How many groups are you a part of on Whatsapp?
You know how it goes, don’t you? There are umpteen groups you are a part of. Since there are a finite number of people you know, some people are with you on more than one group. You can hardly quibble about that for you are right with them in all of those groups.
The more time we spend interconnected via a myriad of devices, the less time we have left to develop true friendships in the real world.
~ Alex Morritt
The problem is when they forward a video, photo or write up. The same thing is forwarded to all the groups you are both on. As the result, by the end of the day, your phone is bursting at the seams with stuff. Some of the stuff is interesting, but when received in triplicate or quadruplicate, it quickly becomes dull. The shine wears out; the interest wanes and it turns hopelessly mundane.
But that’s not really my grouse.
With all the means of communication at hand, we have ample means to share our lives with people all across the globe, in real time. We are always connected. One text message is all it takes to reach the people who matter to you the most. The term, out of touch is becoming irrelevant. In today’s times, with multiple strands of inter-connectedness, if you are out of touch with people, it is because you choose to be. There isn’t really any other reason, or excuse.
I’m very aware we are the first generation ever to have such incredible opportunities to express ourselves publicly to a worldwide audience.
~ Sara Sheridan
Today, as I stood trying to warm my toes in the tiny square of morning sunshine that slants into my terrace garden, I thought of this new phenomenon of Forwarding and Sharing. Our reach is wider than it ever was. We are so verbose in our sharing. There is never a dull moment on any social media you are on. And yet!
Though we share so voluminously (and desperately), it is mostly impersonal and unimportant stuff we share. Interesting yes, but not really things that move our world. Our opinions and choices are sometimes reflected by the kind of things we choose to share, but not always.
Our communication has been reduced to forwarding stuff. We don’t talk. We don’t say, “Oh, I made gajar ka halwa today.” Or, “Oh my son fell off his bicycle and I feel like crying because his would is deep and he is in pain.” Or, “I’m so proud of my daughter because….” Instead, we forward a video of cute little dog pups gamboling away.
Don’t get me wrong, such videos are cute. I have nothing against them. Though I must confess when I receive them in triplicate, they do get on my nerves. Barring that, I’m fine with them… almost.
Everyone’s like sheep on social media; like, one person starts making noise, and everyone’s like, ‘Hey, yeah!’ and then you got a whole bunch of people making noise at you.
When I see that such videos (or photos or write-ups) are replacing real conversation, I’m sot so okay with them. What really gets my goat is when I see the exact same thing being shared on the exact same group by multiple people. In other words, no one is reading, everyone is just sending. The same inane stuff, over and over. Oh, it is exhausting!
I am reminded of a gentleman I would call Mr Mehra.
Mr Mehra visited my institute nearly eleven years ago. He was elderly, nearly as old as my father. Initially I thought he wanted to inquire about the training for his son or daughter. I was surprised when he said he wanted to attend my classes himself.
Naturally intrigued, I got into a conversation with him, trying to understand why he felt he needed a Life Coach. An hour into the story, he stopped short abruptly. To my horror, he burst into tears!
Concerned, I left my chair and sat beside him. A few minutes later, he quietened down somewhat. I kept silent, waiting for him to tell me what was troubling him. To this day, I haven’t forgotten what he told me that day. His very words are seared into my memory. And I know they will never fade.
“I have never had any bad habits”, he began. “I don’t smoke or drink, I don’t gamble. I don’t fritter away my time loitering about or stand on street corners arguing pointlessly. I did not waste money or time buying silly things or on other frivolous pursuits. But now, today, as I near the end of my life, I am deeply troubled by a question.”
“Which question”, I asked gently.
“I did not waste time and energy doing silly things, but what significant things did I do with that time and energy? THAT is the question that plagues me. I know the answer to it is- NOTHING! And I’m no longer prepared to live with that answer”, he declared vehemently.
“You are a Life Coach”, he said. “Tell me what I should do so that I don’t feel I’ve let my life pass me by with nothing to show for it. With all the potential I had, steering clear of bad habits alone doesn’t make my life full. Not doing the bad is all very well. But that’s not all there is in life, is there? I want to do something significant and important. I want to be remembered as someone who did something good, not merely as someone who didn’t do anything bad.”
The rest, as they say, is history.
If things continue this way, there will be two societies – or at least I hope there will be two – the one you’re helping create, and an alternative to it. You and your ilk will live, willingly, joyfully, under constant surveillance, watching each other always, commenting on each other, voting and liking and disliking each other, smiling and frowning, and otherwise doing nothing much else.
~ Dave Eggers
In the noise of compulsive Forwarding and Sharing, your real issues get crowded out. Since everyone is mass sharing the same stuff, you feel it would be inappropriate to share moments of your personal journey- joyful or not. You hide your struggles; you make light of your victories. At any given moment of time, though you share so much, hardly any of your connections know what is going on in your life.
Everyone in the room, enters it after leaving the most significant parts of themselves outside the door. They come in prepared to be normal and non-special. They come in, dare I say it, prepared to be inconsequential, silly and pointless. They are prepared to chew the same piece of gum that has been chewed by many mouths before them- and will be chewed by as many mouths after them. I hope you are grossed out by the imagery.
I’m grossed out by what the imagery represents.