Being a Woman
I love Social Media. It has enriched my life in many ways. Keeping in touch with friends in all corners of the world has never been this easy and this instantaneous. Sharing and propagating an idea or thought has never been this convenient.
But, of late, I’ve been struck by the realization that all this ease and convenience has made us lazy. We are gradually becoming a generation of clickers. When I use the word ‘We’, I’m including myself since I know that I too am guilty of aiding the creation of noise on the internet.
Social Media has managed to manufacture a whole breed of Armchair Activists. Any issue, be it political, religious, social or cultural, creates a Tsunami of opinions and an army of protestors. In the earlier days, if standing in front of a tank in Tiananmen Square was a symbol of protest, now all that has to be done is change your profile picture to whatever is deemed politically correct for that situation, write a scathing comment on a public forum or better still, ‘like’ a particular image or video, and Voila ! – we have become socially responsible citizens ! I would like to emphasise that I’m not condemning all forms of protests voiced on Social Media. I’m just giving my point of view on the people who have perfected the art of appearing to protest, but not taking forward that thought in any way in their personal lives.
Voicing an opinion, or expressing solidarity to an issue or person is something we should certainly do. I’m all for it. But why are we, the majority out there anyway, not taking it to the next level ? Not possible for a lot of issues you say? Absolutely correct. We might want to do something about saving the rain forests in the Amazon, but due to a lot of constraints we are not able to do that. Fair enough. But what about all those small changes that we can make ? Seeing the sea of rainbow profile pictures on Facebook in support of the US Supreme Court decision supporting the rights of the LGBT community, was superb. But how many of us actually allowed the hues of those colours to run into our lives ? How many of us rainbow-profilers flinched to sit next to a trans-gender on the bus/train or even refused to rent out our houses to a gay/lesbian couple? Then there’s the selfie bandwagon. What’s the point in taking a selfie with your daughter on one hand and on the other hand refusing to let her go for higher studies or rushing to buy Fair and Lovely cream so that she becomes fairer? We jostle with each other to register our indignation about the rudeness and insensitive behavior of people who are shown on the billions of viral videos doing the rounds. But how many of us see the weariness etched on the security guard’s face at the end of a hot tiring day ? We don’t forget to shout at him if he’s a minute late to open the gate. A smile and a kind word is all it takes to bring an answering smile to his face, to make him feel that his services are valued.
At home, we shoo our children away when they come to us brimming with excitement to share their tiny triumphs and disappointments. But we don’t have time to listen, because we have to watch the latest video on Child Abuse doing the rounds on Facebook and express our anger and disgust. The shadow of sorrow that falls on the little face next to us goes unnoticed.
Then of course there is our favourite pastime – Govt bashing, or on a wider scale we can call it ‘system bashing.’ We love to rant and rail against the system, wax eloquent on its failure, and generally blame everything on the system. I agree wholeheartedly that both the Govt and the system do have a lot to answer for. But in spite of whichever party is in power, the people have learnt to live their lives. So, why should we wait for the Govt or any other social organization to bring about change ? It’s as if the responsibility of bringing about changes in society is solely that of organisations, be it Governmental or otherwise. We have got ourselves comfortably perched in our chairs, giving an opinion on everything under the sun, on Social Media. Let others toil, we will pontificate.
It’s slightly alarming to see this increasing inclination towards armchair activism. We need to recognize the power that each of us has, the power of the individual. We need to keep ourselves firmly grounded on terra firma, when our fingers are flying over the keyboard. We need to look beyond the world as framed on our screens and see it as it is. Just take a look out of the window, the sky is not as brilliantly blue as you see on your screen, there’s a softness to it which the pixels cannot convey. Social Media lets you exist in a false world, which you can construct as per your likes and dislikes. It can be either completely rosy or completely bleak. But the real world has both hues. One can see the most beautiful acts of kindness juxtaposed with acts of utmost cruelty. But there’s a balance that helps keep us stable and grounded.
So next time you want to click and express your solidarity for a cause, do it, but lift your head and look around you. Is the person working next to you looking slightly more weary and careworn ? A few words of concern or even a glass of water wouldn’t go amiss. We have the capability to bring a change in at least one person’s life, who ever it may be. Let’s not waste that chance. I’ve never felt the essence of Gandhiji’s words as I do today, when he said, “The difference between what we do and what we are capable of doing would suffice to solve most of the world’s problem.”