Of snarky sharks and jackpot of rainbows


It's an extremely thrilling and tempting ride out there for some. Encountering gigantic waves and overcoming them with elan'. Swinging around there like a superstar, strutting around all you got with the mighty ocean itself as the audience. And if you hit the magic spot, you might just receive a thunderous applause as well. If riding along waves and dancing through the accolades were'nt seductive enough, encountering glisteny inanimate and animate fantastic beings takes the current experience to a higher and deeper level of personal bonding and spiritual connection with the universe at large itself. How grand, noble and magnanimous!

But for some others, it's an incredibly frightening, eery and preposterous idea to put yourself out there so callously and foolishly amidst those mercurial waves and lethal sharks. There is that constant danger of a giant rush of waves that will blow you out of your mind and wipe away all of your senses, reducing you to a meaningless, purposeless and soulless entity. An enticing rush of waves that will take you surely down,  drifting away into a shallowness ever-so-deep, in the big, bad ocean. An ocean that has a dark side much like life and it's people itself and one that is best dealt with caution and discretion. 

I have to admit, I am no surfer. And, it's not about me or surfing either per se´. I am talking about the internet and it's accompanying surfing thrills and chills! 

I, for one, have treaded the middle path. Not exactly fearful or shy or dismissive of the whole social media phenomenon! In fact, I genuinely do have a good time out there. Nonetheless, I am cautious of the possible dangers and aware of my boundaries and real priorities. Here's sharing what I've learnt from my virtual experiences so far! 

1. People can judge and love or hate you based on your belief systems and opinions (religious, political, social stances, pop culture whatever) 

I remember posting what I thought at that time, was innocent in intention, about my personal God and hero, Jesus Christ. And soon enough, I get a mail from one person in my friend list, taking offence to my posts and citing the unfair discrimination that her kids and she had to face because of their non-Christian belief. And seeing my Christian posts only made her sadder of her plight. I wrote back assuring her that I genuinely respected other people's religious belief systems and that my intention wasn't to hurt anyone. And how I definitely was not like anyone of those Christians who persecuted her kids in school or her because they led a non-Christian lifestyle. In fact, my best friends came from non-Christian backgrounds. Thankfully, she understood. And we have taken our relation further from there and have a mutual genuine respect for one another despite our very diverse religious belief systems. But that incident made me stop in my tracks and ponder how a seemingly innocent post could be misinterpreted in so many ways based on the audience. 

The same goes with political posts. I have some strong political views. Unfortunately, not the views held by the majority in most cases. For some reason, I naturally veer towards the under-dog in the political arena. It isn't an uncommon situation for me to be reminded, time and again, by my father and brother to not post any political posts however much sense it made. And I do try to oblige most of the time. Occasionally, I do slip up. But, I do make a conscious effort to veer away from political posts however much I itch to do so. If you can find a group of similar minded people like you, you can most definitely go ahead and post with gay abandon. But in a secular pool, it pays to be respectful of other´s views and mindful of one's boundaries.

2. The more you post, the more naked you become 

A lot can be deciphered about your personality and it's veering from the type and quality of posts and pictures you share. Your intelligence levels, your personality type, your interests, your levels of narcissism, nature of your relationships etc. Even if you fake or project a different picture from reality, even that will be starkly evident contradictory to the image you are trying to rosily paint for the virtual world. A LOT can be read, people, between the lines and the pictures. 

So, post intelligently and wisely. Unless, of course you genuinely give a damn about what people think in the first place. Then, more power to you, Super-hero! A la Super-man, flashing his gaudy under-wear with pride or a corset bra-flashing Wonder Woman if not an entirely naked superhero. Ha-ha! 

3. There is a time for everything 

A time to switch on and a time to switch off. For the sake of your own sanity and your family's, you need to draw a line between the real and virtual worlds. Else, it will be one messy and ugly blurred line making your life nothing less of a circus show. You definitely want to steer away from the craziness,noise, frenziness and the overall disorder in your life. Draw a line, people. Know when to switch on to the virtual world for a bit of chutzpah and spice and when to press the OFF button for peace of mind.

