No More WhatsApp for Me from Today. Do you have the Courage to say the same?

Getting rid of the "smartness" to be real.

Dear friends, I have decided to be away from WhatsApp, Facebook and LinkedIn for minimum of three days to one week beginning sometime today. I calculated that, at an average, I get around 14,000 messages in one day. This does not include emails, regular text messages and personal messages. This has caused me to forget the important ones and to get all dates mixed up for many events and, eventually, I miss out on them totally.

This is crazy and taking not only all my time in life but also putting extra burden on my nerves and health. I also realized that we inadvertently spend more time on social media than anything else in our lives. We chat online at the cost of neglecting those who are around us and deserve our attention.

As of today, I will switch off my cell phone. I know it is tough and difficult and that social media is also a source of information and timely information, but my own sanity is far more important for me. So, if I do not answer any WhatsApp message or calls, please do not be offended. I shall still be available on normal means of communication. The first of those is that a friend drops in unannounced for tea coffee or food. Second is of course the usual phone. I just realized I do not have a landline at my office. Such is the pathetic reliance of mine on my cell phone. Whilst I can choose to read or see the message at first, I will not be responding to most of them. I hope you shall respect my limitations and still manage to communicate when I am back online. Though for the past few months I am contemplating using a cell phone that is not really a smart phone and can only perform three functions; make a call, send or receive normal messages and tell me the time.

Since there is no cost to messaging anymore, everyone is missing me and folks calling me from all over the world simply because it does not cost them a dime. They got your number through a third source and suddenly decided to call me after their work hours to let me know what they think of the current politics in the country.

People tell me that WhatsApp, Imo or even FaceTime are best for communication as the intelligence agencies cannot track them. Suddenly, last night I got up in the middle of the night, and realized why am I concerned of my phone-call being tracked or not? Why should I be bothered if some agency can track all my calls? I am a Pakistani and love my country. I never indulge in anti-state activity or talk and have no desire to do so in the future. Why should I really be bothered by this tingling feeling?

My perpetual angst is the price which I must pay for my 24/7 online status.

I remember I used to watch the 9 PM news and always felt enlightened. Now I am watching news all throughout the day and yet I do not know the outcome of so many of them, but they keep me entangled all the while. Consequently, I have missed on three of my major passions in life; playing outdoor sport, watching movies and reading books. I get to watch tons of videos on social media; get to read more words in a day than any book I can get hold of. But despite all this flux of information, knowledge is not imparted; value is not added to our lives.

We can’t accept every fake piece of information in abysmal silence.

After all this mindless soul-searching, I have begun to realize two things. The advent of social media is the biggest invention perhaps in the history of mankind following the invention of the World Wide Web (www) itself. However, it is not bringing us any closer rather creating distances and differences in our relations. Now if I have to visit my real brother’s home, I have to call him first to let his family know, and then go at the exact time and leave accordingly. No more surprises and no more night-stays of families or friends creating those special moments that we all cherish at one time or the other. And we owe this to social media. But I resolve to fritter away from the vapidity of virtual realities.

The last time, I spent time in my kitchen was when we were travelling on vacation four years back, and stayed at an apartment instead of a hotel. I still remember the fun activity it was to have both my children roped in and helping me, and then setting the table to sit for wholesome family entertainment.

In the last few years, we sadly stayed only in hotels. Therefore, that one activity I cherished with my kids has been fizzled out too. So, one of my current resolutions is to avoid hotels as much as one can, and to spend time at home on weekends, cooking and entertaining friends and families, rather than forwarding silly jokes to them all in a group. And whilst they sit back and laugh at those jokes they too will know it is not created especially for them, and is merely a cut and paste job. If I was to pay the charges or costs for it, then I would certainly ensure that it goes to the people I really want to share it with and not just random thousands in my phone book who all share the same mobile application.

Designing and sending Eid cards as well as the New Year’s cards used to be such an amazing activity for all of us. Our tables were full of cards that we would receive, and one would ensure they remained there long after the Eid, Christmas or the New Year was over. Not anymore. Now I get around a few thousand messages round the clock that are copied from each other. It simply means that a special friend of mine did not even have the time to type my name on that message before sending it to me. It simply magnifies our attitudes and sentiments for each other. I do send cakes and gift-packs now but just today, I questioned myself, is it because I really love and adore those people or is it more of a social climbing exercise for me? I am still confused and not sure if I have the right answer to it. I can’t recall the last time I went to a friend’s place randomly and shared a coffee. I do know we invite a multiple number of people so that in one evening we can have a social activity that would make us feel an important segment of the society. We still cannot imagine entertaining our friends or family members on their own merits and importance in our lives so that the activity is dedicated and concentrated around that particular relation. We make a social event out of that too and I am seriously guilty of this time and again.

This last Eid, I received almost 22,000 messages, first for Chand Raat then for the big day, Eid. This is maddening. As perhaps few of them were personalized or did the sender actually believe in the prayers being forwarded. Likewise, I spend hours watching and reading the same messages all over again simply because the same greeting messages got forwarded by multiple sources. This actually means that I have spent hours of my life that I will never get back over something that I did not want to watch in the first place, or had no intent to indulge in otherwise, but it still took time out of my own life that is so limited to begin with.

