As the day ended, Martin could not believe the 12 hours he thought were forever had ended with his eyes glued on his phone’s screen. He needed to remember better what he had done.
Swiftly, minutes had turned to hours and hours to what he could say was his day gone just like that. As he thought about all this, he remembered his girl Marie. Who was now an ex because of him ignoring her and spending time on his phone. This was a reality he was trying to come to terms with.
“Hi dude,” Martin said after Dan had picked up his call.
“I am good. What’s up?”
“Man what you said was the truth”
“I have said so many truths; which one are you talking about?” Dan said as he laughed.
“What did we talk about last week?”
“We talked about many things. I am afraid I cannot remember.”
“I see you want me to say it out loud.”
“Yeah.” Said Dan with pride in his voice.
The previous week, the two had had a deep conversation about life. Specifically, they were talking about things that affected the productivity of young men. At some point they started talking about using social media.
When they mentioned social media, Dan was very candid with how Martin was an excellent example of an individual hooked to their phone all day. Martin had become very defensive, and Dan had decided to play it cool and let Martin find out for himself.
“It is okay dude. But we will have a discussion about this in the near future.”
“I don’t think there is anything to talk about.” Martin said defensively.
“Okay,” Dan said and changed the topic.
As days past Martin was stuck by what Dan had said the whole time. He was cautious about social media usage for a few days but within no time, he had forgotten about the conversation. Dan, on the other side, never mentioned it to him. He knew the day would come for this conversation.
On this particular day, Martin had woken up with considerable zeal. Given that he was on leave, he had very little to do during the day. Unlike all the other times he had been off for a couple of days and where he got busy trying to run some errands, this time he decided to rest. He was waking up in the morning and doing nothing strenuous during the day until the day ended.
He had woken up with the zeal to do things that would refresh his body, mind and soul. He would ride his bike around for some time, go swimming, and then catch up with his girl in the evening.
Then, without knowing how time had flown, it was five in the evening. He still needed to do something constructive, and he had not even eaten lunch or showered. He could not even account for how his day had been. As for rest, his whole body was aching from sitting and lying in one position for a long time, and his eyes had become red.
That is when he decided to call Dan. He had to say it aloud. He realized that Dan was not the only one who had mentioned this issue to him with a heavy heart. Marie too had.
Marie had complained a million times to Martin about how she felt unseen. Every time they were together, Martin was either scrolling through his phone or watching a video and laughing by himself.
However, he thought it better to first talk to Dan before swallowing his pride and calling Marie. He didn’t even say hi. He started the call with, “You were right.”
“I am glad you have realized it soon enough.” At this moment, Martin accepted that Dan was actually right.
“I guess it would have taken me a bit longer to actually realize.”
It had never dawned on Martin that he was hooked. Marie’s complaints felt like nagging. He never took his co-workers seriously, who repeatedly mentioned this to him. He also took the older woman who had said this to him lightly. Thinking about these details, he realized that almost everyone around him had hinted at this issue.
“Well, we have had difficulty trying to talk to you. You never really see or hear what is going on around.”
This particular time Dan and their friends had been chilling out with Martin. That day had not gone well, as Martin had been on his phone all through. Whatever he saw on that phone took all his attention away.
“But you know that does not necessarily mean that someone is hooked.” Martin tried to defend himself.
“But it is one sign, you agree.”
“Not really, one may be hooked by one specific thing that is very interesting, but that is that. Kwani you’ve never liked doing something, Dan?”
“I have had them, but they are never as frequent as we see them when interacting with you.”
“Oh. Really!” That statement hit Martin by surprise.
“Wow. So I have been a snob all this while.” Martin then laughed.
Dan laughed too. “Yeah dude.”
“Okay, I get it. I guess it starts out subtle but eventually it really affects everything”
This conversation led Martin into an even deeper thought process. He was on leave and his girl Marie could have been around. However, he had chosen browsing on social media over her.
He also thought about his phone usage at work. He realized he had been much more immersed in what happens online than in what happened around him. As Dan had mentioned, some colleagues, too, had said that he was deep into what was on his phone. Some of them spent a lot of time calling him, and even when he gave them his attention, he could barely give them his total attention, so people had to repeatedly tell him what they wanted to say.
After the phone call with Dan, he had sat there thoughtfully. He was trying to think everything through and focused on making sense of his realization that he was addicted to the screen. At the same time, he was also trying to make sense of the reflections that came to his mind, especially about Marie.
Marie had become sick. She was having a headache and body fever so she decided to stay in bed and get better. She decided to call her man to tell him how things were.
