Friday, Jul 31, 2020 13:15 [IST]
Last Update: Friday, Jul 31, 2020 07:38 [IST]
Environmentalists tell us that the earth is sick. We might add that the world is sick as well. Happiness has never been endemic to humanity. Pain and sorrow are. Happiness is hard-earned. In that sense, every human generation has had to deal with its own share of grief but I would propose that we, the social media driven generation, are probably living the most depressed lives ever in human history.
This is not to downplay the terrible pain the world has had to undergo in the past. The Holocaust, for example, was one of the worst cases of human suffering inflicted on others by human evil. In the past, people in the Indian subcontinent lived, facing the utter shame and pain inflicted by caste system and colonialism. However hard their lives might have been, their struggle against their hardship had a sense of heroism to it. Their struggle was a voice against an oppressive force. Their struggle was a movement towards justice even though justice was nowhere to be seen, let alone found.
Compare their afflictions to our pleasurable existence that we so proudly flaunt on social media. Here are four reasons to demonstrate why social media has made our lives more miserable than it would have been without it:
Sacred secrecy has been stolen: Imagine our parents standing on the roof tops and announcing to the world that they had been happily married for so many years and encouraging onlookers to express their appreciation by clapping for them (likes) and tell others about them (shares) and saying something about them (comments). Imagine them brandishing their beverages (tea or millet bear) for neighbours to see and “like”.
Imagine our parents venting their frustration and annoyance from the rooftops every time they were upset. The kind of society they would have ended up creating is exactly the kind that we are living in today. We have removed the four walls of our houses and made society a massive dormitory.
Certain aspects of our lives – the happy and sad moments are meant to be partaken of secretly. Deeply personal engagements, meditations, reflections and self-introspections have been replaced by impulsive publicity. We are so minimally focused on our roots and so lavishly extravagant in advertising our fruits. Our parents had fewer enemies because they knew how to deal with their anger and frustration. They had more true admirers because they knew how not to advertise their success.
All men ministry: In Christianity there are two basic approaches to functioning in a church– the most common approach is the ‘one man ministry’ where a pastor does all the preaching and teaching and the second is an ‘all men ministry’ where every member is a speaker. Both are harmful for obvious reasons. Any set up that fails to mobilize its members as per their talents (gifts) is destined to fail. In our social media driven society, everybody is a journalist, leader, media expert, commentator, spokesperson, professor and scientist. We bombard each other with pseudo-information and spongy knowledge. There is really nothing profound or of deep substance. Our life is being built up on this low resolution knowledge.
Detachment from self: People obsessively addicted to social media are, in a sense, detached from themselves. Their value of themselves is determined by how others think about themselves. Their confidence is based on what others say about them. They need to be constantly told by others that they are great and doing a great job and their presence is all that the outside world is craving. The FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) is killing them miserably. When life is so connected to the outside, we see no worth in ourselves when isolated. Studies show that such people are tormented by “an anxious feeling” that others may be having a good time without “me”.
Increased vulnerability to malice: There is no doubt that social media has empowered our society in a good way. However, look at how malicious people are having a free run in spreading their malice. Every peevish and resentful fellow is empowered to spread his negativity in the name of social media participation. Our exposure to their indignant minds by way of social media posts or comments will only add to our depression. Look at how a baser fellow wished Amitabh Bachchan death in his Covid-19 battle. The otherwise complete gentleman and epitome of patience, the megastar, stooped down to his troller’s level and penned a reply: “Hey, Mr. Anonymous... you do not even write your Father's name,... because you do not know who Fathered you... there are only two things that can happen... either I shall die or either I shall live. If I die you won't get to write your diatribe anymore, by weathering your remark on a celebrity name... pity."
Our depression is largely self-made and our struggle against it has nothing heroic in it. Unlike the heroic struggle of previous generations, our struggle, to a large extent is our pleasure-seeking backfiring at us. GK Chesterton was bang on when he said, “Meaninglessness does not come from being weary of pain; meaninglessness comes from being weary of pleasure”.
Our masked happiness is so fake!
“Imagine our parents venting their frustration and annoyance from the rooftops every time they were upset. The kind of society they would have ended up creating is exactly the kind that we are living in today. We have removed the four walls of our houses and made society a massive dormitory.”