The Social Media Corundum
Preparation for UPSC is a tough task. The exam is academically very tough and demanding. The world knows this. But very few people know how mentally challenging this exam is. Many aspirants lose their mental peace in the process and it becomes very traumatizing for them. It can be safely assumed that for 80-85% of aspirants, the journey is not easy.
I faced similar challenges and hence wanted to pen down my experience of the preparation. I would like to particularly address the dilemmas I faced regarding social media, friendships and pursuing my hobbies while preparation.
So, the story starts in October 2016 when I finally made up my mind to quit my job at Tata Motors in Pune. To be honest, it was a very good job. Reasonable salary, security of tenure (Tata’s you see 😀 ), awesome city and good friends. What else do you want?
But ”the heart wants what it wants” and my heart was struck with UPSC (Why it got struck is a different story altogether 😀 ).
So I wanted to call it quits. And I was ready to go any lengths to crack UPSC. I already sacrificed by job (among other things) and I was ready for more sacrifices. And the next sacrifice was that of my Social Media and my friends.
I had heard a lot of toppers saying that they de-activated their social media accounts during preparation. And I wanted to be a quintessential topper. You see, I didn’t wanted to be myself, I wanted to be someone else. So the next step was obvious. I de-activated all of them—Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp and everything else.
Now, it wasn’t easy to be honest. Not because i am addicted to social media but because I was a very social person. I make friends, I like to interact, I like to connect and I wanted to move on in life. It’s not that I am a total extrovert. No I am not. But I had a very dynamic life in my college. I was a part of society that in fact conducted debates and discussions. I had a vibrant daily routine. So deactivating social media and staying away from friends meant i am not going to do all this for some time.
But this was supposed to be totally worth it. I would get selected soon, then I could come back to all of them right. Fair deal. So i went into isolation as soon as i landed into Old Rajinder Nagar. I stayed in Shadipur because i didn’t wanted to make friends in crowded ORN, never talked much with others in coaching, no social media obviously, and i clocked 10 hrs daily study (apart from coaching hours). It was obviously very draining. My life was not moving ahead, i was living a secluded life, nobody to talk to and even if i think of enjoying for a while, I soon started feeling guilty of getting distracted and not concentrating well in studies.
I was not myself, that was obvious. But i was studying i thought. That would sail me through the exam so i consoled myself. I gave my prelims in 2017. I failed by about 3 marks. Now I wasn’t that bad in studies but here I was. Left friends, job, well wishers, social media and life for an exam and I failed the first stage itself. It was tragic. And i thought there was no explanation for it.
I came back home from Delhi and it was becoming worse. Since i failed prelims, i had almost nothing to do for next 4-5 months. I decided i would anyway prepare for mains but still. It was a year almost and i was in complete isolation. I won’t say I ever went into depression because that wasn’t the case. I was normal but my mental peace was disturbed to some extent due to isolation. It was affecting my personality too.
I started asking some fellow students how they cope up with this. Some people said that they avoid social media because it’s depressing to see others move ahead in life while you are struck in preparation. Now it may be valid for some people as everyone’s need is different but it wasn’t a valid explanation for me. I had absolutely no problem in people moving ahead in life as long as I know I am also onto something worthwhile. In fact i believed that there will always be someone who will be moving ahead in life and by this logic, I should never ever use social media.
Some people said that they avoid social media because it compromises their study hours. Now i was studying for 8 hrs a day and i found that to be sufficient for my need. What i do in the remaining 16 hours never compromised my 8 hours study. So this again was not a valid explanation to convince me to remain away from social media.
Thereafter, i decided to give social media and my friends a try. I started easing out a bit and started to come out of my shell. I contacted my old friends and to my surprise, they reciprocated very kindly even after a long gap. I started social media too gradually. Started going out and pursued my hobbies. I started to feel better and my studies were also satisfactory. I even attend my friend’s wedding 1.5 months before Prelims 2018.
I cleared Prelims 2018 and then cleared mains too. But this time I failed interview by 19 marks. Nevertheless, all this was very counter-intuitive. In my first attempt, i was extremely isolated, only studied and failed prelims but in my next attempt i reached interview while simultaneously being active elsewhere as well.
So after my 2nd failed attempt, I decided to throw away all the fakery. I knew what i liked doing and what distracted me. I started travelling as well. In last 1.5 years, I went to Goa (after interview in 2019), Pune (after prelims in 2019), Hyderabad (after mains in 2019) , Udaipur (after interview in 2020) etc. I was quite active on social media too. These trips used to be stress busters after hectic exams. I used to teach at a Coaching and invested in share market so I got some money to spend and rest i was fortunate enough to be supported by parents.
Fortunately, i got selected this year with AIR 372.
It is now that i realised— “Real depression comes when you stop doing the things you love”. It may also come if you pretend to be not you but someone else. If Virat Kohli starts to imitate Rahul Dravid and his lifestyle, he will never be able to make runs. And if Rahul Dravid starts having tattoos and lives a flamboyant lifestyle like Virat Kohli then he would also not be what he is. I am not trying to say i am Virat Kohli (even mentioning this makes me feel stupid), i am also a lesser mortal and a normal human being. The example is just to give an analogy.
Life is too short to be someone else. To achieve big in life, you need to be the best version of yourself. I am not at all saying that you don’t have to make sacrifices. Obviously you have to and there are no free lunches in life so you have to make sacrifices. But don’t be unreasonably harsh on yourself. Take your time out, take breaks if you want but don’t ever forget your priorities. Even when I took my time off from studies, I always remembered my priorities and came back to studies with an increased vigor.
Some of my friends now say that if I had you not ”wasted” my time in other activities I would have probably secured a better rank. But I feel, its because i was able to stay mentally stable that i was able to secure a rank. Otherwise, the strategy of isolating myself didn’t even helped me in clearing prelims. When you become too isolated, you often become too conscious and fearful about your results. This sometimes dampens your performance. Sometimes, a little bit of detachment from the result often does wonders in your performance.
I would also like to tell others that do not follow blindly any advice of any selected candidate. Even i would ask you to not follow blindly what i wrote here. How i prepared in my 3rd attempt may lead to a failure for a large number of people who actually need a disciplined life to study and perform well in exam.
What i want to convey from this article is that, listen to everyone but customize the advice as per your own need. Studies are important but mental health is also important. And for gods sake, don’t compare your life with life of others and feel bad about it. Everyone has a different trajectory in life. Just keep it simple, live a normal life but always remember your priorities.
And last but not the least, sometimes Detachment is the key.
The below quote from Bhagwatgita helped me a lot and may help you remain stoic in you preparation.
य: सर्वत्रानभिस्नेहस्तत्तत्प्राप्य शुभाशुभम् |
नाभिनन्दति न द्वेष्टि तस्य प्रज्ञा प्रतिष्ठिता || 57||
BG 2.57: One who remains unattached under all conditions, and is neither delighted by good fortune nor dejected by tribulation, he is a sage with perfect knowledge.
All the very best to everyone. 🙂
Thanks for reading. 🙂
PS- The article is completely based on author’s personal experiences. Readers are advised to use their own personal discretion while dealing with Social Media as it is a double edged sword.