Self Control in the Time of Technology

As I read through my twitter feed last night, I found several tweets mourning the horrifying loss of Oberyn Martell in the make believe realm of Westeros. Well I knew this was coming as I had read the books but it was a different story watching it happen on television. I was extremely sad and disgusted at the sheer level of gut wrenching graphicness with which yet another fan favorite Game Of Thrones character bit the dust. Don’t get me wrong, I am not the one who cringes at the level of violence depicted on the show (nudity, maybe yes). I was just shaken because Martell was just so awesome. But this is besides the point. On reading the tweets, I thought to myself, “Hey, like these thousands of people, I have seen the episode too. But these thousands of people have no knowledge about that. How will they know that I am cool too. Let me make them know.” So I tweeted my thoughts about how insane the duel was. As I was about to hit send, I thought to myself, “but I have read the books too. I knew he was going to die. But I don’t sound so smug about it in my tweet. I must let the others know that I knew this was coming but I am still disturbed that it happened”. So, I drafted another tweet, replete with smugness, angst and hashtag and hit send. I did not get any retweets.

I am writing about this as this was sort of a personal defeat for me. I was once again threatening to relapse into my former self who saw Twitter and Facebook as a platform of letting others know that I read a lot, was abreast with current affairs and had a grip on the pulse of today’s pop culture. However, the past few months have been a period of unlikely and on some levels, unconscious self introspection for me. I have been reevaluating most of the ways I live my life. As a result, I have been watching what I eat, I have been having second thoughts about whether I am in the right career and how secure I am as a person. Many may not agree with me but the advent of social media has triggered amongst us an amusing tendency to feel worthwhile while doing very little, which is very upsetting and cannot really be good for our self esteem.

As an Indian, I have just come out of a very historic and highly publicized election. Prime Minister Narendra Modi was elected amidst loud cheers and high hopes from the country, after a expectations defying landslide victory. The day after the election result, a friend asked me if I was aware of the events that transpired the previous day as I had not tweeted or posted anything on Facebook about it. I then realised how important it had become for people to let others know that they were up to. We now take pictures not to make memories, selfie is the newest way to indulge in self centeredness, before we start a new book, we let the whole world know about it, nothing is personal any more. Not to mention the copious amount of time we waste on agonising over someone else’s vacation, criticising someone’s profile picture or having a virtual screaming match with another idiot with a computer on the other end of the world.  I sometime wonder about some people if they go on vacations, or read a book, or watch a show, or have a baby just to post them on social media. It is as sickening as it is amusing.

I understand the appeal of social media (I am not old.). But what I have been questioning lately is the extent to which we have allowed ourselves to be consumed by it. What alarms me more is how easy it has become to defame and ridicule others. It sometimes just reminds me of how caustic we can be. I am worried that this is going to spawn a generations who thinks in hashtags, can abuse whoever they want and travels just to take selfies in different places. I am worried that we are increasingly turning into people who peg Facebook or Buzzfeed as their daily source of wisdom. I have been taking a serious stock of my presence of social media and the internet as a whole.

Each time I read something random and show signs of addiction, I ask myself if it is relevant in my life. Is it going to make me a smarter, better person. I think it is a good exercise. As in my opinion, self control is what we have lost in our bargain with the pervasive technology ruling our lives.

Is there anyone else who has the same concerns as me? Please let me know

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