Of Snapchat stalkers and Musical.ly yours

How pretentious are you in your online updates? And how real should you be?

brunch Updated: Apr 20, 2018 13:42 IST
Shoba Narayan
Shoba Narayan
Hindustan Times
social media apps,new apps,social media
Living our lives on social media may be great for our personal brand, but it also means giving up a bit of our soul(Photo Imaging: Parth Garg)

The coolest app these days seems to be musical.ly and I want to get on it. My teenage daughter is horrified. “There are certain apps that are off limits to adults, ma,” she says. In our household, Snapchat is off limits to us parents, and so it seems, is musical.ly.

I take it personally when my kids ban me from their lives. I used to blindfold and play pinning the donkey with them and now they want me blindfolded from entire sections of their lives. I used to be their sanctum sanctorum – the place they ran to for hugs, comfort and peace. Now, it is social media. What are they posting on Snapchat and musical.ly, I wonder. Why I am not allowed to see it?

Digital natives versus wannabes

One day, my daughter and my nephew take me on a spin through musical.ly. They don’t show me their feeds but we laugh over the goofy videos that their friends have posted.

The problem with this incessant posting on social media is that while its marketing benefits are obvious, it erodes your sense of self

“You see,” says my daughter consolingly. “It’s just a place where you post silly videos of yourself.”

“Like Instagram or Vine,” I say, wanting to appear knowledgeable. In this topsy-turvy world, it has come down to this: a parent desperately trying to fake literacy to her digital native daughter.

“Oh no,” says my nephew, Harsha. “musical.ly is the opposite of Instagram. In Instagram, everyone is acting as if they have amazing lives.”

“You feel envious of their feeds and they feel envious of yours,” adds my daughter.

I feel a teaching moment coming and prickle with joy. “Is it so important to make them feel envious?” I ask.

I expect them to say No. I raised them to say, “Of course not. Life is about humility and not rubbing your good fortune in others’ faces.”

Instead they say, “Yup, that’s about it.”

Blessed...universe

In the splintered universe of social media, Instagram rules – at least for anyone under the age of 30. It is the one app that both my daughters cannot give up. Facebook is “over,” at least for them. Instagram, Snapchat, and musical.ly are where they live, document, and comment on each other’s lives. Everyone knows that the sickly sweet comments hide claws. Everyone understands that ‘likes’ have as many variations as tone of voice. You can ‘like’ the post of someone you detest just to show that you are over a fight; that you are taking the high road; that you are not a total jerk. Heck, you teach them a lesson by liking them.

The buzzword for everything these days is authenticity. Authenticity means knowing who you are, which requires you to reflect on your drives and triggers

“Facebook is the same way. I cannot stand it,” I confess to these two pimpled teenagers. They look at me inquiringly like Rafiki, the wise monkey in The Lion King.

“People only post the good stuff. I do the same. We all try to be humble and humorous about it. I mean, I don’t say ‘By God’s grace...,’ like our parents did, but...”

“Blessed,” interrupts my daughter. “That’s the hashtag these days.”

“Yeah, you post photos of a good meal and say #blessed,” says Harsha. “Good party #blessed. Great workout #blessed.”

“That’s so fake,” I burst out.

“Everything is fake on social media, ma,” says my daughter. “Everyone knows this. Nobody cares.”

I do.

You, really

Which is the real you? I don’t mean this in some sort of metaphysical way, or even in the merely physical “standing naked in the bathroom is the real me,” kind of way. Do you reveal yourself authentically on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Snapchat, musical.ly, Vine or Instagram? Do you even know who you are, given that you are posting so many variations of yourself in all these different media?

The buzzword for everything these days is authenticity. Authenticity means knowing who you are, which requires you to reflect on your drives and triggers. The problem with this incessant posting on social media is that while its marketing benefits are obvious, it erodes your sense of self. In the old days, people were fearful of cameras believing that if you took a photograph of a person, it would steal a bit of their soul. The same can be said of living our lives on social media. It may be great for our personal brand, but it also means giving up a bit of our soul.

Now let me go set myself up on musical.ly and figure out how to stalk the kids on Snapchat.

(This fortnightly column addresses the issue of parenting our parents, an integral part of This Indian Life and our culture. If you have stories about the weird and wonderful relationships that enrich or enervate your life, write in.)

From HT Brunch, April 15, 2018

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First Published: Apr 20, 2018 12:35 IST