EDITOR-AT-LARGE: My Digital Detox


Having made a conscious decision to stay off social media for a month, MAPS MAPONYANE has some important insights to share


Let’s start with the positives. For all intents and purposes, social media is a beautiful thing. It has changed the way we communicate, connect, relate, and how we receive and consume the news. It has enabled us to do all of this faster than ever before with real-time exchanges of information, and has given a loud and far more powerful voice to those that may previously have been silenced.

Social media also brings with it the ability to connect with others around the world, discover talent and even make it easier for your own to be discovered. However, those are quite clearly just the pros … and as with most things, cons always follow close by, especially when in the wrong hands.

On the down side, tech such as geotagging, data mining and the AI systems keeping an eye on our daily conversations means our privacy has become compromised. And then there’s the distraction it offers. When you need to get things done, nothing feeds procrastination like picking your phone up to sidetrack your mind from the immediate responsibilities.

Add to that the social pressure we often feel to maintain the approval of people who, in the greater scheme of things, do not live your life and share daily challenges with you. Cyberbullying … that’s another negative. And then there’s the lack of sleep that comes with the addiction of constantly staring at your screen’s stimulating blue light right up until you put your head down on your pillow and close your eyes. All of this, coupled with all the noise from the information we are constantly confronted by, can quite frankly get a bit much. It is exactly why I decided to take a digital detox.

At the beginning of January, I made a conscious decision to go off social media for a month (I didn’t steer clear of all internet usage … that I would find impossible). Yes, at first it was a bit of shock to the system but it was necessary for me to keep a proper and real perspective on my life. It made me realise just how much time I spend on my device and how I had created an imbalance in the efficiency of my output.

I found the experience wonderfully liberating, allowing me to be more present in the moment than ever … as if I had finally found the elusive key to this technological handcuff. The reactions on social media were intriguing to say the least, probably because someone exiting social media seems to be more and more foreign to us. Where’s Maps? What’s going on? Are you alive? What happened? Is everything okay? Interesting.

According to a recent Nielsen report, the average person spends about 150 minutes a day – 1 050 minutes per week – on their mobile devices. And it is increasing year on year. It’s evident that we have slowly begun to substitute our offline interactions for our online interactions, visible wherever you cast your eyes in any space occupied by people. It’s a clear danger to one’s sense of reality and a danger to the importance of the human-to-human interaction.

It’s important to remember that all of our lives are different and that what you see on social media is a positive curation or highlights reel – not “real” – and in fact you’ll find that those supposed highlights didn’t actually happen. Social media is not a true reflection of people’s daily lives. Hang onto you own power rather than handing it over to social media … because that is what we are doing and the sooner we realise that we give social media the power, the sooner we’ll be in more control of it.

Sadly, we think we use social media, not realising that it actually uses us. When something is free, you are the product, and when you don’t understand that you’re the product, social media will maintain its power. It’s up to us to be mindful of that and retain as much power as we can.

So, if your head is always down and you’re clearly addicted to your device, ask yourself: is everything really okay? Control your usage, don’t let it control you.




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