Staying Off the Grid

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By Nolitha Ngamlana

This article can also be found in the print Edition 2 of VARSITY Newspaper.


About a week ago, I decided to stay off social media and away from the memes. This was to see the effects of not being able to engage with the social media world. The other reason was to see if I could actually live without social media and if it is really a necessity. Can we engage with people, news, businesses and the world outside of Facebook, etc., or do we need to keep in contact via social media?

For a person like myself who depends on social media for many things, like staying in contact with people, relying on social media for news updates, weather updates, memes or just to increase my general knowledge and keep in touch with fellow classmates to get daily updates on lectures and assignments, this was going to be a tough challenge. However, I wanted to see how good or bad I would do and if I am truly obsessed with the virtual world. Another thing is that I depend on social media on a great scale because I am an introvert and prefer my own space.

So, engaging with people using social media is easy and the most comfortable option as well as not having to speak to someone. My daily routine consists of waking up in the morning and, before I do anything else, I check my cellphone for messages, updates, emails, etc.

Image by Thapelo Masebe

The first day was okay as I was swamped with a lot of school work. I didn’t go into panic mode yet. During the middle of the week is when everything went south and I thought I was starting to lose my mind just a little bit.

Phase 1 of my insanity was: clinging onto my cell phone for dear life. Whenever I was walking on campus I felt the need to hold my cellphone in my hand because I felt a bit empty – even if I wasn’t using it. Just to get that sensation that I was kind of going to use it, but not really.

Eventually I moved on to Phase 2 of my insanity: FOMO. I was getting so bored to the point where I started tracing the cracks on the screen of my cellphone with my fingers, while it was buzzing with notifications from Twitter and Facebook. Have you ever had your heart race due to stress or anxiety over not knowing what’s going on? That was me when the notifications kept swarming in.

Phase 3: I kept replaying all of the memes I had viewed the previous week in my mind. This was just to help me get by due to boredom. This week was really tough. Tougher than my exam period. . .

Phase 4: I had withdrawal symptoms due to the lack of my daily-dose of laughter from Ikeys Crushes 2.0 as well as not being able to do my usual rounds of privately investigating people on Insta  . . .smh.

Phase 5: Cleaning. I finally cleaned my cellphone screen after a long time, only to draw mini-tornados on the screen with my fingers. Why tornados out of all things? I dont know.

Phase 6: Lack of understanding my surroundings. I had no idea what the weather was going to be like. I mean, I had to actually go outside to check what was going on with the weather, can you believe it? No Accuweather or Facebook or ENCA for updates. That Wednesday, due to my inadequate predictions of the infamous Cape Town weather, I was drenched in rain and my clothes felt sticky and on top of that. I was Jammie-surfing in damp clothes other students, standing next to me in their damp clothes, were rubbing against mine. I swear I felt someones hot breath but, hey, that is life. I could barely see properly because my glasses were wet and covered in mist or was it due to heat from rushing to the shuttle soaking wet? I don’t know.

Then I had to write down my thoughts or experiences on the notepad on my cellphone and people thought I was having lit conversations or something when I was actually bored out of my mind. They didn’t bother me because they thought I was busy. I’m really good at this pretend thing.

For the rest of the week I kept logging into the inbox of my email, hoping to find emails so that I
could at least read something off of my cellphone. I kept pressing the refresh button hoping to
find a new email. I felt happy when I saw a number next to the inbox tab because it meant that
someone had sent me an email!

Phase 7: Realization. I realized something, I didn’t learn anything serious about social media during this whole week. Only that my battery life lasted longer. This is one challenge I’ll never do ever again. I’m good.

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