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Random Forays: Social media Is numbing our sensibilities

We are utterly engrossed in the screen before us, which has combined with the channels of social media to dull our sensibilities and make us automatons more than human beings.

punjab Updated: Aug 18, 2018 22:33 IST
Vivek Atray
Vivek Atray
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Random Forays,Social media,era of communication
Hardly anyone looks up from his or her mobile today.(Getty Images)

In this era of communication which is driven predominantly by social media, we have forgotten how to be social. While most of us are not exactly anti-social, we have certainly become unsocial!

Gone are the days when we would drop by at our neighbours’ homes for a cup of tea and pakoras, and they would follow suit soon after. One hardly knows who lives close by, so busy are we scurrying about living our lives.

When I use the term ‘we’ it refers of course to the vast majority. Hardly anyone looks up from his or her hand held device to notice who else is on the metro or bus. Human beings of potential interest pass by without even being noticed. We are utterly engrossed in the screen before us, which has combined with the channels of social media to dull our sensibilities and make us automatons more than human beings.

I wrote in this column a few weeks ago, of some millennials who are stepping out of their cocoons to care for others and make contributions to the social sector. Yet, it is their generation which is hooked more onto WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram, and largely not in tune with the real world out there. They were born into an almost entirely technology-driven world, as against the era of their parents who still remember the days of money orders, postcards, trunk calls and telegrams as the only means of communication!

In the past few years, social media has exposed all generations of our society from all backgrounds to the most drastic of visuals relating to various kinds of situations. Thus, violence, sex and unbridled misbehaviour have become almost acceptable to us, since we have seen them all, and so have the 14 year olds.

The age of innocence had long since vanished with the likes of Nutan in a ghunghat (veil) on the silver screen, but there was a semblance of it that still prevailed in our society. With the onset of some shows on Netflix and some of its lower-end brethren, even that has vanished.

One can spot ladies and gentlemen who typically don full length apparel on an everyday basis, posing on the silken beaches of Goa in the shortest of shorts. They are of course very much entitled to do so, but by posting such pictures on Facebook they are opening up a whole new aspect of their personas. Unsuspecting acquaintances spend long moments gazing at such posts, partly wondering whether these are the same people who had displayed no such bravado in real life!

What has happened as a result is that respectful distances have crumbled. People are learning too much about each other, almost intrusively. The number of stalkers has increased. Online stalking is a disease that many fall prey to.

Thus, while we hardly meet those in our social circles any more, except at weddings and birthday bashes, we know exactly what they had for lunch today or what they thought of the latest Bollywood scandal.

Social media deserves only some of our attention, no more. There are many interesting things going on in the world which we tend to ignore due to our Facebook fixations! Heritage walks, music concerts, stage theatre, local festivals, sports events, art exhibitions and the like deserve our attention much more than WhatsApp jokes do!

The result of being obsessed with any one aspect of life is that society tends to lose its balance. Excessive drinking caused the downfall of many a clan in the annals of history. Overindulgence in social media just might prove to be the bane of our times.

An internet quote puts it magnificently: ‘In a world where everyone is exposed, the coolest thing you can do is to maintain your mystery!’

Indeed, judicious use of social media, combined with the ability to distinguish between real and fake posts, is necessary. Staying away from over personalising one’s own social media posts is also a good idea. Keeping the negative impact of social media under control is a responsibility that each of us has. Otherwise humans may not remain social beings for very long.

vivek.atray@gmail.com

First Published: Aug 18, 2018 22:23 IST