My morbid repulsion to social media is fairly well known. Said repulsion is largely a result of the potent combination of social phobia and technophobia. Did you know they even had a name for it? Two names, in fact. Visiobibliophobia and prosopobibliophobia. There are what are called “internet psychologists” to treat the malady, I kid you not. In an earlier avatar, I had eloquently dissed Visiobiblao (my tongue, my cheek), enough to give it a notch more negative publicity than it deserves. And my readers rightfully thought “now here is a brilliant woman who will not be caught deceased in online gatherings”. But karma, they say, can be quite a dog.
Feeling that the smart phone costing ivory and peacock that was gifted to me on mother’s day by the dude and kid, and free broadband available to us were injudiciously underutilized, I installed WhatsApp with much trepidation because some nagging memory was giving me a wedgie. Nevertheless stepped I did into deceptively placid waters.Day 1 fantastic, friends sweet enough to retain my phone number despite knowing it was MY phone number dropped in their ¡hola. More friends. Then came the pictures. First were the selfies, friends and family. Loved ‘em. My my. How much missy has grown, and what a handsome young boy the offspring is and O-M-G, you haven’t aged one bit. At that time, I had just finished reading Crime and Punishment over a month and was half way through The Count of Monte Cristo, with lofty plans of dipping into the deep ocean of littérature.
A couple of weeks passed and the smart phone’s cover fell off with constant manhandling. And then one friend asked me if she could add me on to the high school group on WA – with friends like her, who needs foes etc. etc. I turned deaf to the fog horn inside my head, mostly because this friend is a good soul that has stayed by me through the years and had made the effort to google me when we had lost touch – a bit shaky upstairs, one would think. Soon I found my phone pinging every five minutes and I begged my friend (also through WA) to get me off the hook. It would, I was told, be considered “rude” to step out now, and it would be easier to set notification off. Now the thing with WhatsApp is that you can set notification off for only one week tops. So, every Saturday, in addition to cleaning the toilet and washing my kid’s stinky school shoes, I had to remember to set the notification off unless I wanted to be awake all night with people pinging in from all time zones of the world.
Don’t get me wrong here. I loved one part of it. I re-connected with friends I had almost forgotten. I got to know lovely people I had never spoken to in my past. I even met a few lovely ladies over a cuppa and we giggled like juveniles for hours – the most relaxing morning I had spent in a long time.
But the down sides were many. How ever much I turned the notification off, an involuntary twitch in the head every 15 minutes made me want to check on WA. to see what I’d been missing. Perhaps I drank all that water before bedtime just so I’d wake up to pee and while at it, check on WA. And I wondered why my knuckles and neck muscles were always hurting.
But more importantly, I no longer received photos of only people I knew. There are all kinds of forwards – photos of cute animals, nature, the funnies, videos, cute sayings, stale jokes, and did you know the media sent to you on whatsapp get stored in your phone guzzling up memory? I didn’t until the phone groaned with indigestion.
And I fell into the same trap – the compulsive need to share every breath of my day to validate my existence. And this was followed by the need for instant gratification. Soon I caught myself checking on the time at which the lucky recipient of news on my cough, wheeze or fart had last been on WhatsApp. The peeping Tom.
Soon another friend added me on another group. This time without asking me. This was thankfully a small group of five, a close gang of thieves we were in college. This was more exciting to me than the earlier school group which had now grown beyond the critical mass and no two consecutive conversations were on the same topic. A lot of brainpower had to be used in just unraveling the threads of communication that were one hell of a tangled mess. Strangely, conversations crossed over even in the gang of five.
Last night, suffering from restlessness and inability to sleep, I closed my eyes and randomly picked out a book to read. It turned out to be Les Misarables. As I read the first page and felt my eyes well up at the narration, I had an epiphany. I had not touched a book in two months now after The Count. That strangely coincided with the time I got on the WhatsApp bandwagon. I had stopped blogging, first on purpose, then by inertia, but finally because of lack of time resulting from my own stupid addiction. And what was I doing in that time I could be creative? LoLling at inane jokes handed down to me through many rounds and getting forwards of outdated or worse, wrong information that was skewing what little sense of balance I had. Did you get the photo of the woman who was described as a trickster who entered homes claiming to be a gas cylinder tube representative? Yes, I thought so. A nasty trick played on an innocent woman for whatever reason. And I was part of the charade.
Nope. Not for me.
But here comes the most interesting part.
Having mulled over the conundrum all day, I decided to pull the plug on my WhatsApp existence. So, to do the right thing, I wrote to the groups in which I belonged that I was opting out because it was intruding on my creative time and that I was getting addicted to it and it wasn’t healthy for me. Pretty harmless you’d think. In the one hour I paused until I could remove myself completely off the whatsapp grid, at least two of the so-called “friends” in the group had badmouthed me, assuming that I was gone already, not even bothering to check if I was around or not. I was, to be mild, pissed, but then enlightenment hit me. I had not spoken to these “friends” back in school for a reason, and that reason had not changed twenty five years hence.
I’ll sleep well tonight after a brief tryst with Hugo.