Last week, I met my friends after almost a year. It was always some urgent errands or permission issues preventing us from meeting. But we finally managed to make time for a lunch. I wore a white shirt tucked in blue plaid pants. As it was decided in the group chat the night before the lunch, we were all supposed to wear western outfits. Right after ordering a few appetizing entrées at a restaurant in Gulberg, I mentioned a hilarious video by swinery, to which my friend—the only boy in our group—replied that he had not seen it because he was on a... digital detox. I let out a giggle.
When I asked him about his routine without using any electronic devices connected to the internet, I was left surprised by his answer. He told me that he would either invite his friends over or go out to meet them. He said that the nights were more challenging. Since he could not use Netflix, he would tie up his shoes and rush out of the house in the middle of the night, without telling or asking anyone. That was a surprise for me.
Without an ounce of guilt, I admit that I cannot spend a day without my phone. It's not because l am constantly staring at a screen, but because I feel free while writing about my daily encounters with discrimination and prejudices on a private Twitter account. Where I whine and share and even joke about my pain and sufferings. I’m glad I have the internet where I got to read about Britney Spears’s conservatorship and her tragedy reminded me of my grim actualities; deprivation of freedom, autonomy and mobility in the name of familial love. It's nice to know that after a day of draining house chores, I get to curl up in my bed and scroll through an aesthetically pleasing Pinterest feed that I curated for myself. After such experiences, it is almost impossible for me to give up my phone or laptop. To give up—what can be referred to as—my only source of solace at times.
Last July, for instance, my Body Dysmorphia was triggered after spending five exhausting months at home due to the pandemic. There were days when I wouldn’t eat at all, hoping that it would miraculously shrink my thighs and hips. And yet, there were nights when I would walk around my room, trying to digest the unreasonable amount of food I had consumed earlier. Amidst those episodes of self-loathing, I would still find the courage against my insecurities and post a selfie on my Instagram in an attempt to keep my account active. A notification would pop up, showing a heart-eyes emoji added by a mutual friend under that picture and that very moment would become the highlight of my day, sometimes, my week.
Thinking about those times, I realize how worse it could’ve been, if it wasn’t for those late-night WhatsApp chats with my best friends, where we shared gists of arguments we had with our parents. I imagine how distant we could have grown in the last one year, had we not been able to tag each other under Facebook memes based on collective conscience. I recall the times my friends shared snaps of themselves while completing the most mundane of their day tasks—cooking white sauce pasta or cleaning a bookshelf—and I felt relieved, knowing that they were trying. And so was I. We were trying our best to pretend that being at home, under the surveillance of our families, was not miserable. We were making every effort to act unbothered while being stripped of our only escapes.
After a year of pre-tense, when I met my friend who told me that he’s having a digital detox, I let out a little giggle, when it should’ve been a sigh. A sigh at recognizing the awful truth that two friends can be so similar yet entirely different, just because one of them is a man. One of them enjoys the independence of running in the streets at dawn, while the other one feels most liberated after posting in a tiny green circle on Instagram Story.