You don't need some spiritual Baba or New Age guru or some scientific expert list out the ill effects of the virtual reality. Truly, I tell you, there is nothing more annoying, sad and disrespectful than a loved one glued to the phone than relishing in the moment and time spent with you. 

Another aspect of time is the actual chronological age. Like a minimum age to drive or drink legally, I think there should be a legal age for joining social media. This is not the place for kids. As it is, they learn too much too fast, given the current world we live in. And this is the reason, I wouldn't encourage my child to go on it till she is mentally mature to know how to use social media responsibly. And also the reason, why I generally shy away accepting friend requests from underage family members. This is not the age and time to be out here, Kiddos! 

Yet another aspect of time is the stage of life you are in. There are times in your life where you will generally be busier than ever on social media and when you will just not have the time to even log in. When you are young, single and ready to mingle, it's a great time to be online. But when you have a new-born baby or many kids to look into or you have long work hours or you have a super important exam or course to crack, it's but a natural course to steer away from the distractions and superficiality of social media. Unless, that what you want in the first place, for albeit, a little while. 

4. Set realistic expectations

I have around roughly 200 friends on Facebook. And I know for sure, if I were to go to the next world tomorrow, hardly few from that list, would actually be there for my funeral. And even if I were to live a long life, God willing, I can barely go to a few in the list, when I really need a shoulder to lean on or cry my heart out to and who would actually genuinely understand me back in return. 

So, the fundamental question now is why even bother trying to impress a large pool of friends/acquaintances who simply don't care but will still like endlessly all your posts and pictures. The fact is it's two way street. The same can be said about you and your genuine feelings or lack of it towards your friends circle of Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and the likes. 

Social connections on any platform be it Facebook or twitter (however celebrity status like your followers' list reads) are ultimately low-commitment if not entirely non-committal. Yes, as long as you understand that you are in a non-committal or low-commitment relationship with your social friends, that makes it a whole lot easier for everybody around, most importantly yourself. You are no longer delusional about your virtual super-stardom. You know those 'likes' or 'followers' really don't mean or translate to anything genuine and deep. Everybody including yourself, is out there for a free time of fun with no strings of commitment and attachment. All the highs and generous likes and doses of compliments, the flirty frivolousness, and gay abandon of fun are much like a one night stand figuratively. Or its like this virtual cool college cafeteria where people hang out, talk, gossip and have lots of fun together with no strings attached again.

Once you set or keep your expectations from virtual connections realistic, you will understand where your true priorities lie and what genuine relationships are, where you can seek it from and what it actually takes to build one.  

Another dimension to realistic expectations apart from commitment levels is the grand expectation to transform the world. However much, I might like to believe that my own posts are transforming and changing people's minds, they genuinely aren't. Some might think that Modi is just as good or bad as the earlier leaders were but for others, Modi is a 'God-sent´ leader who is the answer to all of India's prayers and woes. Some might think that Subramanian Swamy is akin to  'Kim Kardashian of Indian politics' but for some he's a true Indian patriot, a shining beacon of truth, light, courage and hope. So, whatever I post, however true or convincing, I might sound, you are still going to believe what you choose to. Your choice may resonate with mine or simply boomerang.

I am not insinuating the pen has no power and you shouldn't post or write articles. Hell, I do the same via my opinions on this blog. All I am saying, there is no point in having heated debates over the social media and trolling people who don´t share your point of view. 

5. A platform for learning and sharing information

This is by far, my most favorite, reason for being in the real virtual world and maintaining those connections and subscriptions online. I cannot thank Google enough for all those times when it came to my rescue. Times when I had to make a quick or an elaborate dish or find a home-made natural remedy that could be whipped right in your kitchen. Of course, when it comes to cooking ,nothing comes close to the experience of learning from the guru herself, your Mom. But when Mom isn't readily accessible, Google will do.

The same goes for pretty much anything you want to learn - be it an MOOC, language, music, personality development, fashion tutorial, etc. The list is pretty much endless. Its all out there. So much information to scoot from that it can be overwhelming, confusing and intimidating at times. But it's all out there. And really, the onus is really on you - your interest, your motivation drive and your commitment to learning something new each day.

And as I said earlier about learning to cook from your Mum, the hands-on expert, it goes for everything else. While nothing comes close to the actual face-to-face learning and live two-way interaction experience, the virtual learning platform is still a decent, accessible alternative compared to having no alternative at all.

