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The Great Escapism

Do me a favour and treat these shows as you would treat a soap opera; enjoy it for that moment, but the moment the end credits start to roll, get off that couch, says Karan Johar.

india Updated: Jul 25, 2009 20:47 IST
Karan Johar

Over the past few days the news cycle has been on a rotation of sorts. The same news stories, day after day, with names changed to add variety. Crooked politicians, water logged roads and water shortages in buildings. It all sounds incredibly exhausting if you ask me, almost as if everyone has his or her focus on something else.

Now if you think I’m hinting at something, you’re absolutely right. No one really cares whether our roads get fixed or our trains get safer, because everyone’s too busy tuning into (and then ripping apart) the reality show du jour. Whether it’s discussions on Rakhi Sawant’s show that easily takes up hours of otherwise valuable conversation time, or whether or not Indian’s should be playing Sach ka Saamna, to what the boozing and promiscuous twenty-somethings are doing in Splitsvilla, it seems everyone is more interested in someone else’s reality to give their own much thought.

Why is it that we find ourselves so transfixed by the lives of others (brilliant film, by the way, check it out)? Is this a social dysfunction that we are all possessed with? It seems to be in our inherent nature as a community to always want to get into our neighbours’ business. When an accident happens on the streets, everyone feels the need to clamor around, offering some sort of an analysis of the situation, some sage advice, and lots and lots of criticism (it is to be noted that very few actually help out in those situations.) Or similarly when two neighbours find themselves in a quarrel, it almost always carries out into the streets for the entire neighborhood to be privy to.

This doesn’t happen just in Bombay, mind you, but in virtually every pocket of the country, someone else is highly interested in someone else’s life.

Clearly, we’re a very voyeuristic bunch. We unabashedly enquire about people’s lives like confident peeping toms. Do we do it because it makes us feel better about our own lives, knowing that somewhere, someone is worse off? Do we feed off of other people’s issues to feel more strong and confident in our own lives? It shocks me to ask; is voyeurism the new escapism?

In today’s technology fueled world, voyeurism has transcended to another level entirely. Facebook, Twitter, Perezhilton, all sites dedicated to knowing what (and who) someone else is doing, wearing, and watching are amongst the most popular sites on the internet.

Personally, I’m fairly hooked onto Facebook. It gives me immense pleasure to see the hot studs from my batch in college, (you know, the ones who would kick me around a little and walk the corridors with an air of arrogance) who are now more rotundly than studly.

With friend requests pouring in every day, I can’t help but wonder whether Facebook is really about connecting friends or about being able to spy on people’s lives without feeling guilty (but don’t fool yourself, if you find yourself going to someone’s profile more than once a day without interacting with them, you are stalking them.)

It doesn’t take a sociologist to understand why we do what we do. Simply put, voyeurism is a great way to distract from the bigger issues at hand. Distractions can be therapeutic, and sometimes can help to find perspective, but the danger starts when the very things that distract you tend to run a blurring line between the one life that should be of utmost importance to you; your own.

So how much of friendship is Facebook really about? And for that matter, how ‘real’ is our reality television? If reality TV in India is real, then synthetic, fake, and artificial must really be virtues. Once we fall into patterns of behavior, it usually takes something extreme to break us out of it. It is common knowledge that one addiction replaces another, so while I come up with something equally addictive for everyone to invest large amounts of their time into, do me a favor and treat these shows as you would treat a soap opera; enjoy it for that moment, allow yourself to get immensely hooked, but the moment the end credits start to roll, get off that couch and get back to your life, the one you can actually do something about.