The Times, They Are a’ Changing

Wednesday, 30 September 2020



The Times, They Are a’ Changing

Arunav Barua | September 14, 2019 18:18 hrs

What is the one important facet of our times that is a mark of this age? The answers could be many: ‘connectivity’, ‘smart phones’, ‘internet access,’ et al. Where this strand of thought leads us is that life in the modern times is not dictated by the ‘me’ that had been there a few decades into the past. The ‘me’ or ‘I’ was a distinct entity that had definition and existence of its own. 

A man or a woman for that matter, was distinct from the milieu, from the crowd, there was character that was one’s own. Not that we don’t have character now, but let us look at the character that forms us today. A man is inseparable from that extension we link to everyone, the Smartphone. The same can be said of computers; so dependent are we on these devices that we are formed from the opinion that is expressed by these machines. They are machines nonetheless and have no life of their own, or do they?

We are affected by opinion expressed on the platforms which these machines allow us access to. Computers and access to the internet through our Smartphone means that a majority of the educated lot are on social media, and most of the ‘uneducated lot’, for life educates us, whether we have degrees or we don’t. This wouldn’t mean anything but does, for the simple fact that we humans have not changed in one primary emotion. We still care how the world perceives us, if not the world then the ones who are connected to us in our social profiles. What this means is that however unconsciously, we are affected by our persona on social media which today, most of us use. The social media platforms of this age know no barriers, neither of age, nor of identity. We do not have to ‘qualify’ to own a social media account and have access to all that this gives us. Our Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, blogs and other handles and Ids have an effect on us. The effect is not dependent on us but is dependent on how the world around us, in these platforms perceives us.

We all know how our day and how we spend it is connected to the number of likes on a post on Facebook, or some comments that either make, or break our days. Then, there is the stage where we are affected by the comments on our viewpoints. However unwittingly, we are affected by negative reactions and actions, to an extent where we might end up feeling bad about ourselves. Here comes the ‘I’ that we were discussing; the ‘I’ has always been affected by how people view us, but the internet is a beast in more ways than one. Our public comments are accessed by people from all diasporas of society; they may be from any fringe, from any viewpoint and from any social set up. It is not necessary that our views find like-minded agreement. When an uneducated man without the correct viewpoint of the world which, much as we disagree needs the mantle of education becomes abusive on media platforms, we are left feeling worse than we had felt before. 

The ‘I’ is malleable, it is like clay; it always was, but now people for whose credentials we have no information of, have the right to comment or even become aggressive in their outpourings on the internet. It is wonderful that so many take an interest in what is happening around them, enough to comment on social media platforms. What is not wonderful is that biased, narrow minded, bigoted, unethical comments or views also find a place on these platforms. What this does is that it sets the person who probably wrote something keeping in view the positive aspects of a matter, back. It sends him to a stage where the person with the viewpoint questions himself/herself! Thus, our ‘I’ and how we end up feeling is constantly guarded by our fear of negative reaction. Negative reactions can even go to the extent of getting people killed! When every person, with all their bias and affiliations, comment on a perfectly natural viewpoint with aggression and use of abuse and expletives, it leaves the ‘I’ cornered into a place where no one wants to be. The norm today seems to be that whatever your level of intelligence, whatever your education, your ability to misuse the net gives one license to do so.

I wonder if we need monitors to supervise activities. We do have a branch of people doing this on the legal platform, but it is just not enough. Being one of those who had dreams of a world connected by the internet, equality in society, borders disappearing and people living in a utopia, I personally feel saddened at this turn of events. When we let our conscience decide before we launch an attack or troll someone, let us become responsible, let us let the ‘I’ still exist as it once was. We all have a right to opinion and with that right comes responsibility, the kind where our dreams of ‘one world’ finds utterance!

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