But there is a shark, sorry catch to this unfortunately. With the amount of misinformation and insidious propaganda around, the one thing to be cautious of course, is the authenticity of the information floated on the internet and touted as knowledge and facts. You have to make sure anything you are learning, any opinion that is being shaped and formed, is from a trusted, unbiased and authentic source. Beware!

6. The trappings of over-communication

While I genuinely admire some people who can multi-task various social media platforms so smoothly, I get entrapped and bowled over royally by over-communication. I  remember when my husband gifted me the iphone, he told me to go and have all the fun - on twitter, instagram, watsapp, facebook etc. And I tried it for a while and failed horribly. I just couldn't keep up with all the social frenzy.

I quickly realized Twitter wasn't meant for me. I genuinely didn't have anything different to say on Twitter or Instagram that I already had on Facebook. And calling for cut-copy-paste or share the same matter on all social platforms seemed very daunting and boring in task. Not to forget, meaningless too.

7. My de-taali to the Social Media thaali 

I am sure everyone has their own preference to the kind of social media platform they prefer and is suited to their personality type. I have my own preferences and experiences as well.

....and so, I joined and quickly left Twitter. And I am contemplating the same move for Instagram. Though I like it better than Twitter. Maybe its the pictures or the celebrity instapics or videos. But, I'm still on it for some reason despite the merciless onslaught of selfies. I found it pointless to be on Linkedin when I am stay at home Mom for now. But will eventually join as and when I would be seeking a job opportunity. I love writing so blogger fits in well with my interests. I'm slowly warming up to Pinterest and actually liking it too. Surprise there! My most favorite of all the thaali offerings would have to be Watsapp. I find it most effective to be able to connect with loved ones living overseas. It is super convenient to form a group and have a hearty conversation. The same with like-minded friends settled in different places. Fellow moms discussing how well our babies have been playing, jumping, sleeping, eating and pooping all quite well. It's truly a blessing in disguise.

Having said that, if I could still further downsize my current virtual thaali, I would go ahead and most definitely do it.

8. Have a real, healthy and thriving life outside the digital world

We were at the Mall of America in Minnesota this New Year. There was this group of Indian bachelors, around 6-7 of them. After taking a whole couple of solo and group shots around the mall, they 'rested' a while on the bench. And all of them, every single one of them, was glued to their mobile phones. And my husband cheekily whispered in my ear - 'Look! they find each other's company so boring that they prefer checking out the phone rather than talking to one another.'

There was another similar incident. It was the birthday party of our daughter's classmate at a gaming centre. And I cannot tell you how weird it was to see every single adult in there, including the hosts themselves, glued to their phones while the kids were busy playing. It was bizarre and I told my husband this really is a first. Typically, in an ideal situation, the hosts would go out of their way to introduce themselves and one another in the group.

The same with anywhere you go. Very often, people are on social media to kill their time and boredom. Bad move if that is your only idea of fun and 'hangout'. Make a real connection with the people who live within the four walls of your home, take it a bit further from there and build connections with like-minded people in the neighborhood and community. Keep it real, fun, alive and thriving. And then come on social media to share interesting stories and useful information. That would make more sense than being a bored, virtual slave your entire life.

9. Universal connections and stories 

While online connections are definitely both low-commitment and low-maintenance, there are still some benefits in maintaining them. For me, most of my Facebook friends are merely acquaintances or at best contacts. Its like an online directory of just that - friends, acquaintances and contacts. Which works out great, practical and handy because I can contact or choose to meet up anyone in there for whatsoever reasons in future. Some of my dearest and most loved ones are not even there on my Facebook list. Like my husband, my Mum and brother etc.

But still, it's an active community of real people, having an idea, story, recipe, picture, video or song to share. So, just as yet we do not have robotic humans on board online, let's continue connecting, bonding and striking a chord with our fellow, real human beings around the world.

Just be wary of those sharks swimming underneath in there and please do let me know when you strike a pot of rainbow at the end of the horizon. And who knows, it may be raining jackpots of rainbows on a good, good day.

So, on that note, Happy Surfing!

No comments: