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Reliving childhood bliss by untethering from social media

By DANNA PEÑA Published May 14, 2021 5:00 am

What is life but an endless pursuit of bliss?

Though defined as the state of complete happiness or joy, bliss takes on a multifaceted and unfathomable form. Having the ability to feel and experience things differently in different phases of one’s life, bliss can be a shape-shifting phantom, a mercurial affair that can be challenging to sustain. As someone in her late 20s, I have undoubtedly fallen into the trap of the many ways society has dictated that we pursue this heaven-like state.

Along with others born in the early ’90s in the Philippines, I have basked in the glory days of what was (arguably) the best decade. Life was a joyous clockwork of sun-dappled childhood days spent playing outdoors, families bonding around the television, and friendships cemented by spending quality time with one another.

Without smartphones and access to the internet, we lived life without the landmine of information we have today. Though I am immensely grateful for the wealth of knowledge the internet provides, I can’t help but feel stirrings of nostalgia for my old world of oblivion. In this pandemic where I am holed up indoors — which is reminiscent of my childhood summers, except for the fact that I’m discouraged from going outside to play and instead have adult responsibilities — I’ve noticed that these bouts of nostalgia catch me off guard more often, throbbing inside with an unspeakable grief that I can’t place.

When your social life and career (to some extent) have become somewhat tied to or co-exist with your personal Instagram account, a social media detox seems like an unconventional choice.

As social media bombards us with information, it’s understandable why a “social media detox” has become commonplace for many. I never thought I needed this kind of detox until the pandemic, and as it stretched out to over a year, I find myself wanting to spend less and less time online. As someone who has always enjoyed connecting with friends and expressing my creativity through social media, this behavior harbored an inner turmoil that feels alienating.

Instagram, the social media platform which I am most active on, has always been an avenue for me to express my fondness of photography, commemorate special moments, and connect with loved ones and people who share the same interests as me. More recently, it has been a way for me to share my personal or work-related writings. As someone whose work revolves around writing, social media and content strategy, I have been lucky enough to land projects and jobs related to my field of work through my account.

For those working in media-related industries, which have become dominantly ruled by digital media, being active or present online is almost a necessity, especially for keeping up with the pulse of social media. When your social life and career (to some extent) have become somewhat tied to or co-exist with your personal Instagram account, a social media detox seems like an unconventional choice.

But one day as I was scrolling through Instagram Stories, I was taken aback by what felt like a soul-sucking feeling. I acknowledge that it might’ve been aggravated by pandemic frustration, the doom and gloom towards the Philippines’ inefficient pandemic response. Scrolling through Instagram stories suddenly felt like watching a contrived loop of events: I was either bombarded with news, needlessly being sold something (a product, a brand, a lifestyle, or an idea), or discovering intimate details of people’s personal lives that have nothing to do with me. 

Having ample time now to sift through my childhood nostalgia, I am reminded how strange it is to know what everyone is doing. News and current events aside, I realized that I don’t need to live each day being hyper aware of events that don’t personally concern me.

So I decided to extricate myself from the noise, not only to get a mental reset but to relive my childhood’s euphoric state of not knowing all there is to know. Deactivating my Instagram account for over a month and lessening my social media use has been beneficial to me in ways I direly needed. Not only have I been spending more time on hobbies, fitness and personal projects, but my focus and mindfulness have considerably improved.

By being inactive on social media, I am forced to find ways to be satisfied with myself without relying on the dopamine rush triggered by external validation. My time offline allowed me to relive the basics of my childhood lifestyle: to appreciate and be present for the tangible and transitory day-to-day things.

Social media is not real life. Real life is the golden sunshine peeking through your window, the comforting food you nourish yourself with, the loved ones you keep in touch with, the worlds of books, movies, music, and shows you immerse in, and the precious time you dedicate to yourself doing what you love and doing what needs to be done. 

Social media is not real life. Real life is the golden sunshine peeking through your window, the comforting food you nourish yourself with, the loved ones you keep in touch with, the worlds of books, movies, music, and shows you immerse in, and the precious time you dedicate to yourself doing what you love and doing what needs to be done. 

My social media detox made me zero in on the bliss that everyday life showers me with. The childhood bliss I have been so nostalgic for has been somewhat attainable all along — all it took was stepping away from the noise and reminding myself of the abundance rooted in my life. And if there’s anything this pandemic has made me appreciate more, it’s the constant blessings of life that a distracted mind does not allow enough headspace to be grateful for. 

As visual beings, people mistake someone’s inactivity or inexistence online as synonymous to having no life. We are conditioned to think that what you see on social media is what you get, and therefore, we find it bizarre when someone disrupts the status quo by having no online presence.

Having noticed I fell off the online grid, several friends expectedly reached out to me to ask if I was all right, which I welcomed as well-meaning checkups I am extremely grateful for. What I hope is that someday, people choosing to be inactive online, whether permanently or not, will be seen as a run-of-the-mill event that we don’t need to assume anything bad about.

It’s foolish to think I’ll be able to fully replicate the offline era of my childhood. We are social beings after all, and it would be nearly impossible for me to stay disconnected for good — not when social media is one of today’s most powerful tools of communication. Thankfully, what I’ve gained from my transient time of being offline is the same heavenly peace of mind I had when I was a child: knowing that I’m able to live life fully, even without the worlds that don’t concern me.