When Meme gets you Fame!

How to become famous within seconds?

Is Social Media A Waste of Time For Aspiring Musicians?
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Recently, there is a viral video trending on social media, where a girl posts video while partying with her friends. You might think what’s so special about it? There are hundreds of videos uploaded everyday on YouTube and other social media. But this one for no special reason became viral and here’s the video from her Instagram account.

The above video has garnered so much attention and fame that its makes me think what’s so big in this video. The 19 year old rich Pakistani girl from Peshawar is partying with her friends, and this video is in Hindi, so for the English readers, it simply means, ‘This is My car, This is Me and This is our Party going on”. That’s it!

Well, but what makes this meme so viral is her fake accent. She purposefully says ‘Pawri’ instead of ‘Party’. This is because of the fake western accent she is trying to put on. And her dazzling looks, and the lavish show of car and her friends makes an ideal receipe to get the attention. This is because people in countries like Pakistan and India are simply looking for such kind of videos. And the popularity of this meme was further enhanced by an Indian engineer turned music composer, and his viral meme composition based on this video, will make you ROFL!

Welcome to the world of becoming famous within seconds. Once upon a time, the scientists and businessman used to become famous after years of hard work. Then filmstars started becoming famous overnight yet with months of hard work. Now, it seems with all such meme, short videos and social media, anyone can become famous within seconds and that too without any much efforts. Both these videos have been seen and liked a million times, and they have acquired yet another million subscribers, and die hard followers. What else do we need in life? When Maggi/noodles can be made in 2 min, why not become famous in 2 min?

Today, the social media is filled with such meme’s. Not long before, a girl in India had become popular for just making an extremely badly edited and even terribly singing video song of taking selfies and showing off her flamboyance. She soon became viral and became known as ‘Dhinchak Pooja’. After few days, someone found that she was earning lakhs of rupees per month just with all the viral sensation and ads. Isn’t this a modern case of Ponzi scheme? She delivered a very pathetic content, which helped or educated no one, and yet she earned millions within days! Can there be any better business model to not only become famous but also rich!

So, looking at all these trends, I wonder if we are getting lost in this world of memes. After all, they were supposed to give us some laughter and comedy in this world which is full of stress and deadlines. But now, its almost a career for few people. They post such video clips and meme’s everyday using the social media tools like Instagram, YouTube, TikTok and Facebook. Its even amusing to see them put as ‘Working at TikTok’, or ‘Working at Facebook’ on their profile! And their followers are overloaded with their not so worthy content, which they follow, watch, share and spend time on it. And even worse its dangerously addictive. Not only for us, but even for the makers and creators of these. Atleast they get paid and the million dollar worth fame with their futile memes. But what do viewers like us get? We not only waste our precious time in watching their repeatedly and sharing them, but also become addicted to watching more and more of such content. If we continue with this, won’t it affect our work, our personal life and even our goals and ambitions in life?

I think its our mistake that we give so much importance to such memes and videos on platforms like TikTok. Its we who have given them so much fame and now it has almost become a career for them. Because they know its the easier route to get noticed. And with fame, new avenues open up like modeling, music concerts and films. Posting such memes to make them viral is a quickest and easiest path to get the fame to launch their careers, And our consistent viewing and sharing for free is a boost for them. Its like we are working for them as their marketing team. Ofcourse, there is nothing wrong to post videos or share them if we like, but it should be worth watching. Videos with fake accent, showing exuberance wealth, lifestyle, or even fake voice is not worth watching or sharing.

If we got time to watch and share, there are lots of good content online, where talented dancers, music composers, and even artists are awaiting to show their talent to the world. We need to learn to use the platforms like Facebook and YouTube created for sharing purposes in a much better way. Educative, informative and even creative videos needs to be watched, shared and supported. They will help us to learn and become more knowledgeable. Only then can we have a world where the true application of social media to make this world a open, free world filled with knowledge will come to reality.

© Abhishek Karadkar and abhiknotes.com, 2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Abhishek Karadkar and abhiknotes.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Copyright © 2021 AbhikNotes – Powered by WordPress.com


Filtering the noise..

Today, it seems that the world is becoming noisy and chaotic day by day. Not because of any unexpected event or political debacle ( which though keeps happening everyday), but more so due to the consistent, unstoppable noise we are allowing in our life. This noise comes from social media ( Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn), Television, news channels, YouTube videos, Netflix shows, text messages, Gmail or Outlook emails, Zoom or Facetime calls, WhatsApp group updates, sale offers, discount coupons, free subscriptions, loan requests, new deals and what not…..All this marketing and information tsunami bombards us in a gargantuan way!

