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Thought and Reason

The Virtual world – Virtual or Real?

With many of us living a parallel life ‘online’, one wonders if this throbbing, invisible world is really virtual anymore?

I remember reading a chapter on ‘the Internet’ when I was in school, and quietly dismissing it thinking it was too ‘theoretic ’. I could not have been more wrong!!

Right from my cute 8-year-old neighbour in Chennai till 70-year-old retired school teacher aunty, almost every single person I know is alive and kicking in the Virtual world (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virtual_world).

Facebook FeverFacebook, Twitter, Google wave (and many more!)… ‘being online’ is not merely a part of life, but a basic necessity for many! Facebook discussions, for example, are so real that I often find myself pondering the entire day about a single thought floating around somewhere in virtual space. Some people go so far as to claim their life has improved with being able to instantly gratify their need for friendship! We are so involved with the online world that it begins to affect our day-to-day life. We do things, go to places so we can tell the world we have done it. We argue, we strive desperately to show we are right, we eagerly seek approval.. and all this from a community that we do not ‘see’ but only ‘read’.

Media Mania (pic courtesy Hindustan times)

There is this nagging urge to make a strong online presence. It could start off with a completely useless discussion on New Year resolutions that you know will not see the light of day! Or RT-ing anything that Big B, Junior B, or Beti B say (or gurgle, as the case may be). Or even reading a controversial article and throwing barbs at the authors hiding behind a shield of anonymity.

One thing is certain – no matter what form our online participation takes, it is certainly assuming gigantic proportions. Statistics indicate that many Facebook users spend more time on Facebook than face-to-face with friends.

Basically, we do not live in one single world any more. There is this invisible, pulsating virtual world all around us, drawing us deeper and deeper each day.

I wouldn’t say it is a vice, though. Let’s take a look at the incredible benefits of our virtual world:

  • Pretend to be friends with @SrBachchan and go ga-ga about Beti B’s name
  • Find love in chat-rooms (Sure, that makes a great story to tell your grandkids!)
  • Golu (Pic courtesy Wikipedia)

    Valiantly keep Indian culture alive. Especially all those lovely NRIs living in the ‘aasum You-Yes-Yay’ who post photos of exotic Golu and drool-worthy Paniyaram!

  • Say NO to dieting and exercise. I mean seriously! All you need is Photoshop. And tada!! You have a . Throw on a pair of dark glasses, Copy-Paste Santorini in the background, and notice how easy it is to get ‘liked’ without the Kolaveri of sweaty gymming.

    Instant makeover (Pic courtesy home-make-over dot info)
  • Keep a watch on the better-half! You wonder why his SMS reads ‘stuck in boring office party’, when he is simultaneously ‘tagged’ realtime with some hotties via ‘HTC Wild fire for FB’ 😉

Keep an eye on that teenage cousin who wears two-plaits and goes to a girls-school, and quietly tip off her mom when some weirdo with spikey hair comments ‘Dat Pic Lukng Hawt’. Whatever, dude!
Find out what your retired dad is upto these days (even if you don’t really want to). Dirty Picture at xyz Cinema with abc’. Gulp! Shouldn’t Zuckerberg think of introducing an upper age limit on FB users?

  • Free campaigning for events and functions. All you need is an IIT/IIM based story, and Voila! you are the next Chetan Bhagat, and FB is under a deluge of your ‘book launch’
  • Forge great friendships and even greater enemies!
  • And best of all, you get all this for FREE!

All the same, we suddenly have many lurking dangers!

  • Trading Facebook for Treadmill. Er.. not a great idea, really!
  • At the risk of an anti-climax, most of those porn videos that you think are ‘Chi..chi!’ and then click when nobody is watching, are actually spam and could contain viruses. What is worse, the bleddy link does not even play a video afterall!!
  • Attack by virtual trolls. There seem to be an increasing level of aggression and barbed attacks by anonymous trolls who trade subjectivity for offensiveness. Actually, getting to watch a fight for free should go under ‘merits’ of social media, but then, it isn’t always pleasant, is it?
  • Identity theft – This is more common than we think. When I saw my mum receiving FB notifications, I wondered how a lady who refused point-blank to turn on a computer, suddenly got so tech-savvy. Duh! Someone had stolen her ID!
  • Mc Merry!!! (Pic courtesy www dot overgroundonline dot com)

    There is just no privacy! You can’t lie to your organization or school. Like, for example, you cannot bunk school and go to Inox or McDonalds, because somebody is always watching.

