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  • Utkarsh Mishra

The Online Metaphysics

After the gruesome COVID times, the world is starting to function again in the offline mode. Having been back into the real world, living the actual social life we used to reminisce during the lockdown, we have been exposed to the fast paced transition to this digital space, a change that has happened in less than a decade. A focus upon behavioural changes that the online realm has brought with it in such a short span of time is something to behold and inquire about as we proceed back into the social network in the hybrid mode. The metaphysics of this online world has given way to an array of questions like what is the significance of social media platforms? What does it mean for people to connect online? What is the burden of understanding for the emojis? What is the current world all about? And most importantly, is a foolproof online transition really possible? These are pertinent questions that need to be thought about.

To exemplify, aged people can now see their child live on a video call who might be there in a completely different part of the world. When they practice this on a daily basis to satisfy their parental affection which is arising out of temporal distance, they probably wonder how things would have worked in those times when they were in the reversed role. It was the era of a letter for correspondence and a telegram for something very urgent. (Here, the readers must not mistake it for the messaging app Telegram which is used nowadays as an alternative for WhatsApp pertaining to file size and quality issues.) We are in a world where we don’t need to look back. An innovative invention from a distant part of the country grabs attention from top tycoons like none other than Anand Mahindra who comes down to support them in the best possible way. A singer from a very lower strata of the society, Ranu Mondal gets her well-deserved success and fame. A hardworking writer from a small town gets recognition for his pieces of literature that he displays on the internet. It has given us an appropriate method for our expression of our talent. The wide outreach that the world of social media brings to our rescue is enthralling. All this has been possible only because of this transition, that has been both social and behavioural. The important thing to now focus on is the utility it has carved out for itself in this short span. But has that all happened on its own?

Google Translate has been the best tool for us to interact in different languages and comprehend a particular language in various situations. It has undoubtedly connected us with various regional languages leading to cultural integration and exchange. We could have never thought that it would be possible because of such kinds of devices and software. Typing was a skill in earlier times; most importantly when we could not afford an error in the typewriter. Currently, we still have a typing test in many examinations but we can see the transformation 'voice typing' and 'grammar correction' has brought about in this particular sphere. This for sure has reduced time and labour and compensated for the aversion to typing long texts. Additionally, it is also a fun engagement to speak and see your spoken words getting typed. It gives us instant dopamine to see how the words which are pronounced differently get typed and it is equally amusing to see errors in understanding the spoken text. It is something that we do not intently focus upon but has become a part of our behaviour.

Coming back to the texting trajectory, it has led us to more productive results, for eg, typing, as we observed, is no longer an issue. But sometimes we feel reluctant to write when the voice typing mechanism does not work or when we are supposed to type the texts on the keyboard. The skilled ones still have an edge. They are those who have a knack for typing but in the general consideration of our will, this change has brought in us an aversion to type. It is evident in our habits of typing. The use of short forms can be successfully attributed to two spheres. The first one is to make the text short and the next one is to reduce the waiting time for the person who is at the receiving end to read the message. The texts are made short just by reducing the number of letters we have to type and this habit gets inculcated into our lifestyle to such an extent that the Google keyboard shows our self-made, language free mnemonics in its suggestion tab. Isn’t it interesting to see Hindi words written in unarranged English alphabets being served to us in suggestions that too by Google! Also, the suggestions have made us less concerned with the form of sentence we use as the Autocorrect feature is always there to our rescue when it comes to sentence formation and spelling correction. I fascinate typing the way we type on a typewriter and see the difference. It will showcase where we lack and how we have submitted ourselves to the knowledge and intelligence of the online world for the things we used to read in our grammar textbooks.

Now, to come to the transition brought about from calling to chatting, we used to call anyone we wanted to earlier. That was the time when we had the bulky cell phones in which we had to click on the number 7 to type the alphabet ‘S’, nostalgic much? We have been through that time and luckily we are the very first generation to experience the brilliance of the online world. Why do we now prefer typing and gazing at the screen in eagerness instead of calling that person for the same thing? Isn’t it increasing our screen time and the vulnerability of our eyes? Be it because of the consumption change or the screen time, the spectacles are a much more common device amongst people and especially amongst small children now than it was a few years ago.

