7 Days in Dubai - - FRONT PAGE - @Sar­watNasir sar­wat@7days.ae

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.”

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