Lockdown Diary Of A Teenager: The compulsive need to be 'on' all the time

Being ‘on’ all the time is actually a method to distract ourselves from our hardships and a temporary escape for us from the real world.

 |  7-minute read |   13-04-2020
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It is officially the 20th day of the nationwide lockdown. It is fair to say on behalf of everybody that our condition is as uncertain as to the answer to the question: what came first — the chicken or the egg?

As of now, there seems to be no clarity about our fate for the next few weeks. We all are devoting at least some of this time to pray for our wishes to be heard and answered by God. While daily wage workers’ hopes lie in the amount of roti they’re getting to eat, businessmen relying on their ventures not suffering because of prolonged disturbance, and we, the teenagers, hope to be able to go back to school. However, the one thing certain throughout this lockdown has been the emphasis on learning new skills or honing our existing passions. ‘Productivity’ has emerged as the dominant topic in this quarantine period. But is productivity the only way to feel better about ourselves?

From Instagram to Twitter, social media platforms have been swarmed with posts about individuals showing off their daily "productiveness". These include posts by celebrities and commoners, either working out, cooking, drawing, dancing or simply lying in bed and reading.

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Rereading my library. Sorry I'm working ! #pickabook #friendsforlife

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It is almost as if this “productive lifestyle” is a cloak that we wear to shield ourselves against the reality of the world. It often leaves us wonder about the true purpose behind such actions. Whether our new life changes are due to the result of our own drive and honesty to ourselves, or is it a habit? The habit that most of the population of the world seems guilty of having. The habit that I call the tendency to stay ‘on’ all the time.

Living in a digital age, we all are acquainted with the idyllic way of life of the 21st century, that is, as portrayed through various forms of media. It involves the being ritually clued in into the latest gossip, trends and millennial jargon, following some fad or myth about a healthy lifestyle, and of course, posting daily about all these things to establish the existence of oneself in the social world. These activities, without fail, require a significant commitment by us to make sacrifices in various ways to fulfil the ‘sacred’ duty to be ‘on’ all the time.

It is true that Aristotle described man as a ‘social animal’, but it is evident that we have completely misinterpreted his message. In this status quo, being social has become synonymous with constantly being ‘on’. What do I mean by ‘on’? It is essentially, the tendency of people to scroll through their phones aimlessly or to find what the other is up to — the fierce competitiveness that arises to post a sexy picture or show ourselves to be better than the other in a particular activity, etc. Many times, we end up in a ‘race’ that we don’t even want to take part in, only because of our self-inflicted misery of always being part of someone else’s journey. It has become a subconscious activity for us to seek inspiration from social media to do something (even if it may be out of our interest) round the clock.

main_instagram_reute_041320064925.jpgFrom Instagram to Twitter, social media platforms have been swarmed with posts about individuals showing off their daily "productiveness". (Representative Photo: Reuters)

In quarantine, cooking and working out have emerged as the new categories of ‘races’ for people to take part in. The mission has become to continuously be seen as doing something or the other. In my house, trying recipes and testing new dishes has become an enduring part of our days during the lockdown. Family members who could barely boil an egg are now trying their hand at various culinary creations to showcase on their Insta feeds. What is their source of inspiration, you ask? The stories and posts by their favourite celebrities and friends online.

I often feel that being ‘on’ all the time is actually a method to distract ourselves from our hardships and a temporary escape for us from the real world. It is a way of drowning all our struggles in things that in reality seem inane to us, but since there is an entire community doing it, they make us feel more connected and supported, especially in times like these. But is this the only way to feel better about ourselves? Are these short-lived hobbies, posting pictures of seemingly happy faces a way to hide our truth? The ‘embarrassing’ truth that we actually are okay with doing and knowing nothing? And if it is, I urge you to stop and take a minute to ask yourselves whether you are truly happy. If not, you know that all this isn’t worth it. Being ‘on’ all the time isn’t worth it.

Like JK Rowling mentioned in her tweet last week, "Sometimes getting through something is more than enough." Allowing ourselves to feel what we feel, and acknowledging that we have a good reason to feel that way, is a better route to mental health and happiness than beating ourselves up for not being 'superhuman’. Being productive in things that we find solace in, provides a long-term purpose to stay alive and find pleasure in it. Simply putting up an act for the sake of being ‘on’ is the best way to set oneself up for life-long dissatisfaction.

Also read: Lockdown Diary Of A Teenager: Give phubbing a break and reach out for a book


Arshya Gaur Arshya Gaur @arshyagaur

Student. Avid writer and reader.

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