Since I was 14 years old, I have been giving up chocolate for Lent. Not to lose weight (well, not at first, anyway), but because I went to a Catholic school. The nuns told us we had to give up the one thing we loved the most in life for Lent. And for me that was (is) chocolate.
Giving up chocolate for 40 days is one of the hardest things I did every year. I would have the most horrible withdrawal symptoms; I would get cranky, angry and not pleasant to be around at all. But still, after those weeks, I would feel so proud and happy that I had done it. When I first got married, though, my husband would dread that month and, if he could have, he would have moved out on day one and come back on Easter Sunday when I would be, once again and for the next 300-odd days, tamed by cocoa euphoria.
A new challenge
Last year, after silently enduring all those days of agony and distress, he said to me a week before Lent: “This year, why don’t you give up social media?” Insert evil laugh.
Me: “Give up social media? But what about my (imaginary) fans? My ego? My self-imposed tap on the back? All those followers (50), who wait patiently for my #goodmorning and #photooftheday and #tooblessedtobestressed?”
At first, I considered doing it as a dare to show him that, no, social media does not, it will not, run my life, and also to prove to myself that, yes, of course I can talk to people in real life. And so, just like that – queue dramatic music, insert low deep voice – ‘twas the night before Lent, when all through the house not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse, that I logged out of all my social media accounts. Boom.
The first few days “off”, I had severe headaches, chest pains, heart palpitations and nausea. My hands would constantly itch from not holding my phone and staring at the screen for hours. My stomach would refuse to digest food I didn’t snap a picture of. I could even feel my credit card ache. I imagined my transactions getting rejected again and again, because I would refuse to post and share online how and where I was spending my money and where I was having my #tallskinnycappuccino.
The bank called to question my sudden lack of spending. Friends and family called to see if I was OK. They urged me to seek counselling to snap out of it, to make things right, to get back on the path of digital righteousness again. They said I wouldn’t last. They said I would go crazy when I eventually realised that no one would ever, like never, know how #blessed I was, how #happy and #inlove, or how #instagood my life was.
Not looking back
But just like that, days turned into weeks, and weeks turned into months, until I woke up one May morning and realised it has been more than one year since I was last seen “online”. One thing you should know about me is that I’m an all or nothing kinda girl. So why stay offline for 40 days when I can do it for 400?
People continue to ask me: “Aren’t you tempted to go back online? Don’t you feel all alone? How do you know when Paris Fashion Week is? Do you remember Gigi? Bella? What about Kylie? Her lip kit? How do you know where to eat? Do you still take selfies? Please tell me you still take selfies. Do you even like yourself? Are you still eating pretty food? Going out to fancy places? Buying expensive things? Whatever happened to #bosslady?”
Well, #bosslady believed she could pay for her own food, buy her own clothes and brush her own hair without announcing it to the world – and so she did #goals. Four seasons later, I can also reassure you that I am still up to date with the Kardashians, Jenners, Hadids, and all other people, products and places of interest. I now get my news – in more than 280-character abridgements – on paper.
However, what I have really been enjoying is sipping my tall, skinny, hot cappuccinos, instead of the lukewarm ones I used to have 10 minutes after they were served, just so I could click that perfect #latteart shot. I have been engaging in real-time conversations that don’t need to be acknowledged with a double blue tick, and won’t be interrupted by sketchy Wi-Fi or be totally ignored because “Oh, sorry darling, I don’t check my DMs”.
And, since I no longer seek validation from my phone 1,543 times a day, I now enjoy getting lost in the city and ask people for all manner of things, from directions and their grandmother’s rice pudding recipe to how they feel about pineapple on pizza, their best friend’s name in high school, and who their favourite Marvel superhero is #truestory. Friendships are no longer requested but earned, and my jaw bones are much stronger, from not having to freeze a selfie-smile for one full year. Best of all, I have been enjoying a #nofilter messy bun whenever I want since I am no longer #apublicfigure.