My 19-year old cousin has something doctors call, ‘SMS thumb’. SMS thumb is something similar to ‘Mouse Elbow’ phenomenon and simply put, it means wear-and-tear and over fatigue of overused thumb muscle. She feels the constant need to message and can’t seem to leave her cell behind even when she goes for a leak. Every time she feels high or low, her close clique of BBM i.e. Blackberry Messenger friends are first to know. This might bring you to the question, why does a 19-year old college student need a Blackberry in first place? Does she have to constantly receive and answer emails? No. She needs the Blackberry because everyone in her group owns one. So what’s the major attraction? Blackberry’s push email service or its BBM Service? Apparently, it’s the messenger service (apart from the peer pressure to be counted ‘in’ by owning a BB) and other cool apps that allow you to constantly update personal information, that enables everyone on your list to see your updates and comment on it, that lets you upload cool/hot/sexy pictures of yourself or others, tongue-in-cheek/witty/humourous/sarcastic status updates that are copy-pasted from elsewhere.
We live in a world of instant communication, instant money, instant food, instant gratification and yesss… instant messaging. BBM, What’s app, Gtalk have bridged the gaps of time and distance between people. Everything almost happens in real-time now. We feel gratified by the thought of being constantly connected to so many people, many of whom we hardly meet in person or even worse would avoid meeting in person. Online avatars are taking over the real people and no. of friends on your Facebook list or BBM list or your What’s App list is suddenly a new metric of measuring your popularity. Shallow you may call it, but that is how it is.
People update their every-minute details, how they are feeling, where they have checked in (Foursquare, Google places), where they are going, where they are holidaying, who they are dating, their marital status and what not. But who really wants to know if you have just checked into Berlin International airport or if you are holidaying in Dubai? Why do people feel this aching need to proclaim these details to the world and appear sooo social online? What is this entire hype behind ‘checking –in’ anyway?
What is also a little silly and more annoying is people tagging their partners and loved ones and posting all lovey-dovey messages on social media. While it’s a great idea to express love and feel that beautiful feeling called love, what I have a difficulty in understanding is, why announce it to the world? Why do all your friends have to know if you are missing your boyfriends/wife/partner? So that you can cut a perfect-couple picture? So that others can ooh and aah over your love? So that the world knows how much you love someone? Aren’t these things supposed to be private? Can’t these beautiful feelings be expressed over a call, or email or a personal text message?
Or perhaps, could this really mean that there is an underlying need for buying-in everyone’s approval? Could this, probably, mean that you are unsure about your own feelings and that your friends’ comments and ‘likes’ will reinforce your faith in that particular relation? I am sure there are many ways of looking at this. You could argue, that it’s just a simple gesture and there is perhaps nothing much to read there between the lines. Yes, that is true. Even I use this media. But some things really gnaw at me. When I read all these updates and see all the overwhelming lovey-dovey pictures, I often wonder if I am the only one who is seeing this as a disturbing trend. Is this information overload bothering only me? Am I the only Black sheep?
But where do we draw the line? What about social media etiquettes? How we got this far, to the point that people share soooo much on Facebook? How much is too much? Who decides this? What are the tolerance limits? Isn’t it a bit paradoxical that ‘social media’ might be making us all ‘unsocial’ after all? We are comfortable talking online and we avoid meeting the real people more often than we would like to admit. I recently read a report that said that only 7% of communication is verbal or written communication, while a staggering 93% happens through body language and nonverbal cues. Then aren’t we missing on something here? By choosing to hide behind our carefully-sculpted and not-so-honest online personalities and chatting with people, are we not missing out on the real pulse/ emotion/ real feelings of those people? When they say they are fine, are they really fine?
People don’t take a minute to think before putting up all the information out there. It’s world wide web, and the information never really dies, and even if you delete your posts and updates, it certainly stays hidden somewhere. You have no way of knowing where it will land and all your privacy settings are of no use if some psychotic hacker decides to misuse that information. Or worse, you don’t know when will it come back to haunt you. But then may be humans, after all, are really narcissists and they can’t push away that overpowering desire to talk about themselves, and what better platform than social media.
While all these wonderful ways of communicating and staying in touch with people have blurred the lines of time and distance for us, have eased our lives in more than one way and we can for sure keep harping on and on about the modern world with its instant connectivity and how easy our lives have become. But slowly, aren’t we becoming its slave? Aren’t we letting it rule us? Why can’t we go a couple of hours before checking our mails and why is our patience snapping if someone takes long to reply to our texts? Why do we feel this overwhelming need to check that ping, even when our spouse or our parents are talking to us? Are we, perhaps, becoming too shallow and superficial?
Used judiciously, it’s a wonderful platform to stay ‘with’ the times. Over do it and you kill it.
So all those who are constantly posting updates and drowning us with overload of this information, plisssssss spare us, we are not interested.