Once upon a time there used to be a drawing room. And you could have friends and relatives over, sometimes uninvited, who you did not want to spend time with, but as a matter of familial courtesy, you had no choice. You had to smile at their pjs, you had to listen to their gibberish and suitably respond and sometimes say a few nonsensical things as well. The only good thing was, after some time there was a surety that the pain would be over, the people would leave for their respective homes, and you could apply the Jhandu balm and relax.
And then came whatsapp. And all serenity and peace in life was suddenly over. You not only had people you don’t know in your whatsapp room, they could talk to you whenever they wanted, whatever they wanted and you had no choice in the matter. The only advantage was, they could not see your reaction and hear your blasphemy. And you could throw away your mobile, and no one would be wiser.
Once upon a time, when emails first came into being, we were warned about chain mails and waste and viruses that would come and occupy our inbox and which we should never open as it may corrupt the computer, never to forward and more technical stuff like that.
And then came whatsapp. And you started getting all the same junk email, photos, videos which have eternal lives and keep on circulating for ever and ever and create the kind of waste you have always been warned about. And it came right to your drawing room and you felt smothered. And then you took a deep breath and thought about exiting the group. And dream about how peaceful life would have been without technology.
What do you have when 100 odd people who barely know each other but have the common factor of having graduated from the same Alma mater, come together after 25 years. In the drawing room days, you would have but met but once on the 25th anniversary, exchanged addresses and phone numbers and then forgotten each other’s existence for another 25 years or till you had Alzheimer’s, whichever was later. But now, life no longer being the same, with technology being around, everyone comes together forever on a whatsapp group and exchange meaningless posts that no one reads and follows. Trust me, if the people who share all the “things you should do for world and inner peace and your health and religion” followed 1/10th of their own advise, the world would be an infinitely better place.
Let me bust the myth about whatsapp, that it is the biggest thing since somebody said, let there be Internet. After racking my brain hard enough, I could come up with three primary uses of the app. And you can decide the usefulness based on your own priorities. First to talk to you son away in another country without spending a farthing ( sorry, still in UK mode). Second when you are shopping and cannot figure out whether to buy dress 1 or 2 or 3 or all of them, sending the images to your spouse to hear the confirmation “buy all of them”, and hence not feeling guilty. And lastly, sending new year and Diwali greetings free of cost to the entire phone book. Diwali greetings remind me, I am rather offended by those who keep on sending greetings for all the obscure occasions that happen almost every day in India, and don’t identify themselves. Just a ” best wishes on Hanuman Jayanti for you and your family” and message is over. Now the number isn’t stored in your phonebook, and the image is that of a kid/ celebrity whom you can’t place. So the dilemma of the century, do you know this person, doesn’t he/ she know you have absolutely no interest in any jayantibhai, should you ask the person his name? After lot of internal struggle you decide to ask in a small voice, do I know you? And quickly the response comes, Guess who! I give up. It is easier to just say, same to you and leave it at that.
Now we have the power to read all the jokes, first in text format, then with loads of smileys around it, then attributed to Santa-Banta, then to Jack and Jill, then husband and wife, then Tom and Jerry, and then the images start, same joke presented visually,… I am frustrated, I see these jokes in my sleep, and wake up, all drenched in sweat and trembling, (yeah it is hot too). And in every forum, the same joke gets forwarded, your college group, school friends, office, Facebook, and all jokes/fun/ whatever forums you subscribe to. Whatever happened to my privacy, when someone adds me to a group, why doesn’t the fellow ask me if I am interested and a timeout taken as a no (saves me from the internal struggle between the ardent desire to say no and the social stigma attached to it). No, by default you get added, and then if you want to opt out, you have the next social dilemma of what will people think? Can I leave without a message pop up. Will people think I am too stuck up and unfriendly. Oh forget it, let me be there, mute it and not read anything ever.
And then it had to add videos, so now all YouTube videos are shared, all karaoke self sung songs that should have been trashed in the first place are shared. If I want to see or listen to YouTube, or Ted, I know how to type http://www.youtube.com, or whatever, you don’t have to force me. And what do you do with the 500 odd messages that you get daily? My mobile battery goes for a six, all the space in my mobile isn’t enough to store everything. Just imagine if all this was on paper, how much of mind boggling waste would we be generating. The digital world is overloaded with virtual trash. There goes my swachh mobile.
It is also a psychological torture. Other than my neck-ache, which I have been getting since I was subscribed into a few groups, sometimes, in order to be deemed an active member, you bring yourself to write something and post it. And then if there is no response for the next 10 minutes, there is this mental cycle of oh God, did I send something wrong, has it been shared before, should I remove it, why isn’t anyone responding, was it in bad taste, how can all of the 100 people be busy simultaneously, shall I exit from the grip. Uff. And my Jhandu balm is back. And the worst thing is people know whether you have read something or not, it is no longer big brother watching, everyone is watching. So it becomes a must to at least put a smiley or thumbs up after every post, especially after your mobile keyboard has given up on you. ( by the way I am still confused, in my days, showing the thumb or tongue used to be considered a taunt, cheeky, ever since the cold drink and smiley world came into existence, it seems to have become a positive reinforcement, when did the world change?).