Food for thought

Social Media: A Tool or a Weapon?

In a world where our day starts with a status update or a story update, have we managed to retain the initial purpose for which social media was created or we have gone a bit too far? Read on to find out what our Founder Karteekka Tyagi has to say.


Note: This write up is based on true events.

“A fun-filled day with family in the Swiss Alps”, followed by 50,000 family vacation photos, some carefully clicked keeping in mind how they appear on social media and some random blurry shots of the mother trying to fix the baby’s diaper or someone laughing hysterically while some of them are trying to crack the map!

I scroll down and see another one from a “dear friend”: “Mama Bear and Papa Bear are super proud of our Goldie-Locks for getting a gold medal in the junior “run to the moon and back” marathon.” Out of curiosity, I thought of checking the comments and apart from the family, there were a few other fellow school parents who liked the post and stamped a forced “congratulations to the proud parents” remark on the post.

Does it end here? Of course not! Going further below, someone had posted a picture of a new house they bought, including the not to be missed picture of the brand new shiny toilet!! And another one who wanted to thank her husband for gifting her the latest convertible Audi and yet another “friend” who wanted to thank his wife for the awesome biryani she made for the Sunday lunch (mmmm…wasn’t she sitting next to you?). And yes, the one who wanted to thank God for giving her the best husband and family and showered my social media feed with mushy posts of how “strong their love is” or “how team love conquered all the hardships” or “team love and the two tiny offshoots of this team love are so blessed to be together”; honestly, it felt like coming straight from a K-Jo over the top romantic film, filled with mushy background music and dialogues sweetened enough to give you diabetes. And then, we all know that all of our social media friends are married to their best friends and have the sweetest love stories and the brightest children and the most expensive holidays and the best “friends like family” and of course, they are all poets, writers and authors who come up with beautifully crafted, emotional, tearful messages with no grammatical errors akin to an Oscar Thank You Speech, to wish their 1 year old tots a happy birthday or wish “the love of their life” a happy anniversary.

Isn’t it all so surreal? So much happiness and pride all around and yet we hear that issues like depression, anxiety and loneliness are on a rise. Or is it the fact that there is so much happiness around us, some of us become a victim of this new age swank and actually feel miserable about our lives?

I am sure when a team of young university students created the first social media prototype, they had no idea they were equipping the world with something which is not new, yet which will come to become the most dangerous weapon of mass destruction, perhaps a 100 times more dangerous than the nuclear bomb. Since the time we all evolved into human beings, this race to prove ourselves better than the others has been an integral part of our lives. I remember when our cruise guide in Amsterdam told us that back in the days, the higher the steps at the entrance and the bigger the number of windows in windows in your house, the richer and more powerful you were. Or like in India, one’s worth was measured in the load of gold one carried on their bodies as ornaments. The same need and hunger to prove your worth and demean others has perhaps now taken a modern and more vicious form.

There is nothing more deadly and oddly satisfying than an attack on someone’s self-esteem, an attack that shatters one’s positive perception about one’s life, an attack that leaves one wondering whether one is living the most despondent and the most pathetic life on this planet. Social media channels which started off as a means of communication or ‘keeping in touch’ with friends and family or as a tool for finding long lost friends may well have taken the form of a means to satisfy this basic human need- Need to blow my own trumpet. I may well be wrong and a lot of people may not accept this argument. Clearly, the people purporting to be happy and throwing their happiness and pride in everyone’s faces would disagree and would argue that we share happy things rather than sad things because we want to share our happiness with our family and friends.

Now, there is an inherent lack of logic in this argument to begin with. First of all, the 300-700 presumed “friends like family” that you are sharing your happiness with are not really your friends. They may be your colleagues, ex-colleagues, business associates, professional acquaintances, neighbors, fair-weather acquaintances, school parents, your family doctors, your advisors, your dentist’s receptionist, your child’s nursery teacher, your gardener, your favorite baker, but come on! how many of those are your true friends? How many names can you think of when you are stranded in the middle of the road with a flat tyre or how many of these 700 people would you call when you are tied to your bed due to a severe pain in your back and you need an immediate medical attention! I know what your answer would be- you can only think of your immediate family and perhaps 2-3 REAL FRIENDS. So, in short, this theory of sharing your happiness with our “friends” really does not hold any ground.

Second, are you sure that people only share their happy moments? As far as I can remember, I have seen people posting carefully drafted and thoughtfully curated messages when they lose someone as dear as their parents. To my limited wisdom, the idea that one can even think straight and to an extent where one can craft poetic messages during a time of such grief seems absolutely implausible. However, that may well be seen by some as a sign of evolution and changing perceptions. When I see people posing with their late parents’ belongings with a bereaved expression on their faces coupled with a long, emotional message of how they miss their loved ones, that is the time when I feel that today, life is only lived on social media; whether in happiness or in sorrow.

And finally, or at least I feel so, that this swank and ostentatious display of our happy lives on social media is nothing but a powerful weapon to hurt others and make them feel completely distraught and miserable in life. All these flashy and flamboyant holiday pictures, display of our children’s progress reports and accolades and the ugly display of wealth are done only to attack and completely crush the self-esteem and dignity of our “friends”.

Not just this, but this present-day narcissism and race to prove our worth, is giving rise to a different kind of, something that was unheard of, a strange yet highly contagious peer pressure. The kind where one is compelled to like someone’s recent change of profile picture or comment on a check-in or tag someone in a post or just accept what shows up in your timeline review (NO! I am not talking gobbledygook!). The other day I received a call from a friend who wanted an explanation as to why did I not allow the post (where she had tagged me) to appear on my timeline! Of course, I had to apologize and proceed to do what I was instructed to do and also send her a screenshot of the completed task!!

And when I call this a weapon, I may not be exaggerating for all those tweets and rants on social media and the non-stop public banter and mud slinging can easily take the shape of a war between nations. Living with different nationalities has taught me that we all do not carry as much animosity in our hearts as we regurgitate on twitter and Facebook. Many of us do not even care for these social and public debates, but when it comes to voicing our opinions on social media, hidden behind a social profile, it is much easier to be all vocal and aggressive! I wonder if we all would be as spirited to express ourselves if we were to go in a face-to-face repartee.

You may now have a good laugh while reading this, but this is the world we live in and we all are guilty of doing this. We are all guilty of compelling and coercing those parents to reprimand their child because he did not get that gold medal OR dispiriting that young woman because her husband could not gift her a shiny convertible OR crushing that father’s soul who could not afford a holiday in the alps for his family OR dampen the spirit of that mother who could not send her child to a swanky western university. And we also have a public display of those innermost feelings of sorrow and bereavement on the loss of a loved one. Am I wrong in concluding that everything in our lives must get a stamp of likes and emojis and comments?

Mr. Zuckerberg, I am sure you had not contemplated this accidental invention of a weapon of mass destruction.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR Karteekka Tyaggi

HI! I'm Karteekka, a lawyer by profession and founder of Salaam Life. I love sharing everything that is close to my heart and that is the reason why Salaam Life as created. want to drop a line to me?

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