Monday, 21 December 2015

More communication or the death of it?

If you take a moment to get out of Bollywood melodrama where a girl meets a boy on a train ride and 3 hours later the boy has already conquered half of the girl's dad's rogue army to win her, you'd see that direct human interaction initiation is dying a slow death. Our direct interactions now either include a professional pretext so we have to introduce, or include an electronic medium facilitating the interaction or involves a subject which confines the interaction to it. But what I'm essentially trying to say is that pure random human interaction, that has remained the fulcrum of many of our friendships and conversations, is now being replaced by the might of technology. 

Mankind's initial days necessitated the need for communication. Everyone had limited resources and a barter required a negotiation and many discussions. As we progressed and became more civilized, concepts of friendship, relationship and courtship emerged. We realized that our interactions shall soon surpass the modicum of words we had at our disposal. Hence languages kept getting built, and our prowess to communicate accentuated. And before we could notice, communication went on to become a pivotal part of our existence. Civilizations emerged, demagogues ruined them, communication sprang revolutions, civilizations collapsed, and paved way for better ones! And we were a step up on progress, all courtesy of communication. People started interacting and communities started getting built. And we, the mammals who were the most advance prototype till date, the most solemn and the most supreme creation of the god, chose to forget we were just another breed, albeit a superior one. We were racing the planet into the future. 

It's been about 10000 plus years since languages started gaining their prime and we for the first time realized how valuable our ways of communication are. Word transformed from spoken, to written, written to typed, typed to transmitted, and finally to electronic. All throughout our progress, we never left behind the realization that it is communication that lies at both the zenith and the root of everything. And if you look at how far we have come, we have to say we've done a pretty impressive job. But if we really fast forward ourselves from when we realized the value of communication, to where we are today, there is something that has actually taken a hit in this regard. 

We have structured communication to beyond the point of no return. Telephony etiquette mandates we start a conversation with "Hello", start off by passing a compulsory greeting depending on the time of the day, and end by saying "take care". And our way of initiating text conversations were so set in stone that the application that now dictates terms is itself called "WhatsApp" deriving from the quintessential "What's Up?", which we use more times than we really want to ask that. Not only electronic communication but even one we start off with a random stranger has become pretty much well defined and established. We either use the subject of weather, or we ask about the book the other person is reading, or ask about that person's origin. And in a girl meets boy scenario, there are the usual cheesy pickup lines. But whatever it is, our communication seems to be well dictated. 

In reality, we have set boundaries around how we have to communicate. The other person never demanded that we start talking about weather. Text messaging software won't refuse to send a text if we didn't start off by asking What's Up. And it's not that our telephones won't transmit our voice if we didn't say "Hello". It's all ingrained, it's all etched in our minds, it's all just a set of caveats we have to follow. In fact, one aspect on which mankind's imagination ensued in many marvels of literature - the proclamation of love; That also is dictated by rules. People ask the question when should I tell her "I love you" when in reality it may really be a very parsimonious and cliched way of expatiating how you genuinely feel. That emotion, that feeling is ineffable, and "I love you" is still the best you could do? 

In all our progress, in all the sophistication, and in our pursuit of setting a code of conduct for acceptable communication, we've forgotten one really important element - randomness. Some of the best possible moments out of our gatherings come out of a random joke someone cracked by serendipity. Some of the biggest moments of history came out when one great man suggested an idea to another one. Some of the biggest revolutions transpired out of one enslaved myrmidon, telling others from his bereft clan that they should all rise. And yet we believe that communication should be structured.

From where we are moving towards, words are losing their relevance fast. More people like posting photos and suddenly "pictures speak louder than words" even in an age where pictures have filters and photoshop masters can jettison a prick with a starlet. People resort to 'K' and think it's cool and time saving. Old testaments are seldom read anymore, because modern manifestations of religion prevaricate any deep questions even otherwise. And your reports are written in plain, simple language when the creationist in you is desperate to speak out. 

Look deeper and you see we're refraining from communicating in totality. By restricting to our small friends circles, by adhering to the unspoken tacit tenets of etiquette, and by shortening our messages to a bare minimum length. Everything is simply curtailing communication and making us communicate in compliance to some set principles. We are no longer communicating at the behest of the voice inside us. We are instead choosing words that the person right in front of us wants to hear, within boundaries defined by social trends, and maybe using a medium made by someone else. More and more words are moving out of vogue and summary words are taking place. "Narcissism, opulence, self-aggrandizement" can all be conveniently summed up as 'swag'. "Nihilism, audacity, sagacity, prosperity" can all be summed up as "Thug Life". Yes, we chose our ways collectively, but while we've always been proven right with the course we've taken our communication to, maybe it'll be a good idea to once again walk out, visit a random place, and to start a random conversation with a completely random stranger.