A social rehab
By Cal Morris
Art by NIGHTSHOP
Sitting on my sofa with my flatmate, (mildly high) discussing - as one does when baked - the politics of the world as we know it. Why does technology hold us in its grasp? Why does internet advertising permeate our timelines, news feeds and dashboards? Is Donald Trump really a thing? This got me thinking. Why - I asked myself - do I constantly rely on a screen to fill my time in hours of boredom, stress, and emotional fragility? The way we constantly have to snap, tweet, click and post about every mundane detail of our lives is a generational phenomenon that has possessed millennial consciousness. Living in London and working in Shoreditch, all I see on these goddamn streets is people photographing everything (streets, buildings, bins, crowds, etc.), people who visit my work feel the need to Snapchat their entire night. Because if it isn’t on your Story, did it really happen? This irked me on a personal level.
I’ll admit I was one of those people; obsessed with my online presence, constantly considering my Instagram aesthetic, even going so far as to delete posts if they didn’t pass the 11 like mark (you know what I’m referring too, I need those usernames to GTFO my photo). Every TV show that was in fashion I would be writing play-by-play tweets, every pop culture headline I had to comment on. I lived vicariously through a screen for most of the day, except when sleeping or working. The feeling of posting that new pic, that new tweet or post, being a post-ironic cynical millennial who thrived from lambasting celebrities and critiquing everything from the Kardashians (trash) to (pop icon) Carly Rae Jepsen was essentially my oxygen supply.
But enough was enough. Seeing 16-21 year-olds not even knowing how to explore a city without asking google what the ‘coolest places in London’ were, or taking a picture of their food in Cereal Killer without taking a bite first was getting a bit too irritating. So, on the 1st of March 2017, just in time for Lent, Cal Morris deactivated Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest and even LinkedIn, in favour of a life where I wasn’t being force-fed less than average memes, advertisements or fidget spinners.
One always gets separation anxiety when first quitting their addiction. And yes, I do call the use of social media an addiction. My nan always said if it’s the first thing you do when you wake up and the last thing you do before you go to bed, you’re addicted. Caffeine, nicotine, Futurama and alcohol all permeate my bloodstream, so social media was one mole hill knocked off a mountain. And sure as hell, when those apps were deleted and I was finally alone in the world, the anxiety kicked in. Not flat-out balls to the wall anxiety, (I’ve never really been an anxious person) more of a slow, creeping worry about my platforms, my profiles, my followers and friends. Had they noticed my inactivity? What would they think? Who out there thinks I’m dead?! (I was banking on everyone and a nationwide broadcast of my funeral, but maybe that was a bit of a pipe dream). After the first couple of days, the initial itch to re-download, have a cheeky peek and then mentally repress the experience so it “didn’t really happen” shifted to a more empowered, relaxed kind of freedom that I grew to really enjoy. I no longer felt the need to incessantly check what was happening in the world and I didn’t care what meme was popular or about the all-avocado/chicken nugget fusion restaurant that also functions as a cat café and creative space; more about what was happening around me. People-watching on the bus, reading some goddamn literature and noticing buildings, streets and cafés that I had not yet discovered due to the fish hook my phone previously had in my cheek.
By day 20 I was more or less cured. The liberation of not having to update a falsified vision of your life to your followers was something I had come to cherish. One thing I learned throughout the entire experience was that people don’t actually give that much of a fuck whether you had a damn Nando’s or your story of multiple shots of your Starbucks Christmas cup or the Boomerang of your ASOS order with the caption ‘treats’ with that damn love-heart-eyed emoji. (Disclaimer: I partook in none of these faux-pas previously, and never will).
Instead of worrying about showing people you’re having a good time; why not (and this is ground-breaking) ACTUALLY have a good time? I dunno, just a thought. Not to seem completely cynical though, I do enjoy posting that pic of my casual long-weekend city break or the incredibly edgy cool and boundary shattering stick and poke tattoo I just got. Social media can allow you to connect to some fucking cool people and it’s always fun to poke a 39-week-deep nose into your long lost beau’s life and find out who they’re currently banging. We just need to be a little more proactive in our use of it, and realise that our present reality should be at the forefront of our interest; our digital one should be a byproduct of that. But you should deffo check out my insta.