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Opinion and Editorial

Control your messaging apps and get your life back

Asha Iyer Kumar
Filed on February 10, 2020 | Last updated on February 10, 2020 at 06.22 pm

The fact that I don't have a regular day job which otherwise might have required a constant hookup with the phone is a blessing.

Among the few things I had put on my resolutions for this year, and was more determined than before to follow through was this - I shall not open my phone the first thing in the morning. As bland as it sounds for a New Year resolve, this along with drastic social media cut, is the best service I have done for myself in a long time.

It is hard to say which of the two was a bigger challenge to overcome, but six weeks into the New Year, I can say with reasonable confidence that I have made inroads. The phone is still on the bed-side table, giving me a sly, sideways glance when I squint at it in the morning, the temptation still tingling at the finger tips, but I have now learned to walk off with an attitude of absolute indifference.

I come back to it for a quick peek in about half an hour only to make sure there isn't any message from mother or sibling that might need my immediate attention. All other messages will wait for at least an hour more.

When I return for the second round with my mind primed for what the little fiend might have in store, I scroll and sort work related texts that might need brief but speedy response. All else, especially group messages and casual chats, will be attended to only on the Web during the social media time I have allotted for myself. I put the phone on silent while I am working, just within sight to see the flash when someone calls. And with a rigorous regimen, I have succeeded in resisting the urge to check messages every now and then too.

The fact that I don't have a regular day job which otherwise might have required a constant hookup with the phone is a blessing. But here's the thing. Whether it's WhatsApp or other forms of social chatting, what often drains us is not essential communication that our work or personal relations warrant, but the irresistible itch and our unrelenting habit to reach out and stay on the phone even when we know we will not miss much if we shun it for a while. So, I drew up this personal WhatsApp manual and enjoined my mind to it. And I must admit, it has kept me on the leash to a large extent.

Regulate your use of WhatsApp depending on how essential it is for your work. For many, work happens over WhatsApp. But if you are home or performing tasks that won't need the phone, let that impish thing be at rest. Train yourself to space out your checking act, curtailing it to once in an hour or two.

There is no need to reply to pleasantries or group conversations with pressing urgency. It does not in any way reflect on your equation with your friends and relations. Let them know about your new regimen. Later, text them with the earnestness of an e-mail or a hand-written letter. Slowly they will get used to your practice and stop complaining that you don't reply at once. And if you can help it, use your computer to write so that your neck and shoulder muscles are not unduly strained. Trust me, your body will thank you for it in the long run.

Further, it's not necessary to instantly read forwarded articles which are only of academic interest to your daily life or work. You can keep them aside for an end-of-the day slot. And jokes and memes are for recreation, not for snacking on every fifteen minutes. Keep them for a chuckle over evening tea.

Knowing what is critical in our everyday communication and sorting messages based on our priorities will take serious intention. The irony is we are conscious of the perils, but give ourselves an unreasonable leeway citing new age compulsions. How deep into the abyss we must fall is a call that we alone can make, for our own sake.

- The writer is based in Dubai

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