Wednesday, August 8, 2012



(Occlumency - The ability to close off your mind to outsiders.. )

I'll give you an exercise. Just try to think about how many pictures you took since last year were for the sake of recording memories? How many were taken along with the thought of a cool caption to be uploaded on facebook? How many of us spend most of our time thinking of our next status update? How many of us spend time photo-shopping our pictures to create the best touch!

All along, Entropy was time variable

There's a major difference between the world in which one's parents spent their formative years and the world in which one is spending his. Other than the fact that you can call your girlfriend 1000 miles away anytime you want, I am talking about 'change' in those times. It was slow. It had the inertia of a tortoise.

The world used to change slowly. Personal change still had to take express permission of one's conscience. Merry-go-rounds were joyful rides and not metaphors for mental instability. Thinking and spending time on one's own self was punctuated by work pressure and not the other way round. Views and opinions were taken from book authors and journalists. The latter did actual research for their work and not become shameful entertainers mongering for gossip. Interaction between strangers still needed to cross the barrier of formality and eye contact. Make-up has been taken over by Photoshop. 

Social Networks have pervaded the abstract dimensions of our lives too, our relationships, our thoughts. In that, is a measure of its success.

Concepts about life were still learnt during long walks with Grandpa. Tradition did not need UNESCO's certificate to be kept alive. The news paper was the kaleidoscope looking out to the outer world. There was a sentiment of exploration in visiting new cities. Decisions were based on personal calculation and the umpire was still the final authority on the cricket field.

I could go on. But Information Revolution has become a boring term. Boring not in the sense of saturated, but in the sense of a restless teen shifting hobbies without exploring the full potential of each. Its like solving crossword puzzles (Those horrible things evoke so much guilt for procrastination). One hasn't mastered it yet, but one is repelled by it. Similarly, Information Revolution is so much talked about that I skip an article as soon as I see those words in the headline. This article is *not* about Information Revolution. It is about how in 'connecting' with others, one has learnt to lose himself.

Will someone please decide 'whats the time' for me?

What we read on the internet shapes our thoughts. Earlier, your own living experiences shaped your thoughts. Experience, it seems, has lost its touch as a teacher. Mind you, I do not consider information networks hostile. I am merely marking on the weak immune system of our character.

One of the most important traits of life is to keep learning. It saddens me as to how malleable our learning curves have become. Perhaps, we need to see the negative side of easy information and the positive side of the lack of it.

Just the other day my 12 year old sister sent me an email which said that 'electricity can travel through light so please do not click pictures with flash near electric poles'. I was horrified portending what all had she already read and believed and what will she read, believe and help spread in the future. If you think you're more confident about making correct decisions than a 12 year old, please check your 'likes' on your facebook account. I'm serious, do it and come back and email me how many of them were rational? 

Caricatures R.I.P

Consider Memes. Mr. R. K. Laxman, it is sad to see what caricatures have evolved into. It is like a bad sequel. You have my condolences. 

If you are one of those idiots who shares political memes derogating Politicians, here's a question. Did you verify whether that information came from an authenticated source? Consider how your biases have catapulted into jealousy. All the infiltration that is happening in our mind, is taking its toll on us.  

I've been mingling with these thoughts for a long time. It was a certain poll that went viral which convinced me that these thoughts are not novice. A certain online youth outfit / magazine conducted a poll asking 'Which is the best institute in India'. And to my horror I found people actually going and voting on it. People did not stop and think, one will surely vote for one's own institute. The oldest institute, statistically, will win. Either that, or if I'm a loser, I'l just go and vote 10 times. It was sad to see people actually not wanting to see light.


You see, facebook is like TV. Yes, it helps you stay connected. But it also has the addictive and passive nature that makes the TV an idiot box. A more intelligent way to use it would be to actively use the 'unsubscribe' button. 

Let the internet be used actively as a tool. In that, I want to outline two things. One, a conscious distinction between the ends to which the tool is supposed to be a means and the means themselves. Do not lose this distinction. Let the means not shape your ends. Let the internet not determine what you learn. Be discreet. Two, use the tool actively in all its grace. A hammer needs to be held and struck at a certain angle, power and base to yield maximum result. USE the internet and not drag away in it. 

Mow Your Lawn Regularly

Shape the way you use your internet. Unsubscribe idiots, subscribe Calvin n Hobbes. Clear the litter on your feed. Look out for the © symbol. This will mean that someone is ready to take name for what is written. Otherwise, don't trust blokes who experiment with idiotism. Remember to check for the source of information before you start 'like'ing the Prime Minister amassed so much wealth that he was going to buy the whole of Sri Lanka. Ask the Why? Answer the Why Not's. Don't leave your brains at the coffee machine while you log into the Internet. 

Look at opinions for what they are. Only Opinions. Not the Gospel of Truth! (btw, check out this guy for opinions: The Oatmeal.) Check with your own 'Habits-I-Can't-afford-to-Lose' chart before you imbibe something cool you read on the internet. Email back authors of articles citing your criticism. If he's a true author, he'l appreciate your difference of opinion and debate. Argue, don't blindly accept. Read, evaluate, imbibe. NOT read, like, move-on. 

Take a moment and try to comprehend what you just read. Can you see how the Internet has infiltrated your decision making capabilities? Technology, is a tool. The internet should, no doubt, be used to enhance one's life. Enhance, not shape. It is your mind that needs to shape your lives. 

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic! Aligns in many ways with my thoughts in recent months. I really loved your use of cultural references (Grandpa check, Calvin & Hobbes check). I'm not sure why you titled it occlumency though. You're advocating that we interact with other minds in a more rational way, rather than completely block ourselves :)

    The Internet has been playing with our brains the same way TV has (Read "Amusing Ourselves to Death" by Neil Postman). Social networks and information overload leads us to go to more animalistic, instinct/emotion based parts of our brain. Likes & comments which play on popularity are a quick fix jolt of serotonin no different from a drug. The old slow ways of communication required you to take time, which automatically meant that you thought over the issue and invoked the pre-frontal cortex. You are advocating reaching out and turning the information tap down, which is a hot new topic of discussion :) But not so easy to convince people.

    Maybe television debates should be run with ad breaks between every speaker, so that the next speaker thinks a bit rather than just shouting :)