Saturday, 9 January 2016

The Virtual World of Social Media

Man is a social animal.

A letter which changed the world.
Not a very long time ago, when I was a school student, life was hectic. What with one thing and the other I found myself short of time most of the times. Fortunately or otherwise, those days passed and then came the glorious days when you are done with school, finished all your exams, assured yourself of a decent college, worries have taken a backseat, and spare time is there to be dealt with in gallons. That was when I decided to have a taste of something hitherto not experienced. So with an open mind and my brother's laptop (due to not owning one at that point of time), I decided to try my hand at "social media".

If every generation has one obsession or craze in it's growing up years, then ours would definitely be the generation of social media. Even this would not be strictly true, for I know quite a number of septuagenarians who are active social media users, and I can't quite call them to be of my generation. Anyway, point remains that if you are literate, have access to internet and have something of a friend-circle, you probably have one (or more) Facebook accounts to your name. "Probably", because now and again you run into quirks like me who are not a part of this norm. My experiment with social media failed miserably, and this blog is about How and Why!

The beginning was quite nice. A cool profile picture, a dozen "Friends" from school, catching up with what everyone else was doing. I remember around five of us had even successfully arranged a meet-up to redeem ourselves from boredom, via Facebook. I was running into people whom I had not met for one decade or so, and it was pretty exciting to see how they had changed in all these years. And it was all very nice. Once the initial thrill was done with, I started the process of keeping myself up to date with what others are thinking and writing of. There was a usual flood of Notifications and News Feeds, and I religiously followed up all those I knew and liked.

Picture Courtesy: IBNLive
A month or two passed. It was then that I asked myself, that what are these people actually talking about? A lot of things, for sure. I liked some of what I read, disliked some, and ignored others. But are these people talking about everything under the sky and beyond because they really have a strong firm informed opinion on the subject, or is it because internet is free and there is that girl you want to impress? "The wise men speak because they have something to say; the fools speak because they have to say something." A world of fools.....? Start thinking, people.

Another couple of weeks, and everything just seemed so FAKE. There were these couple of friends of mine from school, whom I had known from a very young age. Having interacted with them extensively I knew them inside out. But who is this guy I see on Facebook?! Is he really the same person I am used to seeing in the real world? The pretensions were oh so easy to recognize. Another incident worth sharing is regarding this young man I know who is a really decent poet. He writes in Bengali, puts his heart into his writings, and he puts up his modest attempts at poetry on Facebook. He apparently has this large circle of "poetry-appreciating culture-loving" friends who are always the first ones to Like and Share his works. Some time later, the poet, while in conversation with one of the aforementioned friends, refers to something in one of his poems. The "friend", it emerges, has not the slightest idea about the piece of poetry he supposedly had appreciated and "Liked", before sharing it with other individuals who are presumably not too different from him. Lastly, I have heard from friends about someone who upon being bereaved had actually updated his Facebook status within an hour: "Mother died this morning, #feeling_sad".

Bringing internet to every doorstep.
Hollie Annie from Virginia, United States says: ".....I USED to feel alive when I woke up in the morning. But lately I dread getting out of my bed, and when I do... my first thought is to check my messages and absently scroll through an endless sea of distractions that keep me from focusing on REALITY......" I might add to her accurate description a statistic I had read which did a survey of the percentage of smartphone users today who check their phones in the morning before brushing their teeth. I do not remember the exact number, but the percentage was alarmingly high. This phenomenon, hence is not a local but a global one.

When Mark Zuckerberg dreams of bringing every human online or Narendra Modi talks of a Digital India, I have absolutely no problems with it. As a student I do not need to be told the importance of the internet in academics. A digitized nation would mean lesser paperwork, more efficiency and zero corruption. So by no means am I anti-digitization. But merely bringing internet to the doorstep of every individual does not make us a modern state; ensuring its proper utilization is as big a job. Giving 3G connectivity to the remotest Indian village will not suffice Mr. Zuckerberg, what has to be ensured is that Feynman is Googled as nearly as frequently as Facebook. Cut the crap, get down to what matters.

Five months and I had had enough. Many of my friends had advised me against leaving the Facebook community, as "a lot of important work gets discussed and shared on Facebook, which you will miss out on". Much as I appreciated these thoughts, I was ready to accept certain inconveniences for the sake of retaining my peace of mind. Also, having an absolutely superlative degree of self-control mechanism within me (sarcasm intended), I could not risk falling into the addiction that was social media. Thus ended my experiment.
A prerequisite to the nation moving forward.

Dear Reader, please do not feel that I have some personal vengeance against social media barons or the society at large. Neither think of me as a social misfit craving for attention, for I am not. Social media has changed the world, there is no denying that, and what the likes of Mr. Zuckerberg have done is nothing less than a revolution in terms of the people it has affected. I have merely come to develop a dislike for what we have converted this immense boon into, where "Friends" are made with the click of a mouse your popularity is measured by the number of Likes your profile picture has, but "real" contact is absent. Surely, our society can do better than that!

The greatest piece of irony is that despite my tirade against social media, it is the very same platform where this blog will probably be shared (please do!) if people are to indeed read it! Social media merely reflects the society it is a part of. So let us hope for a better future, where social media is not so fake, where people mean what they say, where Friends mean more than clicks of a mouse, and where "Social" media is indeed "Real"!