“Hi Marie. Wait I will call you in a few.”
“Okay.” Marie had responded.
She waited for a call that never came. Minutes became hours, and hours became a day. She wondered how busy he could be when he could not call back. She had taken some medication and felt better; at least she could walk. The next day nstead of calling again, she decided to walk to his place because it was within a walking distance. On arriving, she found Martin seated on the couch, glued to his phone screen.
“Hey beautiful, how are you.”
“I am fine, how about you?”
Marie was still standing.
“I am having a lazy day over here. I haven’t even woken up from this couch.” Martin said as he stretched.
“What have you been up to?” Marie asked.
“You are not even going to sit down?” Martin said looking at Marie.
“Tell me, what have you been doing?” Marie looked annoyed.
“Nothing much, just browsing.”
“Even when I called you yesterday to tell you I was sick?”
“Yeah. What’s the problem? You are freaking me out.”
“I was sick the whole day. I called you to tell you about it and you couldn’t talk to me. Why? Because you were browsing.”
That had brought Martin’s attention to what was going on. But it was too late; Marie did not want anything to do with him anymore. She broke up with him and banged the door behind her as she went away. Efforts to get through to her either by phone or physically did not bear fruit.
The issue that had made his girlfriend break up with him was right before him. He stood up and, at this point, realized that he had sat for more than 6 hours. All this time, he had hopped from one social media site to the next, opening links now and then and sometimes watching videos.
It had been so exciting that he could not tell how time went. As he walked to the shower, he decided to visit Dan for an even deeper conversation.
Dan was a very well-informed person. Not just from reading books and listening to podcasts but even from real-life experience. Martin thought that talking to him would be a good idea.
In a few minutes, he was at Dan’s place. Sunday evenings are special for Dan. He stayed indoors to rest and prepare for Monday.
“Have you ever been this hooked?” Dan went straight to the point.
“Yeah. A few months ago.” Martin had been right that Dan would give him insights.
“How was it for you? I mean, its inconveniencing but how can you describe it.”
Dan was quiet for some time. He was thinking of how he could put the words into sentences. “It is subtle; you cannot really put a finger on it. You think you have all the time of the day to focus on important things, but then the day ends with you having done nothing. Yet, you cannot remember being idle. You have been up and down. Actually, your mind has been doing rounds all over the internet. So, yes I have been there and I know how addictive it can be.”
Martin nodded and then said, “It seems so simple that I should be able to get off social media and focus on my tasks but then its never simple. I have been told this repeatedly at work. But it has never dawned on me that it is this serious.”
“Something tells me that you might have felt they were lying.” Dan looked at him and told him something he had been telling himself. “You think it is the age of the social media and everyone is doing it it is ok. You can go overboard with it and this is what I have been telling you.”
Martin thought about all the times he had been told that he needed to get off social media at work. Even clients who come to the company have told him to his face.
“Young man, serve me and then you can go back to your phone once I am gone.” A lady had been standing in the room looking at him, waiting for him to lift his head. When she got tired of waiting, she decided to speak.
Another time, they were deliberating on a specific project with a colleague. The colleague went to the washrooms, and when he came back, Martin had been glued to his phone and seemed more interested in what was on his phone then paying attention to his colleague. His colleague had to try talking to Martin several times for him to put the phone down.
Maybe it needed somebody close like Dan for him to listen and do something.
“How about at night, are you sleeping with your phone in your hand?” enquired Dan.
“Sometimes.” Martin admitted and then confessed, “Yeah. I wake up deep in the night to scroll because I fall asleep with my phone in my hand.”
This reminded Martin of his post-high school period when he would be all night texting and calling. Here was all that had happened in those days, happening even today.
“As long as you have noticed and have accepted that there is a problem we can now work on a solution.” Dan said with an encouraging smile.
“The issue is that it has cost me my relationship with Marie,” Marin then explained what had happened.
“You need to work on getting over this addiction then we can focus on getting your girl back.” Dan told him.
“Yeah. I guess I need to focus on that then I can ask Marie to take me back. I didn’t realize how social media addiction just crept up on me.” Martin said with a sigh.
“Yeah. Now that you have admitted to the problem we can work on getting you back on track. We will start by setting time limits on your phone for you to use social media. Then make some changes here and there so that you limit your time on social media. Maybe you can take up a hobby that consumes your time so that you are not on your phone all the time. Dont worry I will talk to Marie and explain everything then we can both help you stay on track and wean you off social media. ”
Martin was grateful that he had such a good friend who was willing to help him out and also talk to his girlfriend about his problem.
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