepared for work constantly preoccupied by ideas of what I can post, constructing the right language, thinking about postable subjects. The grayish skyline. Muesli. 

Before 9AM I already opened Facebook without even knowing it – it’s muscle memory, really. I closed the browser immediately. 

Before lunchtime, it was FB again, and Grindr. It was automatic, every time my smartphone is in my hand, I open them. Muscle memory. 

So I became more mindful about it. One realization is that I have no choice but to use FB messenger, since friends and colleagues weren’t responding to emails. So I succumbed. 

Day 1 of being disconnected also ended without enhancing my social life. But my propensity to open the apps when I’m holding my phone led me to put my phone inside my bag, and not my pocket. 

Which meant less bending of the neck for the phone, more bending for reading. The book is Giovanni’s Room, sad and delightful, a quintessential Baldwin. A gift from an ex, who bought it from a second hand bookstore in Hong Kong. It was strange reading it in the BTS amidst a mass of smartphone-absorbed people. It made me look – no, it made me feel less lonely. 

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Day Zero: Preparing for the experiment

This post is really just to prepare for my one-year experiment, a checklist of sorts. For purposes of clarity, the experiment is to go off-the-grid on social apps for 24 hours at least once a week, for one year, and limiting the use of internet to the most basic platforms. For work mainly, ergo, email and IM app called Slack.

Day 1 for this experiment is tomorrow, May 25, 2016. Disconnection is set to begin right before midnight tonight, and I’ll only access my social apps again midnight one full day after. I’ve long delayed the implementation of this idea, so obviously I need to prepare myself to make it successful, or at least, if I fail, then I have handles to work on and sustain the idea. I just want to put myself in a headspace where I can continue with the experiment despite moments of failure. Continue reading