The art of quitting social media

Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter; the apps I had given a profuse amount of my time. Almost 3 hours of my day would be taken up by me scrolling through these apps, absorbing in content which were completely unrelated to my life. I found myself filling my brain with memes – yes, I agree that memes can be funny but I was taking in too much- but my addiction was growing worse. I was living, breathing and speaking in meme. My thoughts, ideas and opinions were being backed up by memes and soon I became fed up. I deleted all time wasting apps hoping to return to the time where I had increased focus on everything and everyone around me. I managed to live without it for a good few hours until I had an itching sensation to take a quick look at what everyone was up to. I could always login to my accounts using my laptop which wouldn’t really count as the format of these social media sites are completely different to how it was displayed on my phone. And so be it, I spent the next few hours stuck between the tabs of Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, endlessly scrolling through photos of my ex-boyfriends aunt and old school friends of whom I had no interest in reuniting with. It was only after I put down my laptop and realised how unproductive my day had been that I realised my addiction was serious.

Social Media has 4 core purposes; sharing, learning, interacting and marketing. Sharing information can either be private or public and can come in many forms such as pictures, writing, video and voice recordings. The beauty of this is that you have the ability to share anything; reviews, advertising and leisure. This way, you can learn more about a certain topic, find out what your friends and family are up to as well as interacting and responding to a certain post. I don’t doubt that the concept is overall positive as it brings together communities from all over the world. What if the interaction gets too much, toxic to you and your surroundings? After all, too much of anything does make you sick right? For example, if I didn’t like the colour of the tables at a particular restaurant, I am 99% sure that I will be unlikely to find another person who disliked the same tables through conversions during my day. On the internet, however, I could publicise my thoughts on Twitter, add a few hashtags, tag the restaurant and suddenly I’ve created a cult of cream coloured table haters. Social media’s purpose was to bring people together, though in practice this is just another way of absorbing useless information. 

Internet platforms have been designed to monopolise human attention by any means necessary (New York times). There have been many instances where I sit down to work but ended up scrolling through Instagram. I would then put down my phone and proceed to my actual tasks only to reward myself with some more social media after every new paragraph I had written. This cycle would continue until my tasks are completed in more than double the time I had intended to spend on it. Social media companies essentially use us as products. They thrive off our attention and our constant scrolling for PROFIT. The reason for Instagram’s algorithm to be in a non linear is so that we never reach the end, the scrolling never stop and the profits keep rolling in. Aside from this, the environments of every day life has changed. When was the last time you went walked into a waiting room where no one was on a phone? Or try and think about the last time you rode an entire bus journey without once reaching for your phone and actually enjoying the view outside. In my opinion, social media has caused more damage than good; the irony is that we now live in a world where everything we say has to be filtered and politically correct, a place where hate is spread faster and in a more destructive manner, a world where there are too many opinions from either side leaving you in a state of confusion and unrest.

After realising that I spent the vast majority of my day doing god-knows-what on these apps, I decided it was time for a change. I have now successfully been off Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter for 40 days and counting, this is how I did it.

1.   Unfollow everyone and everything. 

 The main aim of this was to reduce the amount of content that was on my feed everyday, hence being able to go through it all in one sitting without having to constantly check my phone. It may sound tough, it’s actually pretty easy. I unfollowed every person that I had neither seen nor spoken to in the past year. This turned out to be quite a lot to my surprise, mostly people I had met once and just people at school. I also unfollowed the meme pages who had the worst quality memes or just spammed my feed with brand deals.

You will probably find that the number of followers you have will also decrease, and I too had an ache in my heart every time I saw the figures drop. However, I learnt not care much about this since I was finally seeing only the interesting content. 

2.   Delete the apps off your phone 

Since my feed had reduced so much, I grew bored of picking up my phone every now and then and watching over the same posts. The need to constantly scroll still hadn’t gone away and I became the first person to watch someones most recent story or the first to like a post. The frustration grew and the boredom grew further. As a result, I deleted the apps from my phone with no intention of getting them back.

If this seems like an extreme move for you try deleting the apps with the knowledge that you could always check your feed on a desktop – but keeping this at a minimum of course. After deleting the apps, I found myself only checking my feed on my laptop once a day, soon this reduced down to zero. 

