(This article was originally published in the Youngblood column of the Philippine Daily Inquirer).
It always started with Instagram.
Exactly one year ago, I would be most likely lying on my side, phone in hand, scrolling through an endless stream of glitzy images and videos of models, celebrities and little furry pets on Instagram.
Then, once I got my visual feast from “the ‘gram,’” I would head on over to Twitter, click refresh, and receive a barrage of news bites, quotes and various viral reactions on the latest Netflix movie or YouTube music video.
Satiated by the blue bird, I would then click on to the mother of all social media platforms—Facebook—and lose hours upon hours following Mark Zuckerberg down his mind-numbing rabbit hole.
As a consultant working in the digital marketing and public relations space, I was conscious that social media was my bread and butter. The hyperconnectedness I had to commit to at work bled into my personal life and, as a result, I was feeding off social media the way a ward patient would feed off an IV.
It was an addiction, and I started to hate myself for it—with the same vitriol you would expect from President Duterte’s latest statement on illegal drugs.
As it is with drugs, I could sense the damage I was inflicting on myself. My eyesight and neck muscles were strained from long hours glued to a screen. My self-esteem suffered from exposure to flawless faces, stomachs and buttocks—even when I knew makeup, lighting, Photoshop and the right pose were all part of the equation. Most importantly, I was spending countless hours on these platforms as a slave to a digital ecosystem, when I could be spending time exercising, reading, seeing family and friends, and enriching myself rather than others.
When the addiction rose to a crescendo, I knew I had to stop.
One particular day in 2018, I decided to deactivate my Instagram. Thereafter, when I opened my phone and my thumb started to itch for that pink button icon, I would find nothing. Since it had always started with Instagram, my mobile escapade was doomed before liftoff.
This, thankfully, was the key habit that helped me implement other positive habits leading to an overall “social media diet.” If I had less time for social media, I knew I had to replace that habit with healthier alternatives.
Armed with my monthly salary, I stormed the mall bookstore and bought five books I had always wanted to read. Thereafter, evenings before sleeping were spent poring over books on my to-read list, rather than poring over another selfie from another digital influencer.
Then, with my gym subscription languishing with misuse, I opened my cabinets, dusted off the cobwebs on my jogging pants, and started a strict plan to go to the gym at least three times a week. Though I had to wage war on my own lazy excuses every time I had to go, I always felt much better in the sweaty aftermath, after two hours of treadmill and weights.
Finally, I decided to spend my hard-earned deficit of calories on intimate meals with family and loved ones. If, over a meal, one of them would bring out his or her smartphone for a long period of time, I would lovingly glare and ask them to put it away.
After months of this “social media diet,” I felt healthier, happier and more in control of my time.
This is why I think we can do better than having simple New Year’s resolutions. When we focus too much on the promising fresh start of every New Year, we forget that every day is an opportunity for an equally fresh start.
In fact, when it comes to healthier habits, the battlefield is not Jan. 1 but every single day. We wake up to a day full of temptations, calorie-rich desserts, gigabytes of new content on social media—and the modern warrior must fight 24/7 as these demons surface.
However, in the spirit of the New Year, I bid 2018 goodbye with the realization that, as my bad habit in social media always started with Instagram, then I only needed to remove that first trigger and establish a key habit to create an avalanche of good practices that eventually helped me live a more meaningful life in these times.
More than that, if I fail or succumb, I would need only to look forward to the next day for another fresh start. More important than my good habits and the healthier environment I had set up for myself are my willpower and grit to stick to them.
This 2019, I will continue to remember: Every day is Day One, and it always starts with me.