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Crossing the Pixel Boundary
I let my thumb glide over the screen, moving up and down in a motion its muscles had grown far too accustomed to over time. The cold was creeping cruelly through the finger, rendering it numb. But I was oblivious to it, much like the way I had ignored the view of what was probably another January morning, complete with a meagre sun lighting the dismal streets outside the window. Every ounce of my attention was centred on that bright screen in front of me, proudly displaying an array of tabs on my browser. A few of them were my social media accounts, another a random Wikipedia article about a Bulgarian movie, but the one I was currently reading was a list of 15 things about paper clips that wil give you life.
I was only on number 5 when the phone suddenly displayed a pop-up box declaring it would shut itself down in 15 seconds. It seemed I had somehow managed to completely ignore the low-battery alerts it must have been giving me for the past half an hour or so. Blaming the internet’s rationality-sucking sorcery for this, I took it over to the power outlet to charge. It was only when the phone screen didn’t light up that I remembered how the power had been down in the entire area since last night- and judging by the looks of it, the technicians weren’t going to get it fixed for a day or another.
Having already used up all the battery on my laptop, it seemed I had nothing to do at all. I strolled along from one room to another, then from one floor to another, but a house only has so much space. I had already completed all of my winter-break assignments, too. I thought of reading something, but looking through my bookshelf, all I had remaining was a half-finished copy of Pride and Prejudice. The ancient memory of going through the first few pages came to my mind like an aftertaste of an overly sweet medicine, and I decided I was not going to be reading that day, after all.
While one part of my mind was battling this tremendous boredom that was rendering me confused and even mildly angry, another was wondering how a few minutes of phonelessness had brought me into a situation like this. Granted, I was hardly away from my phone for more than a few minutes, but just a while without it should not have had such a profound effect on me. I wasn’t much of a social-media person; I had no fleet of hormonal fans to woo with a continual supply of selfies, and I certainly didn’t have friends that I couldn’t spend a single hour without talking to. In fact, I was just as likely to spend my online time on Wikipedia as much as on facebook. Occasionally I would find myself in the dark devilish realms of lists like the one above, demanding click after click on page after page. But since I wasn’t hooked on to a particular online activity, I never gave much thought to the fact that I could actually become addicted to cell phones/internet as a whole. Spending a few hours without the internet, therefore, should have come as a piece of cake.
But it certainly didn’t, and as the clock ticked slower and slower that day, my doubt about my addiction grew stronger. I couldn’t help but notice how restless I seemed to be growing. The absence of connectivity gnawed at my mind constantly like a hungry rodent, and I ended up stomping heavier on the floor as I moved back and forth throughout the house. I tried to console myself with everything ranging from food to paper planes, but to little avail. The headache also began to grow stronger, though I thought it best to not take any painkiller just yet. It was only an arduous hour later that I got the idea of going through some old family photographs to pass the time.
It seemed ages since the album last saw the light of day. Heck, it had been ages since we had even had a photograph printed. I blew away the dust on top of the wood-like cover and opened it. Inside were pictures of my parents before their marriage, then some wedding pictures, followed by a few more of them with my sister in funny late-nineties clothes. There were a few of my baby pictures, too, the type you cringe at no matter how old you get.
I had almost moved on to another album when I saw it. It was a photograph I had not seen before, taken probably when I was around eight or nine. I was sitting alone under a tree on a hilltop, facing the city that stretched below my eyes, though it was unclear if I was actually looking at it. The expression on my face, however, was of an unmistakeable peace, a feeling of intense satisfaction that radiated all over the paper photograph and oozed out of it into the room’s cold, placid air. For the briefest moment, I felt as though I was that little boy again, watching in sheer bliss as my imaginary dragons roamed across the city under the command of their King, unparalleled and free.
Just another blink of an eye later, however, I was thrashed back into the cold reality I was in. Once the boy who could spin kingdoms out of thin air with his mind alone, I was now struggling for breath, strangled by the absence of luminous pixels on a plastic screen. Had I really sold my pure art of self-sufficiency to the notorious temptations of the web? The photograph had lifted the fog that I had surrounded myself into, and I could see the problem clearly- I wasn’t enough for myself anymore.
The power came back only moments later, but instead of ignoring it, I actually plugged my computer in. Before it could tempt me into another cycle of pointless surfing, however, I was determined to find a way to get rid of this addiction using its power against itself. As a medical page revealed, Internet/smartphone obsession, apparently, is a very common problem to people around the entire globe and develops as a mean to reduce anxiety. Almost half the people surveyed seemed to have experienced at least some form of unhealthy dependency on the internet, and an equally large number of people had admitted using their phones far more than necessary, proven by the fact that an average smart phone owner unlocks his/her phone more than 60 times within a single day. Thankfully, I learned that I had not developed an 'addiction' just yet, although questionnaires revealed I was dangerously close. With all this information, I quickly came up with a plan to earn my independence back.
Like one would treat any other addiction, I knew immediate and absolute abstinence would only worsen the situation. With help from my parents, I developed a time-table for phone use, and even made a list of sites that I would visit. Having so much leisure without my phone or laptop was truly daunting at first, and the temptation to have just a peek of anything on the internet would almost override my resilience at times. But as time flew, I slowly rediscovered my old hobbies and passions. Once again, I had begun writing poetry, drawing stencils, playing the piano and going around for walks on breezy evenings. Instead of an endless array of cat videos, my mind had now discovered its freedom from anxiety in the serene sights and sounds of the very streets I used to think dismal. Slowly but surely, I was regaining my long lost art of enjoying my own company.
Today, almost a year later, my bounds are no more defined by pixels on an LED screen. I haven’t given up on the internet, which I still consider a miraculous device of utmost importance. However, acquainted and immune to its hazards now, I believe I am one step closer to living my life the best I can. I may not be able to reclaim the state of bliss that the eight-year-old me had achieved, nor will I regain the precious moments of my teenage life I aimlessly gave away to the internet. But as it turns out, the world can still show you everything you possibly need as long as you’re willing to put away the screens that block your view.