Image by Erik Lucatero from Pixabay 

I wake up, I check my phone. I have a break between classes, most of the time, I’m checking my phone. When I eat, my phone is often in front of me. I postpone sleeping by checking my phone. When I have free time, I barely have anything to do that does not involve a screen. I watch Netflix, YouTube, browse through Instagram and Twitter, read books, play video games, all on a screen. It is annoying when someone drags me out of my fictional world. This is the lifestyle most of us are used to. Sometimes, we own up to our screen time with some humor sprinkled in. Sometimes we hide it and like to pretend we are better than others. Sometimes all we want to do is quit social media and travel the world alone, but we go back to it like moths to flames.

This doesn’t mean social media is plain evil and you need to throw out your phone immediately. The answer is not that simple, especially when it comes to online learning. Looking at the world today, it is clear that every generation has embraced these rectangular gadgets. From grandparents to young babies, social media has a niche carved out for everyone. The phrase ‘’rabbit hole’’ is often used to describe this niche, and rightly so. It is very easy to forget the real world is not the online world. This can be positive or negative. With LGBTQ+ folk having safe spaces online, the real world is an undesirable, often dangerous place. Having access to a plethora of filters, looking in the mirror can cause plain disappointment. Or when we have our customized Instagrams, seeing posts that fit into what we think, the real world is an unpleasant shock. It often shocks me when people I thought I knew well don’t share my opinions about certain things. It gets hard to concentrate, we all know our attention span is ridiculous. Scientifically, it makes sense. Dopamine level, blah blah.

But why? Why is this so addictive? One way to define this is the need to escape. We all want to escape the dreadful cycle of our life that millions of people have lived before us, and will continue to live after us. Score well in school to get into a good college, be productive and do well in college to get a job, do well in your job and keep growing higher till you retire and are at a loss at what to do, then die. Of course it isn’t satisfying. So we try to break free, and this is the demand that social media fulfills: living vicariously. It feels good to drown yourself in others’ lives, forgetting your own. We learn a lot online, and the amount of barriers social media has broken and the amount of opportunities it has given are countless. Most of the time it is a happy place. Even when I see things that infuriate me, reposting those things makes me feel like I’m doing something. I learn so much, new cultures, languages, find new people, new stories. Of course I’m being productive, right?

If we didn’t have social media, we’d have to do what we are interested in. For the majority of the population, though, this is no simple answer. It is much more simpler to see dog or cat videos and play video games. No qualifications needed, open to all. It is an escape from stress, pressure from parents, peer pressure, loneliness or just plain boredom . It is a very good way to procrastinate. It is bliss when there are not a lot of friends you can count on for entertainment. Participating in trends, learning slang, creating TikTok, oh sorry, Reels videos, creating aesthetic feeds, all of it gives a feeling of belonging. We get followers and likes, birthday wishes and new celebrity crushes, all of it possible solely due to social media. We willingly go deeper and deeper into this trap that we fell into, and it is almost impossible to get out. The ties between mental health and social media seem simple, but it is as complex as the chicken and egg dilemma. Do we lose ourselves in social media because of bad mental health or does mental health worsen due to social media? Considering today’s circumstances, there is no other feasible alternative, no other way to live. Unless you are a billionaire and plan to live the rest of your life in the mountains, of course.

Occasionally, though, these cracks appear. Like the cracks of light that pierce through curtains despite closing them. At times when I’m lying in bed, trying to sleep, I have so many thoughts that I don’t know how to manage. It is utterly overwhelming. It feels as though my brain has a quota of thoughts per day it has to fulfill. I had blocked it from thinking for so long that as soon as I’m free from my self-made prison, it strives to complete that quota. There is a faint comprehension there, that this is what my brain is capable of. When I am forced to go on a night stroll with my parents and end up loving it. When I visit my cousins and we laugh so loudly that the neighbors complain there’s too much noise. The occasional car ride when I forget my phone and look out the window, pretending I’m in a movie. When I take pictures with my friends and don’t post them. Not because they aren’t good, but just because. When I take a picture of a beautiful scenery or a well presented meal just for me. It makes me realize this is it. This is the real world. Why have I missed so much of it?

If this was a movie, it would end here. An epiphany that changed my life. I have dragged myself out of the abyss and now I am different. Unfortunately, real life doesn’t work that easily. It is dreary and difficult, and often when it seems like what we have conquered was just a step on a very long journey. But as long as we hope, we can keep going. Clutching Elpis till the very end. Small things matter more than any revolution. Day after day, we drag on our existence, navigating joy, sadness, and all the emotions we are lucky enough to feel. 

.    .    .