Perhaps we find ease in changing the tab and seeing some reels or something by the time we get a reply from the opposite side. Is it really because of that or is it a product of our changed behaviour that this online world has brought in? The tabs are also a very dangerous thing. I remember reading this example in a newspaper article:

A person opened his phone to check his calendar for the day. He reached up to it and realized that there are a lot of notifications. He has received a reel suggestion from his friend which is actually very comic. He enjoys some of them. He loves the background music of the same and goes on to listen to the song on YouTube, the sea of all videos of the world. He gets a message in WhatsApp from someone important to him and engages in a chat for minutes. He gets a scolding from his dad to keep the phone and focus on studies. Once he switches the mobile data off and keeps the phone aside to pick up a book, he remembers that he had to check the calendar!”

Why I state tabs to be dangerous is because of the parallels it draws in our mind. We cannot actually focus on such different scenarios at once and also perform efficiently at the same time. Even if we try to do so, it will ruin our mind’s focus in the long run. Are we to function forever like that? We practice yoga and meditation just to improve concentration of our mind, while carrying the greatest motivator for distraction, our mobile, to practically every place we go. Being multi-purpose is not a characteristic of our mind, not least for a particular time. It blatantly divides our attention and productivity, thereby leading us to deviated goals.

The chat culture is prevalent, for it can be done irrespective of time and space. Now, why do we type our messages in pieces? This again is a result of our habit but leads us to division of notions. Some people, especially elders, are very critical of it. They actually find it irritating as it is a little bit informal and also useless to type what we have to say in a number of messages. On the way round, in order to justify this practice which we involuntarily do nowadays, I would say that it makes our text easy to read, less crowded and again reduces the time one has to wait at the other end to read and reply to the message. This, undoubtedly, reduces the time involved in a conversation and makes replies quicker. Emojis, Stickers and GIFs are an integral part of the chat now. They have transformed the chatting concept and added new elements to the black and white texts. They help us showcase our expression in the form of some defined designs which we can relate to. GIFs and Stickers have made the process a little light hearted and more involving than before. However, the downside is that we actually mould ourselves to rather objective patterns which may be a little different as compared to our actual emotions. Nonetheless, we have habituated ourselves to these small pictures that depict various human characteristics and use it as an integral part of our chatting process.

Apart from this, we have stories on Instagram and status on WhatsApp which we glance at for 24hrs. The culture it has developed is totally novel. We showcase our daily visits and events in that. Whether it is significant or not depends on person to person. But the reels and Tik Tok videos which were uploaded there have tested our patience. We receive the entire message to be conveyed, either comical or emotive in those 15-30 seconds which as a result has developed aversion in us to long videos, even to those near 10 minutes or so. The reason behind shortening the contents is because of the time limitation by these platforms, which is beyond doubt genuine pertaining to features. But the change in our approach to longer videos compels us to think in this perspective. We had rather longer songs earlier with different intermittent stanzas but nowadays, even the songs wrap up in a couple of minutes. The crisp reels also bring into attention rather sidelined songs which get fame years after they were actually released. They not only grab attention but also provide concise and packaged entertainment. All these factors have changed our habits. It has brought about a major difference in our behaviour, inevitably leading us to become a part of this change.

Day by day, apps like Forest, InnerHour, Brain Focus and many more are becoming prevalent. Addiction to devices is increasing, some may define it as 'affection' too! Conspicuous as it is, it can’t be denied that we used to do a lot more physical activities as compared to kids of now, who at a young age can operate various things efficiently at the cost of playtime. Comically, we ourselves confess in our IG stories and jokes that it’s the uncontrollable use of phones that has affected our studies. But we really need to find what has led us to this? Why does such nostalgia come up despite several benefits? How to cope up with the negatives tied to all of this? The answer ought to be found out through serious introspection in our own practices. But now the transition is here and we are a part of it. It is totally up to us to decide the stream we want to take it to and how to connect rather than disconnect with our other activities. Frankly, the onus is on us to discover whether it is really ‘on’ line!

By Utkarsh Mishra

1 則留言


Very well written!

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