Saturday, 31 March 2018

A literal loss of words...

Opportunities to write are becoming an increasingly rare privilege for me. It is not merely a writers' block or the lack of leisurely time. It is in fact apprehension; and a rather dumbfounded one, but an apprehension nonetheless. Of late, I've been getting this mortifying feeling, of being denuded of words. There is a lot that I feel like expressing and there are still those limited modes of expression. So while writing still sits at the apex of the list, here I am, finding myself at a literal loss of words.

A lot has changed in my life over the last couple of months and as I prattle and meander through this quarter life crisis, the speed of change continues to wreak rampage. It seems as if change has accelerated exponentially. Over a span of a month, I'm not able to observe the pages turn, but over a year, the very book has been rendered derelict. Last 3 years have seen more change than the last 9 for me. And my loss of words, is largely attributed to this inexorable panache of change.
It took my family 15 years to graduate from a CRT color TV to an LCD and not even 5 to switch from the latter to an LED. Likewise, it took my home 20 years to graduate from a landline to a polyphonic tune based frugal looking cellphone, while it took barely a year to switch from 3G to LTE. You must be thinking I'm going to prescribe the usual technology bickering, but my loss of words is only partly predicated to that. It's a result of something else.

In this ever changing world, what petrifies me is putting myself in context. As a human being when I imagine my great great grandfathers, who would have been nomads, ferreting for pastures and hunting prey, they were largely driven by the basic human needs. In fact as children even we were sensitized to the fulfillment of the basic paraphernalia - Roti, Kapda and Makaan! But of late, things seem to have changed.

Suddenly, at the helm of everything, is the need of fitting in. While the slang Fear of Missing Out (#FOMO) is no longer the heirloom of rebellious revanchists and is in fact a part of the mainstream culture, this fear is actually much more deep rooted than we can imagine. Our actions are no longer dictated by what we were taught or by what we always believed to be the truth. In fact, our actions are now solely driven by the vagaries of the social fabric. 

About a decade and a half ago, when Orkut and some nascent social media platforms were prevalent and text messaging didn't allow anyone to see you, even someone visiting your profile was such a profound event that Orkut kept a count of it. And here we are today, oblivious about what facet of our life is out in the open and what information we're unknowingly serving on the digital platter. In fact we're so absorbed by the appeal of proclamation, that concerns of privacy are now only limited to privacy settings and 2 factor authentication.

We're taking pictures not with the intent of preserving a moment, but with the intent of making sure it is shared. We're using a hashtag, no matter how incongruous it is, just to prove that we're not luddites and that we're a part of the clan as well. We send whatsapp messages and are on groups, just to feed that sense of belongingness. Most of the correspondence or most of the content we're exposed to, is not of any use to us, but yet we chose to filter through it, instead of blocking the same. It is this insane amount of data that makes me feel helpless. 

We, the Homo Sapiens, might have come really far and might have accomplished unprecedented feats on our sojourn, but we're still made of flesh and bone and not of silicon and solid state devices. While our systems upgrade from single to dual and quad cores, we still have one single cranium supporting one delicate kilogram of mass running the show of our lives. Simply put, I'm too afraid of all the communication that now controls my life.

Right from the beep of the alarm till the final scroll through Facebook feed, it seems like we're not the ones in control, but we've surrendered it to what we now believe to be the supreme commander. Every few years, some piece of technology takes over mankind, but cellphones, while they're used for facilitation of some job, are used by everyone alike.

While the working class needs smartphones, you'd find it even with the most idle fellow on the street. He is not using it for accomplishing any task, but such is the appeal of technology's inextricable illusion of social circles, that even he is welcomed. Just by joining Facebook or Instagram, even this fainéant forays into this virtual world where he is given an identity. Truth be told, he or that 5 year old school going toddler still don't have an identity. But this manifestation in a social circle, and this certificate of existence are the most important identity ever. 

This crotchety change will only intensify with time. Same people are on multiple platforms, all allowing seamless movement of data. Facebook, Whatsapp, Instagram and Snapchat have all the same stories, tailored for different crowds, suited to different tastes. There would have been a time when you were not obliged to prove that you're happy, but now you are! 

They say change is the only constant, but here, we're compelled to change for pleasure, rather than changing to combat adversity, which otherwise has been the hallmark of human progress. Entropy, the agent of change, used to make us adapt by forcing us to learn new ways of tackling some nettlesome chagrining situation. But entropy today is the massive obligation of trying to fit in, and it just makes us succumb to the art of putting considerable effort in fitting in. 

I was just never prepared for this onslaught. I have been through gargantuan personal and professional upheavals in the past and I didn't wither, but this speed of change, and this ever piling weight of extraneous obligations, is facetious enough to knock out the wits. Suddenly, the sound that the pen made over the chasms of paper as I wrote, is replaced by tick of the keys on the keypad. I couldn't undo what I wrote on paper alright, but suddenly I can't write anymore what I once could have. Such is my literal loss of words...