I no longer can enjoy Pakistani or Indian movies. I watch them either in parts or not at all. YouTube and Facebook have ensured that I simply do not have the time to sit for 3 hours and watch a film without being interrupted countless times due to the smart phone I carry. Once I take a call or see a message in the cinema, the magic of the cinema is gone. My mind travels back and forth so many times during a film that I lose track of all the fine nuances. Hollywood films are still a pleasure as they are much shorter in length but then the clips being forwarded around and their trailers on Facebook take away the delight of watching it on a big screen.

It is very rare that you can make someone understand that they actually spoiled my appetite for watching a film when they forwarded its clips or songs to me on a cell phone, because the magic can only be created in the confines of a cinema, and not while driving and catching moments of it.

I used to go to a cinema and loved watching the trailers there. This way I used to make up my mind which films to follow and come back to watch and which ones I had no craving for. Not anymore. Some application will tell me how many people rated it for what? A nasty review or a senseless blog will make or break my mood. I realized today I hardly get any snail-mail. Perhaps the last 100 letters I received have been court notices for various cases that I am confronted with in different courts of the country. Other than that, I get credit cards’ invoices; club bills maybe an odd letter from one of the smaller cities where people still do not have access to my cell phone. There was a time in life when Younas postman knew he had to come sharp at 1:30 PM to drop our mail as I would invariably get letters from my pen pals around the world. Sundays used to be tough as Younas used to be off as well as the Pakistan Post Office. Some may argue that now, one can get emails. But they would never understand the feel of the paper, the writing pads and envelopes all used to be specially chosen for those special people. And the kind of activity sending and receiving letters used to be. I love technology and I certainly am addicted to it in many ways. However, of late, I have realized that maybe be I am not living my life to its full potential. Now I am happy to see a beautiful picture and snapshots of a rainfall somewhere. The urge to visit far off places is fast being replaced by those one knows and is used to.

Can you imagine life at a resort that doesn’t offer Wi-Fi?  Wow, that social blasphemy, no Sir, not any more for me.

We even have our food rated by some smart application. Food Panda or some other will educate us how we need or want our chicken to be cooked. Phew. Do you realize suddenly all our life has simply given way to mobile applications, and worse is we do not even realize, nor do we intend to do anything about it? Well not me. I hate to be a vegetable. I refuse to give in to the norms. I want technology to help me in life not to take over my life. I want my cell phone to connect me with the world not to disconnect me from my loved ones and those I care for. I want my vacations to create memories for my family not become hot liked items on Facebook and most definitely I do not want to pass on mindless stupid videos or health messages that have no meaning for me.

I want to do what I used to love the most—make films and documentaries, create music, write endlessly and read like there is no tomorrow.

This is not just an article but my dare to all of you to make it a part of our lives and make it effective from today onward. Maybe my cut off time is 01:00 hours Greenwich Mean Time (GMT).

I will be surprised if you still remember how to calculate time using this method. Or do you recall how to find your way home out from a desert or mountain using stars? Chances are zilch. You have a good GPS installed in the smart phone that can guide you. This means you will reach home in time only you will not be able to watch the stars and admire the beauty of the nature that is around you. Sad. Indeed, crestfallen!

I have a simple formula about life right now. When I get a message I check my watch to see how much time it took me to read it? Let’s assume it is a joke someone sent me. I spent two minutes in reading it, then perhaps forwarded to about thirty odd friends and the activity cost me yet another five minutes. Collectively those friends of mine will also read the message as they do value me and whatever I send to them. Consequently, I would have consumed around 70 minutes of our lives that will never return or come back to us and we would have cumulatively wasted it on a useless joke. Now, admittedly, if the joke was really funny and it would cost for forwarding then we would think twice before forwarding it to limited people whom we think will actually enjoy or benefit from it. The free usage of the WhatsApp thus makes us pay with minutes of our lives rather than the money we save from not free calling or messaging. Rest assured there is nothing like a free lunch.

I want value in my life and I want value-adding applications around me. Therefore, as you read this message, in the next twenty-four hours as per the cut off Greenwich Mean Time that I have set for myself, I shall no longer be available on social media except Twitter as I still use that to send across meaningful messages to my contacts there. And I have closed the alerts on my cell phone hence they do not bother me, and I only see them when I am online else I can live without it too.

After a gap of five days, I shall decide if I truly can shift to a not so smart phone or I continue to live with this one and formally hand my life to the social media and decide to stop living. Maybe it is time for you all as well to decide if you wish to take your lives in your hand or give them away to a senseless application that tells you how many steps you took today and if you are fit. Personally, I would love to take a stroll in the Lawrence garden and find for myself the pleasures of the walk and whatever it entails for me.

So, while I have decided to free myself from the fake social mediums as of this day the question you should answer is can you do the same?