How many groups are you a part of on Whatsapp?
You know how it goes, don’t you? There are umpteen groups you are a part of. Since there are a finite number of people you know, some people are with you on more than one group. You can hardly quibble about that for you are right with them in all of those groups.
The more time we spend interconnected via a myriad of devices, the less time we have left to develop true friendships in the real world.
~ Alex Morritt
The problem is when they forward a video, photo or write up. The same thing is forwarded to all the groups you are both on. As the result, by the end of the day, your phone is bursting at the seams with stuff. Some of the stuff is interesting, but when received in triplicate or quadruplicate, it quickly becomes dull. The shine wears out; the interest wanes and it turns hopelessly mundane.
But that’s not really my grouse.
With all the means of communication at hand, we have ample means to share our lives with people all across the globe, in real time. We are always connected. One text message is all it takes to reach the people who matter to you the most. The term, out of touch is becoming irrelevant. In today’s times, with multiple strands of inter-connectedness, if you are out of touch with people, it is because you choose to be. There isn’t really any other reason, or excuse.
I’m very aware we are the first generation ever to have such incredible opportunities to express ourselves publicly to a worldwide audience.
~ Sara Sheridan
Today, as I stood trying to warm my toes in the tiny square of morning sunshine that slants into my terrace garden, I thought of this new phenomenon of Forwarding and Sharing. Our reach is wider than it ever was. We are so verbose in our sharing. There is never a dull moment on any social media you are on. And yet!
Though we share so voluminously (and desperately), it is mostly impersonal and unimportant stuff we share. Interesting yes, but not really things that move our world. Our opinions and choices are sometimes reflected by the kind of things we choose to share, but not always.
Our communication has been reduced to forwarding stuff. We don’t talk. We don’t say, “Oh, I made gajar ka halwa today.” Or, “Oh my son fell off his bicycle and I feel like crying because his would is deep and he is in pain.” Or, “I’m so proud of my daughter because….” Instead, we forward a video of cute little dog pups gamboling away.
Don’t get me wrong, such videos are cute. I have nothing against them. Though I must confess when I receive them in triplicate, they do get on my nerves. Barring that, I’m fine with them… almost.
Everyone’s like sheep on social media; like, one person starts making noise, and everyone’s like, ‘Hey, yeah!’ and then you got a whole bunch of people making noise at you.
When I see that such videos (or photos or write-ups) are replacing real conversation, I’m sot so okay with them. What really gets my goat is when I see the exact same thing being shared on the exact same group by multiple people. In other words, no one is reading, everyone is just sending. The same inane stuff, over and over. Oh, it is exhausting!
I am reminded of a gentleman I would call Mr Mehra.
Mr Mehra visited my institute nearly eleven years ago. He was elderly, nearly as old as my father. Initially I thought he wanted to inquire about the training for his son or daughter. I was surprised when he said he wanted to attend my classes himself.
Naturally intrigued, I got into a conversation with him, trying to understand why he felt he needed a Life Coach. An hour into the story, he stopped short abruptly. To my horror, he burst into tears!
Concerned, I left my chair and sat beside him. A few minutes later, he quietened down somewhat. I kept silent, waiting for him to tell me what was troubling him. To this day, I haven’t forgotten what he told me that day. His very words are seared into my memory. And I know they will never fade.
“I have never had any bad habits”, he began. “I don’t smoke or drink, I don’t gamble. I don’t fritter away my time loitering about or stand on street corners arguing pointlessly. I did not waste money or time buying silly things or on other frivolous pursuits. But now, today, as I near the end of my life, I am deeply troubled by a question.”
“Which question”, I asked gently.
“I did not waste time and energy doing silly things, but what significant things did I do with that time and energy? THAT is the question that plagues me. I know the answer to it is- NOTHING! And I’m no longer prepared to live with that answer”, he declared vehemently.
“You are a Life Coach”, he said. “Tell me what I should do so that I don’t feel I’ve let my life pass me by with nothing to show for it. With all the potential I had, steering clear of bad habits alone doesn’t make my life full. Not doing the bad is all very well. But that’s not all there is in life, is there? I want to do something significant and important. I want to be remembered as someone who did something good, not merely as someone who didn’t do anything bad.”
I want to be remembered as someone who did some good, not as someone who didn’t do anything bad. Click To Tweet
The rest, as they say, is history.
If things continue this way, there will be two societies – or at least I hope there will be two – the one you’re helping create, and an alternative to it. You and your ilk will live, willingly, joyfully, under constant surveillance, watching each other always, commenting on each other, voting and liking and disliking each other, smiling and frowning, and otherwise doing nothing much else.
~ Dave Eggers
In the noise of compulsive Forwarding and Sharing, your real issues get crowded out. Since everyone is mass sharing the same stuff, you feel it would be inappropriate to share moments of your personal journey- joyful or not. You hide your struggles; you make light of your victories. At any given moment of time, though you share so much, hardly any of your connections know what is going on in your life.
