I used to think my biggest distraction was gaming.
I spent my entire school breaks from primary school to high school to uni, gaming. It was completely unnecessary. I should have used the time to get my holiday homework done (yes, I had holiday homework – but let’s talk about that next time), but I gamed.
I gamed 12 hours a day, every day until the final day of the school break, and then, I would take out my homework and do them.
One day, I told myself: if I continue like this, I’ll end up with nothing but needless health problems.
My mom agreed. ‘You’ll go blind gaming from morning till night like that,’ she used to say to me.
I used to always ignore her.
But one day, I took a good look at myself and I realized: going blind wasn’t even the worse thing that could happen to me.
I was already failing in life as it were – I was fat, balding, unhygienic and anti-social. Worse, I had a flaring temper that kept people at bay for the wrong reasons.
Even in my highly addicted state, I knew I had to make a change or my life would go downhill.
So when I turned 20, I quit gaming and focused on other hobbies.
That year, I took sports more seriously. I became a martial arts enthusiast. I hiked more often. I joined and organised events, meeting thousands of people in between. I wrote. I studied. I made my way through my first online course. I worked harder at my job. I traveled.
It was tough to quit gaming at first. I had been gaming addict since I was 10 or 11.
But I knew that if I didn’t quit, I would get sucked deeper and deeper into a fantasy world – a world where I created perfect versions of myself in a world that only existed inside my computer screen.
I could create a blonde-hair, slim, tattooed version of myself in The Sims and call her Laura, but that wouldn’t be me. It would feel like me because I would spend a lot of time on her life, but it wouldn’t be me.
Once I shut down my computer, I was Lu Wee, not Laura.
I was fat, not thin. I didn’t drive a nice car like Laura. I was 18, not 25. I had black hair, not blonde.
Even if I spent 10,000 hours on Laura’s life to make it perfect, it would mean nothing for me. It was just a meaningless indulgence.
So I cut the cord between me and gaming, and never looked back since.
Yet I became stuck in another virtual world
I was never a big fan of sites like Facebook or Instagram (or Friendster, for old school peeps out there) when they first came out. I thought they were crass and built for people who were bent on having a fake online boyfriend or girlfriend.
I was a late bloomer when it came to social media apps. I got my Facebook account after all my friends did and my Instagram account lay dormant until about four years ago.
I took a while to get used to social media. I was fully 26 before I started leveraging social media to share ideas that I was used to keeping in my head.
I loved it… but maybe, a little too much; so much so that like gaming from daylight to midnight, I was started to feel the negative effects of it.
As a gamer, I spent hours curating my online player, upgrading my virtual assets, winning points, neglecting my real life self.
On social media, I found myself doing the same thing. It was a photo of me on the pages, but that person online isn’t really me: it was the part of me I wanted people to see.
Like a gaming addiction, I felt myself building an addiction to social media. The worst hit part of my days were my mornings.
Instead of waking up and getting straight to my day, I found myself increasingly glued to my bed in the morning, scrolling through all the social media apps at least once before getting up.
Facebook’s billion-dollar app designs were working. I was hooked.
I had spent five years to wean myself off my gaming addiction, but now, I found myself addicted to another virtual world.
It was time to cut back.
Reclaiming my mornings
One of the things that an addiction does is that it makes you do things you know would leave you feeling worse after.
A gaming addiction leaves you feeling like you wasted the best hours of your life on nothing, and a social media addiction leaves you feeling roughly the same.
What I hated doing most was this cycle: clicking on the Facebook app, checking Facebook, scrolling the news feed, leaving Facebook, then going on Instagram, checking stories, scrolling the feed, then on and on, and on…
This was the first thing I did when I woke up, and the last thing I did before I went to sleep.
In between, I would have clicked on the social media apps more than 100 times a day. I ended my day feeling exhausted, even though I didn’t do very much.
I wanted to keep my social media accounts – I loved using them to keep in touch with my friends, but I needed to start setting boundaries for myself to keep my use healthy.
I began by asking myself: what did I do in the mornings before I became this addicted to social media?
I used to spend between 30 minutes to 2 hours meditating in the mornings before I went to school or go to work.
I would feel energised throughout the entire day, no matter how hectic my schedule was.
So about two weeks ago, I decided to stop checking my phone the first thing I woke up, and meditate instead.
The first few days were pretty tough. Like a cigarette addict, I felt the need to touch my phone about 10 times an hour while I meditated.
After five days though, the urges started to cool.
A week into the new morning routine, I started feeling more like myself again – a feeling I haven’t felt in a couple of years now.
This small change in routine gave me more clarity, energy, and peace of mind throughout the day.
So much so that I’ve been recommending it to people just like me – a little exhausted from too much phone checking.
Small Changes, Big Difference
As time goes on, I continue looking for ways to feel more in touch with myself.
Other than this, I’ve been trying out a lot of things — little changes to my daily routine that will create a ripple effect on my life.
It’s too much to mention here now, but I’ll slowly write them out in future posts.
Tell me: what are some things you’ve been doing to feel better about living lately?