Posted by: yannaungoak | December 16, 2014

Social Media Diet

Last week my wife went on a social media fast as part of a thing for her work. No facebook, twitter or instagram. So I decided I’d go along for the ride and do a fast too. Except that I couldn’t really manage a strict fast – as I found out a couple of days into the thing – so I downgraded to a mere “diet”.

Of course, during the stretches of time where I did manage to not go on social media, I had to find a way to fill the gaps of time formerly taken up by my procrastination routine. It was baked into muscle memory: grabbing my phone and thumb-flicking half interestedly through a feed on the touch screen, favoriting, liking and retweeting posts, as instinctively as a dog would as it goes about marking territory with pee. I suppose the whole process resembled the peeing dog in more ways than one. I would favorite tweets that linked to interesting articles to remind myself to read them later. I seldom went back. But the fact that I had a whole catalog of awesome articles to peruse in my “spare time” left me with a comforting feeling, like marking one’s territory on the feed driven ephemeral internet of today, before the scent of familiarity that you adorned it with evaporates and it goes back to the morass of “this article was almost viral with the (insert niche here) crowd for two days in late 2014”-ness.

I don’t know if it was something I forced myself to do, in a self-conscious, “oh I have to replace my social media-ing with more wholesome, learned things” kinda way, but I took to flipping through a thick tome in my bookshelf that was a most apt substitute for social media: George Orwell’s collected essays. Five minute reads ranging from classics like Shooting An Elephant and Politics And The English Language, to his book reviews like the one written by Bertrand Russell about Power, to his series of opinion pieces written for the Times called As I See It. Much like the articles that appear on my social media feed, they were on topics that ranged all over the place, but were nonetheless spot-on in terms of coinciding with my interests. They were about Burma, politics, history, economics and all delivered in that quintessential way that is Orwell, sincere and lacking in bullshit. If someone went through and distilled all the thousands of tweets I’ve favorited and then distilled them again a second time and then a third, maybe it will begin to look like that book of essays, albeit about a different age, one that I’m living in and don’t really care all that much about.

I’d go more in detail about my thoughts on each of the essays themselves but now I’m boarding a plane to Yangon.

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