Ruwandi Perera wonders whether we can survive without social media

How long could you survive without complaining or feeling down if you were to embark on a ‘social media fast’? Humans are social animals: we need to connect, communicate and coexist to survive. So yes, it can be depressingly difficult to go even a few days without today’s holy grail of connectivity – social media.

Do you disagree?

Let’s turn the clock back to the days without social media in the aftermath of the Easter Sunday attacks. Practically everyone was complaining… although some opted to download a VPN. Some even likened social media to electricity when it was cut out of our lives not long ago!

While it is essential to modern life, electricity is also blamed for disconnecting humans from one another. And although power cuts are no trip, most parents would admit that those dark hours brought their families together – in search of candlelight, a cool breeze and inadvertently, a hearty chat!

In those times when we were cut off from social media, some people started to admit that it was all but a badly timed yet effective cleanse to get our human lives and relationships back on track.

Society has lovingly embraced social media ever since social networking sites such as Bolt and came into play back in the 1990s.

Creating profiles, adding friends and keeping in touch were considered an amazing novelty. And when photos and videos entered the fray through Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and the like, there was no denying the enormous and obvious potential of social media.

We wake up to our social media feeds, and thumb through our homepages during meals, conversations, meetings and even while watching TV – all prior to an hour’s worth of browsing before shutting our eyes.

That’s right; we can’t seem to live without social media!

And why should we? Social media connects us with friends and family, and basically anyone anywhere in the world – fast, with ease and at little cost. It opens up conversations so easily and we’re never too far from those with whom we want to keep in touch. We can keep track of our college buddies, never miss a birthday and even snoop on the neighbours!

Today, we turn to social media for news, information and alerts – and sometimes, there’s hardly a need to switch on the TV or visit a newsstand. People also use social media to bring about change, be it gathering the troops for a beach cleanup or agitating against an inept government.

But more than anything, social media offers people an opportunity to be entertained, have fun and break away from routine work – it goes without saying that yours truly helped herself to a 15 minute break in the midst of writing this column!

While the benefits of social media to our daily lives are obvious, there are cons that are piling up steadily, which is probably why there’s a trend of committing ‘social media suicide.’ People are deactivating their profiles on Facebook and Twitter, and switching to friendlier sites such as Instagram and Snapchat bearing content that is easier on the eye; or putting a full stop to their online lives altogether.

Privacy concerns are on the rise too with everyone knowing everything – both intended and unintended – thanks to oversharing, location sharing and being tagged in others’ posts. Apart from the fact that your grandmother’s sister seems to know where you were on Friday night, social media has also made life easier for robbers, kidnappers and terrorists of all sorts.

Social media has also made everything a censored topic. There’s (almost) nothing you can post that won’t cause offence – from pineapple on pizza to whether men can be chivalrous! And while it is a treasure trove of news and information, social media is also teeming with fake news, hoaxes and unwanted gossip!

Being constantly exposed to the Instagram lives of others can result in feeling depressed, envious and frustrated about your own seemingly boring life. More and more people are thought to be suffering from FOMO and younger individuals in particular are at the receiving end of cyberbullying.

Procrastination and negligence of day-to-day tasks are also an inevitable result of social media overload, and so is being physically distracted from those nearest to you even as you interact with friends on the other side of the globe.

With augmented reality and AI on the cards as part of its future, social media is unlikely to go away anytime soon. And while complete starvation may not be the wisest choice, a more balanced social media diet is recommended!