Social media, communication & tolerance!

We were all very enthusiastic about the launch of social media. First Orkut and then Facebook made it incredibly easy to locate long-lost friends and re-invent the bond of friendship. It was amazing to be able to share pictures over the internet and be able to see what the little girl who studied with you once had turned into as a young woman or to what your cousin who lives in another country(and seldom visits) looks like. It was almost a revolution that converted a social platform into a million-dollar industry. The world was no longer too big to stay in touch! To add to the connectivity, came devices known as smartphones, which brought everything from desks and laps to fingertips. Suddenly, taking your own pictures became the latest fad and viewing the analytics of those pictures on social media the favourite past time. After all, the mobile doubled up as a camera as well an internet access device.
We were then introduced to the world of apps. One of these apps, WatsApp, revolutionised the art of messaging. Messaging became instant and sharing songs and videos and pictures even simpler. It was even possible to create groups and have a group chat, much like sitting with your friends and gossiping.
Everything sounds right! Doesn’t it? Well yes, just that convenience became an obsession soon and conquered our lives. The impact is huge.

Pictures …once upon a time were clicked for keepsakes, as memories that could be revisited and nostalgia experienced. Now, pictures are clicked for the purpose of being posted online. Even trips are undertaken to post location updates on social media. Go on a trip and forget your phone at home. You will be the only person actually sight-seeing and enjoying the beauty of nature. Everyone else will be busy clicking or posing.
There is also a new breed of pouting and posing individuals who strongly believe in staying in the frame and clicking too. Selfie, as this kind of a picture is called, is the latest craze. What started as an innocent wish to be not left out of a picture for the sake of clicking, turned into full-blown narcissism. When I saw a young couple walk into a cafe, I expected them to be engaged in a conversation over coffee. What I saw instead was the girl taking her selfies again and again, till she probably managed to take one she was happy with. Even while walking out an hour later, she paused a couple of times to pose for a selfie. I was wondering why she was with the boy; she seemed very content in the company of her phone alone.
The craze even crossed boundaries of sensitivity when people posted selfies with dying relatives and crashed vehicles. One person posted a sad faced selfie with his dead grandmother and wrote ,’Feeling sad’. Seriously? Have we become so bereft of well-wishers in the real world that we need sympathies over the internet? No. Actually, we are ignoring those around us and spending time and energy on the internet.
Selfie craze took a dangerous dimension when a boy in U.S.A. tried to commit suicide because he could not take the perfect selfie. In India, another died while trying to take a selfie with a fast moving train. A couple fell and drowned while attempting the perfect selfie. Disturbingly, the maximum number of deaths due to selfies occurred in India last year.

More communication-less bond
Of course, communication has increased with the advent of social media. We update location status the moment we enter a great restaurant (and all our friends know where we are) , without just looking around and absorbing the beauty of its ambience. The rest of the time is spent in checking the phone for notifications of comments and likes on the status. There is an urgent need to respond back as well. So you are kind of having that meal with a dozen friends online but you are actually not enjoying the meal with the one who is accompanying you. Well, maybe he is also busy doing the same.
So, while you are communicating more, are you forming any real bonds that are possible with face to face conversation? It is good to be in touch with friends who reside far away but isn’t being disconnected to those who are literally near you, too big a price to pay?
The pictures, the statuses, are also becoming a big source of jelaousy and insecurity, for we only see the rosy picture of the other’s world.
We visited friends to wish them on special occasions. Then we started calling them up. Now we just leave a message on the social media and the work is done. Where is the personal touch?
No one travelling in a train/bus nowadays, strikes a conversation with a fellow passenger. With the world in our hands, even an arm’s length seems too long. The contradiction is ironical.
Even within families, everyone is busy with their cell phones, checking and responding to group chats. ‘We’ time has changed to ‘online’ time.

Social media has made it very easy for everyone to opine. Good! But when we post something, why do we expect everyone to agree with us? Anyone who dares to disagree, is bombarded with angry backlash and the reality of these relationships formed over the virtual space comes to fore.
Let me share a few I experienced myself.
A chat group of college time batch-mates was formed. Someone included me too in the group of 80 odd people. One fine day, one of them posted a picture of him driving a luxury car without seat-belt and his child standing through the sun roof, priding over the blatant refusal to adhere to traffic rules and getting away with it. A couple of others reprimanded the act, citing example of the country they are now residing in(out of India). The conversation soon turned into an argument and went from traffic rules to patriotism to personal attacks. I was shocked. A few ‘wise’ ones dropped in and called a truce.
People argue over religious and political inclinations and then commence personal attacks and the whole thing takes an ugly turn. How can you not believe in Mr.So-and-So when I do? Understandable?
A family member instead of sitting together with the others and debating over a relevant issue in the family, decided to use a ‘family group’ to vent out one-sided opinions and judgments, not bothering about the impact words have. Is it because it is easy to write out inconsiderate words than say them? Or that it takes courage to face a person and then be inconsiderate? Chats on the phone cannot replace conversations. The written word cannot replace the spoken one.
I have selectively chosen to be a dormant participant in all the groups I have. Some battles are just not worth fighting for.
There was a time back in the day when we communicated via letters. Would we write a letter to someone to discuss a highly important thing or sit with him/her to do it? Are we going forward or receding backwards? Beats me!
Tweeting is a great way to communicate, agreed. But can 140 alphabets truly convey the meaning? So many of them are judged and misjudged and leave the person who posted the tweet repenting the moment it was done.

The key-moderation
Don’t read and think that I am against social media. I am a big fan. I just believe that a little bit of moderation is required. We just need to know when to stop.
– Rationalise the use of social media. Do not let it become an addiction.
– Do not replace reality with the online world. When you fall sick, your neighbour will be the one helping you. Sympathetic comments and sad emojis won’t call an ambulance for you.
– Do not argue on chats. You feel like having an argument, call the person and sort it out amongst you two. Why make a public demonstration out of it?
– Matters are solved around tables, not over social media. Walking out on a meeting is taking a stand; leaving a group to express disagreement…well, not effective really.
– Selfies are for fun; do not over-indulge. Get rid of that selfie-stick while walking down a road. It looks ridiculous and can be very dangerous.
– Cherish your travel,cherish the moments. Photographs are for memories of the place, not for memories of the photograph.
– Be tolerant. We are all different. The world would be a boring place if we were not.
– Use the social media to stay in touch, not to lose touch with reality.
– For goodness sake, keep kids away from social media. We never had mobiles as children,yet we are addicted. What will be its impact on the kids of this generation who were born to face a mobile clicking their picture?

Enjoy the boons of technology. don’t let it enslave you.


Author’s note: This blog post is inspired by the blogging marathon hosted on IndiBlogger for the launch of the #Fantastico Zica from Tata Motors. You can apply for a test drive of the hatchback Zica today.

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