I wonder if we are ( or have) forgotten to live a calm, serene life. Our life is slowly becoming as if we are living to absorb all this gigantic information created by us for our own disposal. Hardly can we stay away from our cell phone or laptop nowadays. Psychologist have invented a new word for this – ‘Nomophobia’, which means the fear of being without a mobile device, or beyond mobile phone contact. Did anyone imagine our life would become so much entangled in this web of information and our minds occupied to remain online, 24X7, just that we don’t miss some update or important information? After all mobile technology, or say Iphones were only invented, and brought into market after 2007. and it took few years to get them universalized worldwide. So, roughly, its been just a decade since our life has been caught up by the mobile network.

Even, social media has been there since last 10-15 years only. LinkedIn started in 2003, Facebook in 2004, YouTube in 2005, Twitter in 2006, (all straight in a row, more of a coincidence I believe) all became ubiquitous in the last decade itself. Internet has been for a while, but since the beginning of 3G, 4G and onset of handheld, touch screen based mobile phones, we completely became connected to the Web. Infact we have become so used to Google, that we call Google as Internet. And even worse, when Google went down few weeks before ( just for an hour or more), people tried to google on Google to know why Google went down! Nothing more can show how dependent our lives have become on the internet, social media and phone technology.

But amidst all this never ending pandemonium of data, I find that our day just gets spent in absorbing the information we are thrown at. We get the news from news channels and news apps. And the news channels have programmed their transmission to send breaking news every hour, which never breaks! The social media wall sends millions of tweets and posts every day, which the advanced data analytics breaks down into whats trending, and what hot in the market. The marketing companies are more than vigilant to keep posting us attractive ads, coupons, discounts, offers consistently as everything is done online these days, including shopping from food to clothes, gadgets to beauty products. These apps are equipped with AI such that if I don’t open or use a particular app for one day, it sends me some of the cutest messages like ‘We miss you’, ‘Hey Foodie, are you hungry’, ‘Hey, its been a day since we last saw you!’. C’mon, we don’t shop everyday, or even eat outside everyday. But these apps and their cutie messages, will make us visit their apps and shop even if we don’t need. That’s capitalism 101 here.

Now, as most of us have seen or faced this chaos everyday, it is difficult to stay away from all this. Ofcourse, we have the option to disable the notifications, or even not use the apps at all. I tried to deactivate Facebook several times. I reduced my YouTube channel subscriptions. But then after a few days, I simply couldn’t avoid to take a glance of whats going on the Facebook Wall, or even checkout a favorite YT channel. I couldn’t sever my greed to visit these shopping apps during festival sale, or even on a particular day like Valentine’s day, just for the offers or discounts. Ofcourse the endless emails or WhatsApp group updates is something not in our control, except to mute them. But again, the problem of losing out of some crucial info or even a friend’s picture makes us dwell in for sometime during the day. Infact, during the coffee breaks, or even rest room breaks, all we do is hang on to our phones and scroll through the social media. We pride ourselves in staying busy every minute, but I wonder if this busyness is of any real importance. Because most of the content is just surfed, and skimmed, which hardly makes any impact in our life.

Hence, this filtering of noise in our life is something of a herculean task now. I do not yet have a answer for this. Many psychologists and tech experts advise to minimize the use of social media and phones, and even follow a ‘No-Phone Day’ on weekends, or Sunday. But the real question, is it even possible now? Has our life become too much entangled in this web of networking? Is there any way to filter out this noise from our life? Does uninstalling apps, or deactivating social media accounts, make our life calmer, better and happier? Is it possible to live almost an isolated life without this swathing world of information age?

I do not have definite answers, but I do know these questions and quest for their answers is what matters more than all the fancy offers or breaking news out there. Our health, our mind, our career, our productivity, and even our relations with our family and friends is dependent on this. I hope we find a balance by filtering this noise and reliving a calm yet productive routine.

The monopoly of social media!

During the 2008 sub-prime crisis, I had seen an interview of an independent stock trader who famously said, “governments don’t rule the world, Goldman Sachs rules the world”. 12 years later, I think the time has come to say that “governments don’t rule the world, Social Media rules the world”.

Yes, watching the recent events in the social media world, it seems that the genie has left the bottle. The social media has become stronger and dangerous than ever. Two events which happened during the start of this year signify an alarm for the world. They are the recent change in WhatsApp Terms and Conditions policy, and the banning of Trump on Facebook, Instagram & Twitter. Even though the latter event might have made most people happy or even they have applauded for this action by social media giants, but many of us have become alarmed over this action.

