Disclaimer: This is not a rant on how bad social media/technology is for us, how it has engulfed us and how all we need to do is burn our accounts and pursue what we want without distraction. It’s more on… well I ain’t giving it all out in the disclaimer now, am I.. read on…
Ping! New message yearns for my attention while I write this article…Two clouds pop over my head, Mr. White (the calm, composed, anti-technology, paper-book kinda guy) and Miss Black (the hyperactive, tech-savvy, super social and popular kinda girl). Before they start having a conversation with me, a little background on the two is necessary. White hates technology and believes in its minimal usage unless it’s value adding in some way or the other. He is of the belief that you should be in total control of everything that you can control. He prefers a library over an Ipad. He switches off his gadgets and locks himself in his room when he needs to focus. Black on the other hand is pro-technology. She believes that it’s the internet that’s responsible for what she knows, when she knows and is of the opinion that technology is meant for her disposal so why not tap into it and make the most of it to create her image, brand herself and be successful with a few clicks, updates, searches, and shares. Now the problem with the two is that they are stubborn and have giant egos to even listen to what the other party is saying. This situation most of the time leads to a mayhem and thus questions and overhauls their belief systems. So back to the ‘Ping’ that got them to the boxing ring a while ago. May the slugfest begin:
Black: Dude! Ignore the text. You are not touching that phone until your first draft is out.
White: It could be your work group on whatsapp. What if they need you and are waiting for a consult?
Black: They can always call you know. (Meanwhile, brilliant idea no. 1 for the article passes by and these two don’t even notice)
White: Hey! It could be Aditi at the shopping mall. She needs your opinion on the new watch that she liked and is thus waiting at the counter contemplating on the purchase.
Black: Focus! No matter what. This article is important to you and you cannot afford to delay it any further. (Brilliant idea no. 2 hops by)
White: Oh common! It will hardly take a minute to check and respond. All the concerned parties will be happy!
See the flux there? Now it seems that white is the good guy here and black is trying to distract him. It’s true and it’s not. The underlying problem is that we are trying to balance on a rope while these two are trying to shake the rope and pull you on their side. While this is happening, solid work is whizzing by and there my friend lies the actual loss. It’s not about who wins amongst the two. They don’t need to fight. They need to shake hands and hold that rope firm on either end. They need to push you on the other side if you tend to tilt more towards theirs. They need to help you balance so that you can embrace your solid work walking by (while these two argue) and optimize it. You need to shake hands with your work, your ideas, your beliefs, your morals, your past, present and future, the books you read, the things you share, the comments you make (on screen and off) and the people you meet.
Staying in the gray area takes time, patience and effort. People are traveling. Someone got promoted or got a raise. You are falling short on a skill. She got married. They got a new house. I need to read more, know more. What do I want in life? Should I give it a shot? Can you imagine the sheer magnitude of thoughts crossing your mind every living minute? And the technological revolution has made it worse because it is all there right in front of you; pleading for your glance. And most of the time you fall prey to it all.. the updates.. the distractions.. the alluring games and seasons… the memes.. the videos. There is absolutely no filter whatsoever because the information is available and its immense. Our attention spans have become fragmented and our knowledge retaining potential has become meager. Information brushes our minds to give momentary pleasures of knowing or achieving something and then you are back to square one. I read an interesting line the other day – “One day when our children ask us a question, I would not say ‘Google it!’ Instead, I shall invest my time into reading now, for they will need the knowledge tomorrow.’ It stayed with me for a while. Google undoubtedly has been helping us with a zillion things but it plays an equal role in distracting our vulnerable, restless minds. We want attention. We yearn to be noticed, to be appreciated. It makes us feel good and there is nothing wrong with that. The need to be loved is very much ingrained into us as humans.