Everyone in the room, enters it after leaving the most significant parts of themselves outside the door. They come in prepared to be normal and non-special. They come in, dare I say it, prepared to be inconsequential, silly and pointless. They are prepared to chew the same piece of gum that has been chewed by many mouths before them- and will be chewed by as many mouths after them. I hope you are grossed out by the imagery.
I’m grossed out by what the imagery represents.
Forwarding and Sharing
Ooooh…that gum imagery is gross! But I think I can see why you chose that.
These social media connections for the most part are just superficial unless we make a conscious effort to connect with the person behind the status update or the shared or forwarded stuff. But then some of us choose to keep the connections only on that surface level with the majority of people in our social media network (simply as a gesture of common goodwill) and only reach out to the rare ones we somehow feel drawn to. Maybe that too is an effort on our part to not get overwhelmed with the silliness and mundane-ness of too much nonsensical stuff shared and forwarded on social media.
It is a myth (at least I think so) that we are more socially connected now. We are perhaps more removed now from real human connections than before. And I am not even thinking about sharing on social media about our daily struggles or little victories. Even in our ‘real-world’ we are perhaps getting distanced from what it takes to really connect with others. Maybe it is the age we live in…a rationalistic-individualistic search for meaning and purpose is high on many people’s minds. And maybe when we come to the end of that circle, we will come to a realisation that individual without the collective is only half the story!
I know the imagery is gross! That’s why I used it! 😀
As you’ve said so lucidly, there can be no individual victory without collective victory. It took me a couple of decades to accept that. Even now, a big part of me doesn’t want it to be true. 🙂
It is best to avoid being on Whatsapp. Sending forwards without even reading them is like commenting on blog posts without a clue as to what it is about 😛 Not just, ‘Very good post,’ but lengthy comments on what the commenter THINKS the post is about :/
As for sharing anything personal on social media, I think it is all about a mechanical ‘like’ or one of the emojis that FB has helpfully provided. I d rather share very personal things over a phone call or a mail than on social media or in any group.
And yes, I am still retching from the gross image of re-chewing gum that you have painted!
I know where the “commenting on blog posts without reading them” is coming from. You’ve just had major brush with one of the clueless brigade. Who is pompous to boot. I sympathize with you most heartily.
I agree about sharing personal stuff on SM. But then, if we aren’t going to share our most important thoughts on SM, why are we even there?
Pleased to know you were grossed out. 😀 Haha….
I recently read an article which was shared on Twitter by a fellow blogger about how the writer found it liberating to completely read the posts and then comment on them rather than jumping the gun by liking and sharing them. I am not lying when I say that I too had been a victim of the strange sharing and liking phenomenon. But these days, I make it a point that I give more time to read and understand a post/article before sharing or liking it. The fun is definitely in the reading and comprehensing part. If only, more people realised that facet of social media.
Loved your take on the matter. I found myself agreeing to it in more ways than one.
Thank you Maliny. I’m pleased my thoughts found resonance with you. And thank you for finding the post worthy of being shared. Most gratified!
I had to read this, Di. When I saw the title itself I knew it was about whatsap :P. I so hear you. I think I am part of less number of groups compared to my friends…LOL..isn’t that a better way to feel better about yourself? on a serious note, I exit myself in most of the groups that I don’t think need me or I need them. I don’t share or forward jokes 95 % of the times. I never watch any videos that have been shared (90% of the times). And this has become such a pain when I back up my cell phone, it is taking me days together to clean up the mess.
I am curious to know what you told that senior person and how it spanned out later 🙂
And did you have to quote the chewing gum thingy? yuckkk…
You are way wiser than I am Latha. While I hardly participate in most groups I am on, yet I am still there. In the beginning people did try to make me interact more, but I continued to behave like a stuffed frog. 😀 They’ve kind of given up now.
The senior person? Oh, we made a one and a half year road map for him to open out avenues to contribute to society. It took him over two years but he managed to create a space for himself. He now teaches yoga at his home at very nominal charges. He is also very active in one of the nearby Sai Baba temples. Another thing he did was to start a scholarship program along with three more of his friends. The scholarship is for economically deprived children. He is happy and contented now. 🙂
You didn’t like the chewing gum analogy? Hehe… 😀
Hi Dagny, thankyou for choosing my ‘Interconnected’ quote at the top of this post to illustrate an important point. Your decision along with that of many others inspired me to publish a new book: ‘Lines & Lenses – A Quotographic Collection’ which you can preview here: http://www.blurb.com/b/7547355-lines-lenses Happy viewing and if you or your readers feel like owning a print copy they are currently 25% off list price if you use the code GIVE25 on checkout before 11.59 on Jan. 28th. Best wishes, Alex
I’m pleased to see you on Serenely Rapt Alex. Welcome!
Thank you for the link. I’m sure some of my readers would love to read more from you! Happy Writing!