What I learnt was that social media is not something I aspire to go back to. It did not improve the quality of my life – it was merely a distraction which diverged my tasks and plans. I can now read a book without an itching need to check my phone for notifications every few minutes, I can hold a conversation without keeping my head down and best of all, I can focus on and do my required tasks for the day in a reasonable amount of time, leaving me to do more.


Back to my homeland.

Part 1

We were delayed in the queue for the visas as it snaked around the arrivals lounge. Why did they work so slowly? Before us stood 4 counters each with a glum looking officer sat behind it, glancing cautiously at the passports of keen tourists, then at them and back at the passport again before handing them back with an even more suspicious look. The queue grew faster but the pace of the officers did not. I looked over my shoulders to three tired children for this was the longest plane journey they had embarked and the furthest they had been from the comfort of their home.

Finally we were let free. 

We caught the eyes of dozens of men asking if we were in need of a taxi. We were warned about them. Ten of them in shirts and ties surrounded us and came up so close as if we were animals at a petting zoo. There were about ten of them and they came up so close as if we were animals at a petting zoo. Our only instinct being to bow our heads and to walk straight ahead without taking notice of them. As I lugged my suitcase out through the air-conditioned airport, I was soon greeted by the sticky, humid air of the capital; its pressure compressing at my throat leaving me gasping for fresh air. It was 4am. ‘Great’, I thought, it could only get worse during the day. 

We waited for what seemed like hours for our ride to arrive. We stood under a perspex shelter; a single sheet of plastic protecting us from the hundreds of mosquitos which were dotted across the early morning sky. It was hard to think through the constant interruptions of screeching tyres and the beeping of horns by frustrated taxi drivers. I couldn’t believe I was finally here after all these years. There were police officers, or traffic wardens – I couldn’t quite tell. They were wearing mud brown uniforms, exactly like you saw in the movies. They blew their whistles at regular intervals, one by one, as if it was the tune to a song. An awful song it was. 

The sun was beginning to rise and the airport grew busier. There was a sudden flurry of locals and tourists wandering in and out of the airport in unison – a sight that was once just merely a dream. We stood still in the middle of it all, mesmerised for this was the place I left all those years ago and had never expected to come back.

We were picked up just before 5 and settled down for our long ride back to my old village. We were driven through the city which was once a place for the rich, now a way of living for everyone. Skyscrapers loomed over us, absorbing in the rays of the rising sun, preparing to start the new day. Just across the road were the waves of the Laccadive sea, crashing against the boulders of the seashore. Stall vendors were situated right along the sea front, preparing their goods for the busy day to come. 

Every road we turned into we were met with an abundance of tuktuks*, motorcycles and school buses, each honking at one another at different tones, competing for their place on the road. The van swayed in and between the lanes, beeping its way passed a motorcycle on which they had managed to fit 4 people. You would think things would have changed since the war, clearly they had not.

There were still no big roads connecting the city to the villages meaning we had to drive almost three hours through towns and villages to reach our destination. It was an extensive and laborious journey. The children were now fast asleep beside me, wrapped in the arms of each other for protection in this unfamiliar environment.

My eyes strained from the sunshine which had now fully emerged and was beaming at full strength across the country. The air conditioning was blasting throughout the car but this still wasn’t enough to replace the humid air. Outside, the villagers were going about their day; elderly men in their lungis** huddled around the tea shops listening intently to the designated reader who was dictating aloud the morning paper. Women hurried around the stalls negotiating the best prices for vegetables and freshly caught fish whilst the stray dogs rummaged around searching for any piece of scrap food they could find, before being shooed off by market owners. I caught myself smiling with an overwhelming sadness. I was now a foreigner in a land where once my future was destined, nothing will change that now.

It was almost midday when we drove passed a familiar pillar. I immediately perked up from my seat, we were almost here. The same old dried Palmyra leaves were being used as fences to separate one house from the next. I opened my window and took a deep breath as the same ocean wind blew across my face, we were by the coast. Cows on the side of the road sat alongside with the stray dogs, taking shade under the looming palm trees. The driver began to pull up by a large blue gate. I was back. I was back after all these years. Back to my homeland. 

*Tuktuk – A three wheeled auto rickshaw that is a motorised development of the traditional pulled rickshaw or cycle rickshaw.

**Lungi -The lungi is a type of sarong, that originated in the Indian subcontinent, worn around the waist as an alternative to trousers.

