Snapchat continues to flummox most users out of their teens. Yet, it recently overtook Twitter in the number of daily active users. We got a mother of two 20-somethings to try out the app that’s more than just a silly distraction.
Being a bona fide resident of the Paleolithic Age could come with a host of hazards, most of them of the gadgety kind. Technology is easy, mum, says the IIT-ian son breezily. As easy as cultivating marijuana in flowerpots on the windowsill. Social networking is even cooler, reassures the footballer son.
As cool as taking a penalty shot against a team of zombies. Of the things that have regularly flown, crackled and grazed past my bewildered head in a decade that has seen the most astonishing social networking phenomenon – Orkut, Facebook, Twitter – the latest twister to be unleashed on me, Snapchat, literally snaps sanity through the middle.
Here’s a world where you can be privy to what’s happening, minute by minute, in a dozen other lives, of known and unknown people. The catch is the super-short interval when a piece of somebody’s life is flashed out, if you’ve caught it, great, if you’ve missed it, too bad, sorry, no second chances. There is an alluring quirkiness, serendipity and urgency to the whole affair, which could easily turn addictive, like gambling or horse racing.
To assist my feeble tech-challenged mind into the snappy-happy experience, I’m initiated into following the ‘story’ of two adventurers attempting to climb Mount Everest without supplemental oxygen. As the duo pitch tents, brush their teeth and battle altitude sickness, I experience a vicarious feeling of adventure. It’s exhilarating! I can feel the chill, taste the palpable sense of danger and am deeply disappointed when just a little short of the summit, one of the climbers buckles down and has to call it quits.
I follow my fashionista bestie on Snapchat next as she catches up on the latest sale in town. I’m biting my nails with worry that the selfie on the escalator won’t end with her landing flat on her face and shaking a furious fist when a fellow shopper tries to snatch the orange halter top that she has been eyeing. I’m getting there! I’m actually beginning to live other people’s lives through this Snapperchapperwhatever mobile app. I may be social networking material after all and not a lost cause, technologically.
And when I realise that I was actually doing something as unimportant as penning a novel when I missed the morphing scandal of the century, I could slap myself in frustration. All morals, ethics and priorities are going for a major toss and I wonder what the philosophers and spiritual gurus would have to say about this.
Does a life lived partially in the virtual world make the actual life less lived? By perennially scrambling to capture, record and convey snippets of our lives, are we robbing our lived moments of their value and vitality? Resistance is futile, whispers the footballer and Star Trek fanatic enticingly into my ear, we are the Borg… It’s true, I’m being inexorably assimilated like millions of others, and shamelessly pledging to devote my days to voyeuristic occupations.
Very soon the vast ball of technology will suck in all of humanity and end in a homogenised mass of minds sans privacy or personal demarcations, I think fancifully, the absolute stuff of science fiction but scary thoughts all the same. But to quote Anakin Skywalker (with a bit of distortion), either one is with technology or against it, no middle ground.
It’s such a fun way to pass a few seconds of your time, the perfect stressbuster in the middle of work, says Supratim Basu, a young professional from Bangalore, who particularly likes the featuring of everyday global trends. But all of it should be in a light vein, insist his friends, no malice should be aimed at anybody.
The general consensus of this group of youngsters is that poking fun at celebrities is in bad taste and could get repulsive after the first few laughs. It’s the raw feel of the sliver of life you’re viewing that’s appealing says Syamantak B, a Mumbai banker. There is a wonderful spontaneity in the unstructured manner that Snapchat pictures/videos are sent. Multiple perspectives to the same event are also hugely interesting, he says, citing the video of the hugely popular Las Vegas party recently.
Captions, doodles and lens graphics offer such an immense spectrum of personal expression, I think excitedly till my mug shot blinks out, sporting fluorescent horns and fangs. I’ll never get any work done at this rate. I must resist the enticements of social networking, live wholly in the present, in the here and now as the great sages advise, live in the moment and not on the mobile. I will not miss the actual smells and feel of the first rains in Mumbai, trying to walk with the Himalayan climbers, who are now headed for Kilimanjaro, I hear. I will detox, detox, detox and then detox some more, technologically. Having made that momentous decision, I immediately click to follow Lady Gaga.
Kankana Basu is a Mumbai-based novelist.
From HT Brunch, June 26, 2016
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