  • And what is worse… those annoying/boring/nevertheless curious folks you desperately try to avoid in real life, keep such close watch on you, its like having a personal Bodyguard
  • And on a serious note, considering the amount of time and effort you invest into social media, you really cannot estimate the value of ‘return’. Unless you consider ‘3 hrs per day on FB = 5 kgs gain p.a’.

Evidently, all these merits and demerits of the virtual world are quite tangible. Increasing awareness, thoughtful discussions, resultant mood swings(!), friendships, enemities, losses (of time) and gains (of weight!) are all real.

Can we still confidently draw the line between the online world and the real one?

Do we know when exactly a Facebook campaign suddenly gains huge momentum, facilitating a mass-protest in a country (eg., Egypt protests organized through Facebook and microblogging site Twitter)?

Pip pip Pippaaaa! (Pic courtesy telegraph dot co dot uk)

Why! We even saw a bunch of ‘real’ people who witnessed the Royal wedding and promptly went on to create a Facebook page for ‘Pippa Middleton Ass Appreciation Society’. The page has 241,492 fans!

We did not see this coming (And I don’t mean Pippa Middleton).

We did not realise when or how the virtual world became an integral part of the real one. When being ‘online’ changed from a one-off indulgence to a gnawing daily necessity! When the power of the online world began to threaten that of the real one. Or when thoughts floating around online started influencing mind-sets in the physical world.

What do you think? Is the Virtual world really virtual anymore? Or is it so real that it poses social and even political dangers to society?

Pic courtesy: Wikipedia

Perhaps we should ask Kapil Sibal!

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Cross-posted on the nri dot com)

 

Categories
Incidents Short story Thought and Reason

Withdrawal symptoms – a housewife’s confession

Today was the day. I was a slave, about to be freed. My husband had an inkling, but didn’t know how rapidly the last six months had devoured me. I had started doing it once a week, when loneliness was my sole companion. It gave me a ‘high’ – it liberated me. Slowly, the frequency increased to once a day, sometimes twice, and sometimes all day long, only to feel terribly tired and sick by night, when the family returned home! But I had heard it wasn’t good for me or for us. I was visibly gaining weight, developing dark circles under my eyes, and looking haggardly. I finally resolved – to break free – to abstain for a day (to begin with).

Today was the day. The first hour was a breeze. I didn’t even think about it. The second hour was very busy with mundane morning chores – cooking, cleaning, etc. I was doing better than I expected. So I thought. It started by mid-day. The withdrawal symptoms. I started getting restless. I stretched out on the old sofa and switched TV channels like a zombie. “But why is this idiot box an accepted indulgence? Is that all we housewives are allowed? Why are men never questioned?” I thought angrily. The news was boring. The TV soaps were killing! I thought I’d go for a walk, or gossip over the phone with Mummy. The health-freak that I am, I chose option 2, but at the end of it, I was actually more irritable.

Something was not alright. People watching me would have thought I was tapping my feet in tune to “Kabhi kabhi .. Aditi”, little did they know that my nervous twitch was just at its worst! My head was beginning to throb. I tried to sleep a while. The thing with Sleep is, it is a rebel. When you really need to be awake, like the night before your Financial Management exam, that’s when your droopy eyelids are too heavy, even to allow you ogle at Hritik Roshan dancing in the rain! And today when I was desperately in need of sleep, my pillow turned lumpy, sheets turned cold, and the windows clanged incessantly with the wind. I tossed and turned until I finally gave up.

I was in a terrible state. Restless, irritable and moody. My craving was overwhelming. Its only been 12 hours, I reminded myself. Then a phone call did it. My mother-in-law. “Beta, I saw your holiday pictures, very nice. Looks like you’ve put on a lot of weight. What do you do the whole day??”, she innocently asked. I snapped. Here I was, putting my career at stake for the sake of the family, and all I get in return is a questionnaire on how I spend my time! I couldn’t care less about what anybody thought about my habits or me. My husband didn’t know, atleast not yet, so I might as well enjoy it while it lasts.

So I sneaked into my bedroom, feeling guilty and excited at the same time. I opened it, touched it nervously (as if it was the first time!), caressed it lovingly, deftly moved my fingers and punched something. And the screen read, “Internet Explorer cannot display the webpage”.

What the ****! I do not touch the computer (my new-found love) for the longest 12 hours in my life, and broadband doesn’t work! Grrr! Anyway, tomorrow’s another day. I’ll try again. The Internet I mean, not the abstinence.

(Today was the day I had decided to abstain from the Internet. And here I am, typing out this post for you! Three cheers to the Internet, the housewife’s window to the world :-))