(Anti)Social Media?

”I have 200 friends on MySpace!”

“But you do not know any of them!”

“But that is the beauty of it!”

Yes, yes, you folks – the all too familiar scene from the first season of The Big Bang Theory of a conversation between Sheldon Cooper and Leonard Hofstadter about being (anti)social. Also recently, I chanced upon a befitting meme (of sorts) on (Anti)Social Media (where else?) aptly depicting an emergency scene: fire in a building. People were running down a stairwell. Not everyone seemed to be in a hurry though. It showed a very sharp, quick-thinking and ambidextrous young man (yes, he was using both his hands) typing out on his phone, carefree whilst people behind him look distraught. Smoke billowed in the background. The caption for the artwork:

‘Kindly leave the building in case of an emergency and only then update your social networks. Thank you.’

Ah, kids these days. No no – kids and adults alike these days.

Picture this: A Chinese city has installed a special purpose sidewalk for ‘perpetually’ distracted pedestrians. It is a 165 foot stretch lane, bifurcated with one side reading ‘use cellphones at your own risk, and the other reading strictly ‘no cell phones allowed’.

One can draw two conclusions from this – there are two ways to interpret this (on a global scale):

1) There are too many people habituated to using their phones whilst walking that necessitated a special purpose sidewalk

2) There are too few people not habituated to using their phones whilst walking that necessitated a special purpose sidewalk reading strictly ‘no cell phones allowed’ to safeguard the ones who do not from random collisions with preoccupied fellow pedestrians.

Well, that looks like a quintessential ‘six of one’ and ‘half a dozen of the other’ example, does it not? In actuality, no, it is not. We all (including me) have been guilty of falling into the first category.

Do you know what is ironic? I was actually reading about the same on my phone as I paved my way through a bustling sidewalk (no, I made that up). ‘What’s up’ is not even a phrase anymore verbally – it is often overpowered in comprehension by its homophone WhatsApp.

And how it has taken the world by storm.

As much as the once famed dialogue in the film The Social Network that went as ‘Facebook me when you get home’ told by two fellow students to Mark Zuckerberg found prominence in society, so is ‘WhatsApp me’ or ‘WhatsApp the assignment’ or ‘WhatsApp me my vehicle insurance right now, I have been held up by a cop’ finding their prominence today (I did not make that up; it did happen near Kanteerava Stadium in Bangalore – thank heavens for WhatsApp, we got the vehicular insurance WhatsApp-ed by a friend).

Social Networks, despite their monikers serving to be ‘popular’ proper nouns, have also been turned into verbs. Now the way these ‘mediums of communication’ are sneaking into every part of our lives is scary, to say the least. The other day, I was about to register onto a website – I was almost there. But something stopped me. The winds of change have swept the internet – I had to register through Facebook (but nothing will be posted on Facebook without my permission). But why? Why link Facebook (quite personal – which is again debatable the way people use it these days) to something totally – not quite personal? My uncertainty caused me to not register for the website.

This is the case for many of us – a kind of love/hate relationship with social media.

Facebook & WhatsApp. Two pillars of our (anti?)social life.

At one point, I was so distraught with the former that I deactivated my account for a couple of months. But after the couple of months I had to activate it again because it has become indispensable these days – anything from an assignment sheet to a wedding or farewell album to an old, bubbly, resurrected group conversation, were all happening on Facebook. It has reached such a level of prominence that a few companies vet their prospective candidates via their Facebook profiles.

I initially loved it when I joined for the first time. What is not to love?

All blue in hue, it all seemed clean and true, like fresh coffee brew. (Ignore the last part)

But then it got a bit irritating. Spending (read wasting) a lot of time scrolling through random news feed seemed a good way to pass time, but after ceasing the activity, I used to get irritated with it and with myself.

And I am definitely not alone.

Facebook has become a necessity now.

And then there is WhatsApp.

Last seen at 15:58 hrs – ‘Why has he/she not replied back?’

Profile Picture & Status – ‘Oh, they just had a breakup. Oh, they are together.’

99+ group messages – ‘What have I missed?’

Natural human tendency causes us to stereotype such situations when in all actuality, it would be mute – nothing noteworthy.

I have come across many people online citing life as bliss without WhatsApp. They uninstalled it, and they find the nuisance removed from their lives. They hated it.

Of course, when one finds only negative in something, he/she will want to get rid of it and will feel it is actually bliss without it. But little do they realise there always is another side to a coin. Somtimes, it flips over to show itself, sometimes we have to do the flipping ourselves.

WhatsApp is a prime example. If one gets addicted to it and tapping at it all day, everyday, he/she is bound to get bored/annoyed by it at one point – we all have a saturation point.

The key is to use any technology in moderation.

Coming back to Facebook, it is a great way to look back and reminisce at good times enjoyed in the bygone era, the old times with old buddies or engage in productive activity on one’s ‘project/work group/page’.

Again, it all lies in the way we use it. In moderation.

The older generation love social media for it is a fantastic way to be in touch with relatives the world over.

And about the newer generation – almost all love it – for those who do not (of which I was part) – ‘in moderation’ are the words, because social media is here to stay.

Social Media becoming (Anti)Social Media is but controlled by our use in moderation or the lack thereof.

I have been there and done that – deactivated Facebook and disabled WhatsApp but I came back.

Why?

Because there was a screen in front of me playing in colour. And I had spectacles on with monochromatic filter on. I saw only black & white. I had to remove the filter to see the colour.

Social Media was the screen. 

The filter was ‘use in moderation’. 

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One Comment

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  1. Very nicely written Shakthi. Every coin has two sides. If we understand that, we can appreciate all views and learn to live with it in peace. Good luck for more such thoughtful posts.

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