Rush Hour Crush

I got caught in the midst of rush hour on Thursday. The worst time of the day when you’re in London; crowded trains filled with business people or tourists. Everyone receives a fair amount of pushes, shoves and the occasional elbow to the rib. All in all, we just want to get home.

Somehow I got onto the tube in one piece. Holding a large shopping bag, wearing my backpack over my thick winter jacket and headphones in, a must, whilst listening to heavy metal to drown out the noises of crying babies and enthusiastic tourists. There I was, looking like a right sort. I was tapping my fingers on the pole to the beat of the music when I saw him. I must have been loud because he saw me tapping and smiled. He was standing about an arm’s length in front. But of course, having been rush hour meant that there were at least 3 people inbetween us – like the wall of Verona separating Romeo and Juliet.

He wore a charcoal grey suit jacket and an unbuttoned baby pink shirt. No tie – which I don’t blame because of the humidity. I couldn’t see his shoes but I presumed they were somewhat smart. He had an olive skin tone but it was his hair that had struck me the most. Locks of brown glossy hair, curly and remained at the scalp yet dead straight on the edges.

He got a seat after a herd of people got off at the train at Turnpike Lane, leaving me still standing. I thought it’d be a good idea to bluetooth him a picture of what I was listening to since he had cared enough to smile. He didn’t appear on the Airdrop list. To my unfortune, nothing came up with his image and instead I accidently sent the image to ‘Danielle’s iphone’ – boy I bet she was confused. A few stops went by and the seat next to him became available. A message from the heavens. This was my chance. I sat beside him and took off my headphones and adjusted my hair using the help of my reflection in the window opposite. He smelled strongly of a freshly applied JPG – a smell which was fairly familiar to me.

The remainder of the journey was a quiet one. We both left the train at the same stop via a different set of double doors. He smiled again when I turned to look around for him. Is he just polite or playing with my feelings?

The train jolted to a stop. I ran out through the doors and up the escalators to catch my next bus in time. This was it. Time for the love of my life to run up behind me and ask for my number so we could stay up all night and talk on the phone. Tonight was the premiered night of many that we’d spend together and live to have a life of four children and live in a country home and own the biggest farm. Tonight –

“Excuse me?”

I stop. Eyes wide open in shock. Heart pounding against my chest. Legs turn to jelly. My prayers just keep on getting answered today. The angels are by my side.

That’s when my farce o’clock struck. I turned around to find it wasn’t him. It wasn’t him at all. I knew who this person was though. He sat diagonal to me on the train I had just been on. Gym bag, jogging bottoms, baggy t-shirt, expensive trainers and wearing AirPods. He was probably one of those exercise people – oh no – a personal trainer. He’s not going to ask if I needed any help did he?

“Yes?”

“Would you mind if I had your phone number?”

I politely declined and walked away, still searching for my twilight tube man. He was gone and so was my bus ride home.

Barbie’s problem

A few weeks ago when I was teaching a girl no less than 10, I saw that her pencil case was covered with prints and stickers of Disney princesses. This for me brought back moments to reminisce. I picked up the case and fingered the outlines of it. How I used to look up to all these characters, creating shrines for them in my bedroom and dressing up like them for every birthday. Momentarily, I asked the girl who her favourite was. “Belle” she said. Then I asked her least favourite expecting a villain like Scar or Ursula. “Tatiana”, she said as if it were obvious enough. I asked why. Her response instantly brought me back from my reminiscent high. “Because she’s brown.”

“Brown, but you’re brown too?”. Bearing in mind that the girl, like myself originates from South Asia. “I’m not brown, I’m white” she said almost proudly. I ended the conversation right there. The last thing I wanted was to argue with a child. Her comment angered me but more importantly I was concerned to what made her think this way. What was so wrong with us Asians that made her want to deny the fact that she was brown?

This isn’t the first time that problems have arisen with diversity in fictional characters and toys for children. Take Barbie for example; the doll was first released in 1959 where is wasn’t really a problem for all dolls being identical in skin colour, hair or having the “perfect” body. It was a huge hit with young children and parents since birthday presents had just gotten easier.

