DIGITAL FASTER ENJOYS LIFE OFFLINE
Many social media users are too caught up on their phones to properly enjoy special moments, according to a self-confessed smartphone addict who is now on a “digital fast”.
Omar bin Haider, a 37-year-old Emirati, has spent the past three weeks offline, only briefly checking his phone between iftar and suhoor.
7DAYS caught up with the businessman, who found he began reading more and that his friends put away their phones when they realise he is not on his.
Bin Haider said he was typically on his phone “every second” of the day, and that giving up has helped him to “appreciate moments”.
UAE residents are consistently ranked among the highest users of social media, and last month an Abu Dhabi Education Council survey found that more than a quarter of school pupils spend more than five hours per day browsing online. Bin Haider gave By Sarwat Nasir up his devices as part of du’s Digital Fasting campaign that aims to encourage people to “get to know the world” around them. He said: “What I’m learning is that moments need to be cherished - but not through social media.
“For example, if I give you a rose and you start posting it on Snapchat - what did you do to me?
“You just broke my heart and you ruined the moment, instead of appreciating it.” He added: “I love my social media and technology. And I think that’s when I realised I need to push the pause button.
“There were a lot of these moments, where I thought I want to post this picture on Instagram - but if I don’t post, what would I lose - a couple of likes?
“And my friends are more aware of what I’m doing and they put down their phones when we gather.”
As part of the du challenge, Bin Haider filmed a video in which he replaced all of the devices he carries around.
Out went the phone, DSLR camera, Playstation, iPad (pictured right), and in came reading material, an old-fashioned camera and street map of Dubai (pictured left).
Bin Haider said it would be more difficult for people who need their phones for work to switch off, as they are already checking apps and messages night and day.
This month he has made work and social arrangements each night before the working day, and then stuck to them. He said: “If your work really requires calls and SMS, then that’s the only thing you should use and leave the rest.” Bin Haider said his friends are also glued to their phones, but he intends to continue his social media ‘fast’ even after Ramadan. “I’ll just use it when it feels like I really have to.”