Of likes and retweets

The myriad ways for people to stay connected now was a dream then; the way people stayed connected then is a dream now.

That was an era; bygone obviously, when people had a healthy relation with their neighbours, not the perfunctory association meetings about car park earmarking. People bled and emoted into letters for beloveds; who treasured them as trophies. Phone calls were a rationed luxury, that had to be booked in advance at the jurisdictional post office; run by a postmaster who doubled up as the agony aunt of his territory. Postmen were acquaintances who were jubilant with money orders and morose with telegrams carrying news of demise.

Friends were family actually, not friend-zoned on facebook. Men wrote love letters rife with metaphors.Women weren’t auditing proposals. “Shy” was the “blush” in vogue then. Good looking people were actually called handsome and beautiful.”Cute” used to be an expression reserved for fluffy mammals.

Then in the pompous wedding between inventions and preferences, the ouster of old school ways happened.Gradually, but steadily. People who grew radios for pets, had moved on to Ipods. People who once used typewriters and fax machines, started getting used by desktops to be it’s artificial intelligence. Life as we knew it,moved from before the monitor to within. Hard copy correspondences were softened in the edges for eco-friendly soft copy ones.

The radical metamorphosis of “What’s Up” is quite something. It started as a naive enquiry of a person beneath to replace “Hello” from common parlance to finally turn into an App that allows colonies of people to bitch about each other with ordered flexibility.

‘Liking’ is not the same as appreciating, like ‘retweeting’ is not the same as patronising.

The advent of Facebook,Twitter, Whatsapp, Skype among a thousand other applications has jeopardised human behaviour like never before changing the way people interact, express, emote with each other. Take the adulation behind a fanboy’s paper cutouts of Amitabh Bachchan during the 80s that cannot be likened with a retweet to a SRK tweet.For that matter, the charm of a trip to a nearby photo studio to encapture a fond memory with a friend leaving abroad as opposed to a selfie at will.There was an earnest effort in a direction that the heart took. A process involved. An aesthetic behind every aspect. A story to tell.

Our life run by PDAs is characterised by convenience sans the concern, the person sans the personal touch and most importantly, a robust structure sans the sanctity. We’ve become too involved to flatter our identity crisis to be our ‘virtual identity’,our alter ego fashioned on edited photos and manicured posts.

This relentless pursuit to simplification has led to a whole lot of utilities,tangible and intangible that have gone on to encapsulate processes, in the process rendering human discretion, vestigial. Take for instance, the need to buttonise emotions that has led to a bouquet of emoticons for every known histrionic. Now emoting in a conversation is a touch away in an emotionless world; where yellow balls have replaced the contribution of the facial muscle or writing to express.

There’s nothing which brings two people together than difference of opinions and the resultant fights. When two friends fought over an issue, they wrote elaborate letters,swore it out on phones and even landed a few punches when reasons dried out of the words uttered. There was a boiling point, courtesy, the difference. Cooling point when reason prevailed over acrimony. Then the bond strengthened. I’ve heard men from my previous generation share such tales. I’ve found a few friends myself in the grind.

But no one cares to go through the entire shebang. All it takes is to stop liking a friend’s post consistently, exiting from a group or my personal favourite of not replying after a double blue tick.  As simple as that. Anger from an expression has turned into an action or inaction.From being impulsively angry when rubbed the wrong way; we’ve found solace in sly indifference and inaction; settling for less friction over permanent solution. Anger,one of the most primal of expressions, that served as a language when men didn’t speak one, has positively been diluted into a pale caricature of it’s former self.

What do I say about the faceless crusader activities on cyberspace. Are these endeavours intended to massage one’s vanity or to scratch the itch of the lurking vigilante within?Being part of an issue actively, participating in a demonstration is not the same as trading in hashtags.For one, there is no accountability;despite the tendency to flatter one’s self to being part of a collective conscious to the nation’s stand on a given issue.

So there is a genocide in Israel, people tweet with #WesupportIsrael to mark their solidarity. Would we trade in hashtags and coinages if our beloved vaporised? Imagine #JewsforLunch trending over Hitler run Germany or #IndependenceFirstLook trending across India on the night of our independence. Resilience would’ve had a new meaning then.Who knew apathy could be compartmentalised in such a virtual way, world wars would’ve been fought on different grounds.

Coming to think of it, yes the world indeed has shrunk in radius, thanks to these social platforms. But have we drifted apart as people in the bargain?


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