The issue relies on the fact that young girls from across the globe will have been conditioned to think that beauty only lies within a woman of white skin, blonde hair and a body shape that is impossible and unhealthy to achieve. Studies show that 40% of children are dissatisfied with the way they look after having received a Barbie doll. This comes from a variety of reasons such as body image and skin colour. Although the demographic for the Barbie is well below the age of ten, the long term consequences are much more severe. Having worries about body image at a young age is more likely to lead to having disorders with eating, social anxiety and body dysmorphia. What Mattel failed to mention is that the real life size of Barbie is frankly impossible to achieve. According to calculations, the doll would have a dress size of 2, this being far below the average dress size of an adult and extremely unhealthy.

It took almost 60 years for Barbie to have a transformation. In 2016 Mattel created dolls with several skin tones and body shapes. One size certainly does not fit all and customers were given a choice of what kind of Barbie they could have. But was it 60 years too late? Barbie’s brand image will always be of a silicon plastic doll with white skin and blonde hair and not the diversity that has recently been introduced. So for the future, children will need to be brought up with the varied dolls, potentially reducing eating disorders in teenagers and a less conditioned vision of beauty.

Barbie body image

Unconventional methods of dating

Online dating is not a brand new concept; In fact, it’s been around for almost three decades. Although the discovery of new technology allowed websites such as match.com develop into applications on our mobile phones, the objective of matching with a stranger online and having a potential relationship with them has remained the same. Popular dating apps include Eharmony, Zoosk, Tinder and the budding Bumble. Having previously tried Tinder before, I was keen to use Bumble as I had not really heard of it before and intrigued to find out what was in store.

As ironic as it may sound now, I wasn’t actively looking for a relationship. I strongly believe these things should never be forced and so, without much anticipation or expectation, I opened up the app.

Initial thoughts: I particularly liked the colour scheme; a strong golden yellow, which was attractive to the eye and useful for making your profile radiant. The concept being to find the pollen to your queen bee, in other words, your soulmate/best friend. The app allows you to have up to six images of yourself, a short biography as well as connect your Instagram and Spotify. This is what my profile looked like: (excluding images)

When writing a biography, it’s best to include your passions and something that represents your personality. In my case, this was something quite comical (as I find myself to be quite the comedian). The profiles that didn’t particularly catch my attention and immediately made me swipe left (reject) were the ones that said something along the lines of “swipe right for a good time” or “life-guard, so actually certified to give you mouth to mouth”. Yes, this was a real one.. I mean, it’s good to be a little enigmatic but there is a fine line between mysterious and unpleasant. Additionally, the best profiles also had the most intriguing images. They were often filled with colour and showed a genuine personality. Selfies are mediocre but the bee wants the flower with the most character, so perhaps use pictures of you travelling or partaking in a hobby. 

Unlike other dating apps, an advantageous feature Bumble is that it only allows the female to start a conversation with their match. Having an app that is so female orientated creates a sense of safety and a has a non-traditional value in which the male does not make the first move. Another compelling feature is that there is a 24 hour time cap to begin a conversation with your match including an additional 24 hours in which your match can respond. This gives only 2 days to strike up a conversation with someone, differing to other dating sites where the match can be kept on hold and dragged out for several months. This urges you to make a move as fast as possible meaning more bees buzz faster! Although, if the female does not start a conversation with her match, then there is an option for the male to use a ‘daily extend’, where you can remain matched for an additional day.

In my experience, the best conversation starters go along the lines of “Hey, how you doing?” or simply asking about their day. This will allow your match to open up and get the conversation going. A simple “hello” will not give your match a lot of work with, neither will a cringey pick up line. I started nearly all my conversations with a “Hey, how you doing?” followed by something that intrigued me about their profile. Once I received a reply from my matches, I was able to see who really had a genuine interest in me. 

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This was the only person who responded to the likes and interests of my profile which definitely got my attention, and I was intrigued to know more about them.
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I was a little confused by this one… he loves reading but hasn’t finished a book yet? I didn’t think it would be necessary continuing this conversation.
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And of course some just weren’t as serious as others.
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This was funny and flirtatious, again drawing me closer for more conversation.

