social media detoxNOVEMBER 10 ― I have decided to limit my time on social media (Facebook, Instagram and Twitter) to working hours ― working hours because I’m a journalist and plenty of newsmakers post statements on social media.

As I have started a few projects, including writing a book about my thoughts on race, religion, democracy and politics in Malaysia, I want my hours carefully planned out so that every minute of the day goes to something useful and productive.

Productivity doesn’t necessarily mean “doing” something either. Getting sufficient sleep is useful and productive (I need eight hours of sleep a day). It can also be more stimulating just letting your thoughts wander, or to watch the world go by when you’re having a meal by yourself, rather than to scroll through endless insipid posts on Facebook or WhatsApp groups.

As it is, I only have 15 minutes or so to read a book before I go to sleep at night (currently reading Chuck Palahniuk’s Haunted, a brilliant, graphic and completely insane novel of stories).

The rest of my non-working hours goes towards jogging in the park, Mandarin classes (I don’t study enough, as it is), and my writing, punctuated by Netflix guilty pleasures (currently watching Jane the Virgin and RiverdaleStranger ThingsAlias Grace, Marvel’s The Defenders, as well as documentaries Gaga: Five Foot Two, and Joshua: Teenager vs Superpower are on my watch list).

I listen to Mandopop (lots of Jay Chou, some Eric Chou and Michael Wong) whenever I’m out driving to boost my Mandarin. About once a week, I listen to a podcast on Spotify while working out (I follow Intelligence Squared debates, Vox Media’s Divided States of WomenPod Save AmericaSlate Magazine Daily Feed, and The Guardian’s Audio Long Reads).

Although social media yields the occasional gem like this tech editor’s truly epic story of how he almost lost US$30,000 (RM125,834) in Bitcoin after forgetting his PIN, such articles are far and few in between “fake news”, click-bait headlines and videos, and angry rants about Malaysian politics.

None of that adds to our knowledge or makes us smarter. Viral “news” is junk food consumed by the masses who complain about the restricted media in Malaysia but refuse to pay for good journalism.

I don’t really need to know the minutiae of my friends’ daily lives either, or their opinions on every little political development here or abroad.

I prefer to see them in person and have proper conversations over food and drink, instead of viewing their life through the filtered lens of Instagram and reading snippets of their beliefs on the troll-feeding pit of Facebook.

(Snapchat seems a bit redundant as there are Instagram Stories, while Twitter’s decision to double its character limit to 280 makes it a pointless Facebook replicate.)

And if we want to look at social media to understand what the “public” is saying about various issues, Facebook fails on that account too because the company places us in echo chambers by only showing views aligned to ours.

The problem with social media is that it discourages in-depth thinking and reduces complex discussions about socio-political issues to quarrelsome snipes.

It allows us to make snap judgments about other people, based on a single tweet or Facebook post, and vile remarks that we wouldn’t have the courage to say to them in person.

Social media also amplifies our desire for approval. I crave approval myself and get a little boost sometimes whenever I see people whose opinions I value highly “like” my posts or opinion pieces.

But if we want to be genuine and authentic, we shouldn’t really care what people think of us.  Our public self and opinions shouldn’t be tailored to please the masses.

We should be confident in our own lifestyle choices and opinions on various issues without having to follow what our friends say, read, or do.

Social media only turns us into sheep, unproductive ones at that.