Professional and domestic commitments aside, I was also working on the topic to write about, which delayed my regular blog. Then a friend suggested something that is saddening while being relevant and topical.
I have this close friend of mine who is quasi-addicted to social media. His morning begins with checking the phone for messages on WhatsApp and Facebook. He sends out good morning messages (along with the thought for the day – which apparently not everyone appreciates), to all his friends on WhatsApp, hits the like button on Facebook posts, before getting off the bed for his morning ablutions. His motive is very simple and altruist – he just wants friends to wake up every morning to a good thought… but the fact is that he has now got used to doing it every morning. No amount of cajoling or persuading by his wife has been able to get him off this fixation. It is not that he does nothing else – he attends to his professional and domestic responsibilities with equanimity, but cannot resist himself from checking his phone for updates every time it pings.
I am sure my friend is not the only one who does this. Social media has permeated into our daily lives to such a large extent that it has now become an intrinsic part of daily humdrum lives. At some level, social media has brought friends closer – I can vouch for it, since it got me in touch with school friends after almost twenty-five years of being incommunicado. But the detrimental effects far outweigh the perceived benefits that social media can bring into our lives. This friend who suggested the topic finds it rebarbative – she feels that it is extremely intrusive and invades the personal space that each individual has around her or him. While opening a delightful channel of communication between friends and well-wishers, it has also opened a Pandora’s box of unrealistic and unsolicited expectations. WhatsApp has the dreaded blue tick which indicates to the sender that you have read the message, and woe betide you in case the reply is delayed. Things have reached such a stage that a delay in responding to messages is now looked at as an offense on the part of the sender, conveniently forgetting the fact that the recipient may be genuinely busy or otherwise occupied. Or better still – honestly does not want to reciprocate (or just being nasty). What is it that transforms a mensch into an unsociable ogre, if he or she declines a reaction to social media posts? If a rejoinder is so imperative, would it not be better to pick up the phone and talk to the person? After all mobile call rates are dropping faster than the credibility of Rahul Gandhi! Social media platforms have created a comfortable divan for us to rest conveniently on, while sending out missives to our friends. We are regrettably retreating into self-made shells that get shattered with the most minor of confutations. Add to this, we even post our emotions and dispositions on social media (some of them downright silly), expecting people to like and comment. How does it affect the world if you had a fight with your spouse, or if you went for a midnight jog, or your cat gifted you a mouse (I kid you not)???
The other ill of social media remains the spreading of rumours and false news. Thespian actor Dilip Kumar (among others) has been an unintentional victim of this rumour-mongering, as he has “passed away” an innumerable number of times as per social media. I get forwards of many such hoax messages – some of them sent with the sole intention of creating panic and pandemonium among people. It infuriates me no end when educated friends forward messages without ascertaining the veracity of such annoying prattle. With Google available on all phones, and all news channels being online, it takes merely a few seconds to authenticate such news. Also available are multiple sites (www.snopes.com comes to mind immediately), which help validate propaganda and half-truths, but no one wants to make the effort. On my part, I try and correct such forwards with genuine links (if available) and do not forward it further. Another gripe I have with social media are the online petitions that keep popping up. Even though for veritably noble causes, they are absolutely useless from a legal standpoint – so all the online petitions are factually ineffective and hence serve no purpose.
Social media has its use and is expedient to a certain extent, but its misuse has made it a menace to the society. Sadly, the social media-addicted friend mentioned above is yours truly. It does not paint me in a flattering light, but I have always believed that unless one can admit to their inherent faults, one can never remediate it. The mirror reflects several other perturbing facets of my psyche that are splintered and needs mending – impatience, anger, ego, selfishness to name a few – I see slivers of each of these, every time I stand before it. The path to self-actualization and course correction is difficult but I am taking it one step at a time – it is arduous, strenuous and daunting, but surely not as demanding as refuting misinformation that keeps cropping up on social media!