The best response were the ones to reciprocate my questions and ask more about me.  My passion for crime novels and English literature was shared with a complete stranger and we were able to connect on a deeper level and speak more personally about ourselves so I began to develop a genuine interest in this person. This was my Bumble boy .That being said, this is how you can ‘over’ do things:

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You will know once the foundations of a potential relationship has been set when you begin to connect on other social media platforms other than the app itself. You begin to have a mix of constant flirting as well deep, meaningful heart to heart conversations and sending each other pictures of what we’ve come across in our day. For example; myself and Bumble boy would send each other pictures of the books we’re reading or bargains we’ve found at the supermarket for a few weeks or so (Yes, this is what adulting feels like). Then came the conversation of meeting up. He was always reassuring me that he did not want to push anything or make me feel uncomfortable in any way. Even so, just like most people, I felt anxious about meeting a stranger from the internet. He would always say “The worst case scenario is that I’m 50 and I’m fat but we are meeting in a public gallery and I most definitely not kill you!” – bearing in mind we both love crime novels and always come up with ways to kill each other when we’re flirting (grim, but sexy). 

The thought of meeting someone from online may sound daunting, and there are correct ways to approach this. Do meet in a public space – you will never know the intentions of the person you are meeting and even if you think you know them, you can never be sure. Make your place of meeting easily accessible for the both of you. You don’t need to travel lengths to meet someone for the first time, why not meet in the middle? Always let a close friend or family member know where you are at all times and what you’re doing – prepare for the worst case scenario. My match and I decided to meet up at a gallery in London during the afternoon. It had many visitors but was also quiet enough so we could communicate with each other clearly. We went on a long walk through Hyde Park and I showed him my favourite spots in London (since he was new to the city). Don’t pressure yourself to make a move with your match, first let the conversation flow and learn to feel comfortable in each others’ presence. If it was not meant to be, you will know so always prepare to be disappointed at least in the slightest.

I have a humiliating history of not being asked out on a second date. To my surprise, Bumble boy messaged me after our meeting and told me he enjoyed my company and would like to meet again. Triumph! I mainly think this was because I went to our date with no expectations. I didn’t put any pressure on myself to look amazing or be funny like I would do on most other dates, I also didn’t have any expectations from him..

Why I don’t belong in a kitchen.

Although my guilty pleasure is watching mukbangs on Youtube or bingeing on the Food Network channel on a Saturday night, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that I cannot cook. The only times you’ll find me in the kitchen is raiding the fridge in the middle of the night on the hunt for sapid snacks.

According to Lorraine Pascale, “anything that goes in the oven is baking”, so with that being said, I took on the challenge of my first ever bake. No, not just some basic oven lasagne- I mean a real bake, a cake.

After a simple google search for the best yet easiest carrot cake recipes, I finally found one which was fit for me even though I just didn’t have a lot of the ingredients on that list and so, I switched things up a little:

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175g light muscavado sugar = 200g brown sugar (I don’t know what muscavado means)

140g grated carrot = an awful lot of hard work

100g raisins = NONE because who enjoys raisins in a cake?

1tsp bicarbonate of soda= 1tsp baking powder (I’m not technical in anyway)

1tsp cinnamon = 2tbs cinnamon to celebrate my Sri Lankan heritage

Everything else remains the same.

As I was doing this, I began to reminisce a song from my childhood. Stephanie from Lazytown sang “You gotta do the cooking by the book, you know you can’t be lazy; never use a messy recipe, the cake will end up crazy”. Well, I do hope Stephanie grew to her senses because adapting a recipe to my own needs DOES NOT make me lazy, and I definitely will not stick to the recipe because I am not a conforming individual and Stephanie should really just get out of my head and stop telling me what to do. Anyway, I digress. 

People often say that baking is easy since you whack everything into a bowl and it’s done. That is easier said than done. My sister peered inside my mixing bowl and said “You’re mixture’s split”. Since I didn’t know what that meant and I’ve done five more laps around the planet than her and have collected ever so much wisdom, I ignored her snarky comment and carried on. Nigella Lawson taught me how to grease my pan and lightly dust it with flour to stop the batter from sticking. So I did, less stylishly and more maddened than Lawson as by this point I realised why it had taken me 18 years to finally have the reason to use an oven. I don’t belong in the kitchen or have any interest in being in one. Long story short; I dusted the finished product in icing sugar (to cover the burnt bits) and presented a bog-standard looking carrot cake to my family.

CONCLUDING THOUGHTS: The perception of women having to “belong in a kitchen” died long ago, though there will always be people hinting about the concept to this day. I truly believe that in order to abolish this, all women must take their own fields of interest and exceed at it by taking full control. It doesn’t take a genius to say that I’m awful at cooking but only a fool will tell me that I am an awful woman because I cannot cook. I wish to exert my energy into passions of mine and stand down from the stereotypes that I have been labelled.