Turn off, tune out: Online torrent easier to bear from afar

Turn off, tune out: Online torrent easier to bear from afar
Corrie Tan, doing yoga at home while on social media fast, on Jan 06 2015. Corrie tried a one-week social media fast where she did not check or read her beloved Facebook, Twitter and Instagram feeds.

SINGAPORE - To call me a social media addict would be putting things lightly. The first thing I do in the morning is fumble around for my smartphone to check Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for updates - even before I put my glasses on.

Because I use Twitter for work, I scroll through newsfeeds and post tweets throughout the day - while waiting in line for coffee, travelling up and down the elevator and when my attention dips at work.

I often cannot go 15 minutes without checking Facebook and/or Twitter.

Not because my world might end without them. But because it has become muscle memory, a routine so ingrained after several years of reaching for my phone that I often do it from sheer force of habit.

There's also a sense of compunction that moves in tandem with social media. Perhaps it's an occupational hazard.

My news radar often goes into red alert when I'm on Twitter and Facebook, scouring headlines and newsmakers' updates to see if there is anything worth highlighting or re-posting - so much so that I often feel taxed by the volume of information I'm picking through even on weekends and my days off.

Much of this is self-imposed, of course, but it can sometimes be difficult to shut out all that insistent white noise.

People often share articles or reports fuelled by the extremes of despair and elation and, often, I find myself trying to wade out of a contagious cesspool of comments attracting the extremes of stupidity, racism, xenophobia and general intolerance.

But when my editor asked me if I'd be willing to go on a clean break with social media for two weeks, I baulked. Then I pleaded - and eventually negotiated it down to one.

Now that I've made it through a successful seven days free of social media's clutches, I find myself realising that I could have gone a little further. Going on a social media fast felt like the virtual version of a juice cleanse.

The first day was marked by a bit of a "phantom limb" phenomenon. Or going on a diet and realising the packets of chips you hide under your desk are now out of reach.

I had removed all the offending apps from my phone and turned off all notifications of social media activity.

At night, just before turning in for bed, I reached for my phone as I always did and then realised that there was nothing for me to see.

My husband, who had decided to swear off (most) social media in solidarity, wasn't using his phone either. So we talked instead.

How many other couples find themselves in bed with their phones, rather than each other? It feels almost shameful to admit that we were talking more without our phones around.

And to my horror, I found that I was having trouble falling asleep - because I usually mindlessly graze on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram until my senses are dulled by sleep.

Without realising it, social media had become both my alarm clock and my lullaby. It was an odd sensation, to have my brain adjusting to this new schedule.

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