We thus tend to put forth the best versions of ourselves on social media. Why wouldn’t we? We want people to like us and be in awe of us. So we put on a smile, add on those filters and upload. There has been a lot of criticism on this one. I however personally believe that it’s not totally wrong. I am against the whole fake it until you make it approach. But there is no harm in adding that extra shine to your armor. People are vulnerable and there is no way that social media will portray their true selves at least in the short run (if that happens, the world would indeed be an authentic, transparent place to be in). The primary reason we create these shields is to avoid the two evil siblings named mockery and judgment. But gone are those days where all we had were in person or phone interviews. Dating was approaching someone (physically) and asking them out or using handwritten letters to express love to our loved ones. With skype, tinder, emails and a thousand other portals to get things done faster, technology is indeed on the forefront. So if adding a little shine helps you get what you want, then why not add it? Even if that shine is not who you are on the surface. This is not faking. Its marketing yourself and creating a brand that reflects your persona and the screens are playing a crucial role in creating those vital first impressions so grab the opportunity even if the path seems a little uncomfortable initially. All good things are supposed to be uncomfortable initially, right? And if something you do online is not adding a shine to your armour, be generous enough to share something which changes someone else’s life, makes someone else happy, makes them think, reflect and resonate with something positive because we have enough hatred and negativity in the world at the moment and guess what is amplifying the effect? TECHNOLOGY!
What happened to perseverance and focus? Where is that self-control and the sense of achievement felt after prolonged, complete hard work? Just because you can open a new tab on your browser and google how Kim Kardashian got robbed does not mean you have to. Don’t scan but read. Finish an article or a book you set your mind on. Click on those links within the articles and absorb the idea in its entirety. So that it stays with you and does not just brush off. Train your mind to focus. Take off those earphones during your transits and talk to people. Remember birthdays instead of checking your notifications every morning and for heaven’s sake call and wish them instead of texting or whatsapping or vibering or tangoing. Another interesting thing a friend said the other day- “You will know if you really care for someone if you remember their birthdays.” Touch a soul and not a screen.
All this is possible only when you learn to compartmentalize your life and are clear on most if not all of your thoughts and goals. Because when you are, you will cultivate a lifestyle which assures your folks that you care for them and you don’t need to constantly respond, update or post to prove it. Technology is not the devil here. In fact, it’s great for networking, creating a brand and all the other things it boasts of. Social media breaks in your work schedule have in fact been proven to enhance your productivity and focus. It’s like a mini-vacation which is revitalizing. The problem occurs when you let it take over you. It overwhelms and controls you only when you allow it to. Being selective, creating a filter on what you see, read and what you don’t, creating a schedule that is in sync with your mind and body for taking these so-called breaks are a few tricks to not let it trample all over you. Don’t open an app just because you have time to kill. Do it because you want to or even better; only when you have to. Tap on the features of those apps that help you grow or add value to your sketch in some way because you want to feel good after that 10-minute browsing session. Enter the zone with a motive. If you are confused, have no idea what to do in your spare time (however limited that may be) and have this strong urge to reach for your handphone then stop. Pause for a moment while Miss Black takes a backseat and think – Where are you? Is there anything else that you would be doing that will make your 10 minutes worthwhile? Maybe getting in touch with someone? Maybe whipping an omelet? Maybe watching the highlights of your favorite sport? Your screens are options, not compulsions. You choose. You decide. And when you master this very crucial area of this century, your black and white clouds will be having a conversation which goes something like-
(after cultivating a call-me-if-urgent routine)
Black: (Quick glance on the phone; it’s mom) It’s a text. To be checked later. (I enter work mode and grab brilliant idea no. 1 before it passes by)
White: Well, it’s a text! This can wait. Focus on your first draft will you!
(Phone rings this time)
Black: (It’s work, answers the call and solves the issue, feels good, re-enters the work mode with the upbeat spirit)
(Social media break. White takes a lead. Facebook? Alright.. Oh, it’s her birthday. Call her. Wish her. She is happy. You are happy) (No texting = no waiting for her reaction/ response)
Capture of brilliant idea no. 2
Idea 3 and 4 also follow.
Brilliant article ready to be published.