Roaming through the crowded streets of Kolkata during Durga last year, a massive installation of two mannequins attracted my attention-one of lord Ganesha dressed in jeans and t-shirt with several shopping bags in hand and the other of a man. Both stood close to each other with hands on shoulders and looking up- as the man held a cell phone focusing to take a selfie.
The installation had also a massive and elaborate chart (effortlessly printed out from a Wikipedia page) put up next to it- marking the dangers of taking a selfie at strange locations and how many accidents (reported) have taken place worldwide. Perhaps more amused than me- as a group of three youngsters stood facing their backs to the mannequins to take a selfie- one of them fell off the platform- almost dragging the second one with him. I wondered- perhaps they would not have fallen off if they had paid more attention to the write-up than to the selfies.
Whether the phone survived after the fall is a matter best left to Ganesha, but the photograph found their ways into popular social media sites of the time almost instantly. On another occasion, in another part of India- while crossing a busy street on a Tuesday morning, I was aghast to see a crumpled car at the corner with a similar forlorn looking auto-rickshaw blocking the road. A result of a massive accident- the drivers lay bruised on the road with a considerable crowd around. Needless to say as somebody was frantically dialling the ambulance, others were busy taking selfies for an instant update on social media.
Last, but not the least, well aware about the general habit of most of generally shunning the vowel out of each word while posting on social media- I was astonished to read an exam paper (while correcting the semester-end examination papers in my college)- with similar grammatical constructions. On enquiring, the owner of the paper smiled genuinely to reply- it is a ‘smart habit of smart phones’. Needless to say- the owner was not very happy to hear my ‘unsmart reply’.
Social media has changed not only our powers of thinking, but today governs our behaviour and social conducts as well.
Famished or not, a common sight includes people taking pictures of even the simplest glasses of drinks at restaurants- forgetting about hunger or social etiquettes about being with the family or friends instead of spending time with a gadget. The food pictures find a status update even before the meal begins. As critics argue severely over the implications and gratifications of social media, with each passing day the media makes its presence felt in myriad ways. With selfie sticks being banned across many European and American museums, smart phones keep finding new advertising campaigns to attract people to sell their latest models- making social media ever more easily accessible. With several scientific and psychological journals pointing out significant facts about the narcissistic habits of social media, there remains other causes of major concern, e.g.- eating disorders, depression, anxiety, low self-esteem levels, stereotyping gender, race and sexuality and easy arena for spewing hatred, abuse and anger- are just to name a few amidst others.
Affecting every gender and age groups across the globe, lack of knowledge and awareness often causes problems. A common joke at most grown-up gathering remains about the proud display over how the young ones in the family are handling social media- however- few attempts to raise the question if the children are also made consecutively aware about horrific aspects like- online stalking, mismanagement and misuse of photographs posted on social media, about the particular rules and regulations which need to be followed.
A recent report in a journal of psychology also mentioned about the excessive use of ‘status updates’ on various social media sites through smart phones- often results in muscular disorders of the thumb and index fingers in both hands of adolescents because of excessive texting and they result in paining fingers while writing in class.
Albeit also having its immense positive effects- connecting the globe at the touch of a button, social media is nevertheless here to stay- probably will grow to include various other characters and features and gadgets in the years to come. Perhaps the only way out to find a balance and a truce is to chart out a path of existence alongside social media. Can I alter the path of communication or will I be altered in the process?- remains a question unanswered.