First of all, the change in Whatsapp policies was something many industry experts saw it coming. After all, Mark Zuckerburg paid $19B for the acquisition of WhatsApp. This wasn’t a philanthropy thing for Facebook. They thought well enough before making that deal. WhatsApp over the years have grown to be the world’s most popular and most downloaded/used app in the world. In India, WhatsApp has partnered with Reliance, which is India’s richest company, to provide payment and retail services. So, when WhatsApp made the changes in its policy, which says that all the data from WhatsApp will be shared to Facebook, which will help their business. How?

Mark Zuckerberg meme generator
Ref

When asked by the senator, Mark answered….So, running ads makes Facebook earns the dollars required to sustain its so big social media platform ( and ofcourse to earn profit, which makes Mark the 5th richest person in the world). But our personal data on Facebook ( which we have selflessly rendered over to Facebook under the silly disguise to make friends and connect with the world) and catering to which relevant ads shown is the main business model of this company. This platform needs data just like cars need fuel to run. Because only with that data, can Facebook show us the relevant ads. That’s why it is said, “Data is the new oil”

Now, with this new policy, our WhatsApp data will also shared to Facebook. And what kind of data will be shared? ( or has already been shared for quite sometime) As per Wired story, The company says it collects user information “to operate, provide, improve, understand, customize, support, and market our Services.”In practice, this means that WhatsApp shares a lot of intel with Facebook, including  account information like your phone number, logs of how long and how often you use WhatsApp, information about how you interact with other users, device identifiers, and other device details like IP address, operating system, browser details, battery health information, app version, mobile network, language and time zone. Transaction and payment data, cookies, and location information are also all fair game to share with Facebook depending on the permissions you grant WhatsApp in the first place.

But its not about the amount of data that these companies are getting access to, but the security of that data is a real concern. The world already knows about the Cambridge Analytica scandal, and one of the famous documentary, ‘The Social Dilemma’ on Netflix sheds light on why companies like Facebook and WhatsApp do not charge the users. This is because if the product is free, then we are the product being sold! And by this they mean the data of users which they desperately need to run ads and make money. The more the data, the more is the revenue. Simple it is!

But even more worrying than data sharing or data privacy is the concern of how dangerously powerful that these companies have become. Just few days before, they banned the President of United States of America from their platform, indefinitely! This is not some random guy who posted some thing against their rules, but it is the most powerful person in USA, and even in the world to a certain extent. When such an action happens, it shows how powerful these companies have become. Ofcourse, I am not saying that these companies are above law or US president’s power. They took that action only after the President was accused of causing an insurrection and posting messages and videos supporting violent coup against the law. Also, its worth noting that they took this stringent step after Joe Biden was officially confirmed to be the incoming US President.

But what many of us are worrying is the active levers of communication in the hands of these companies. As we see, unlike few years before, when the world got news from newspapers, radio and television, which was edited to make it politically correct. But in today’s world, people get the news and information mostly from social media, which is not edited neither filtered, atleast to some extent. This is the reason why Trump could convince many Americans to elect him. Whatever he tweeted or communicated was never politically correct. But still due to the freedom of speech, his message used to reach his followers.

But now these handful companies have completely cut him off from his fan base. This is interesting because even though its good for the world that Trump has been banned for sometime, which would filter out the noise and chaos created by him, and restore peace in the world for sometime. But this isn’t just about Trump. What if these companies ban some other leader or a person belonging to a certain ideology like communism, socialism or pacifism? The real question is who has given this moral authority to these companies to ban certain people or ideology? Ofcourse, this does not mean that hate speech or violence should be allowed. Definitely not. But the real threat these companies possess is whom do they allow or whom they do not! What if they decide to support a particular ideology which fits their business model? What if they remove content from their platform which favors their competitors or which challenges their business? As mentioned about the perils of social media monopoly in this beautiful article, https://www.hindustantimes.com/opinion/at-the-mercy-of-big-tech-billionaires-101610547387559.html which questions the readers, “Imagine if Mark Zuckerberg decided that he did not like Narendra Modi’s farm laws or Shashi Tharoor’s tirades against the East India Company — and shut them off.” Or even going ahead, what if these companies try to influence the voters in countries by favoring a particular candidate who falls into ‘friendly category’ to these social media giants?

This is something these companies have to make clear. When it comes to hate speech , racism or violence, its their moral obligation to curtail it from spreading. But it is also equal responsibility to allow all form of ideologies, ideas, thoughts to flow. These companies are expected to be impartial. But unfortunately, they are not. So, after seeing this, I installed Signal which is almost an replica of WhatsApp ( infact its co-founder is the same Brian Acton for both these companies). But Signal is designed with a non-profit, open source model, and hence just like Wiki, it will not be sold to some private company( hopefully) and will not run Ads as well. I am slowly moving towards uninstalling WhatsApp, but due to over-dependence and majority user base ( all of my family and friends use WhatsApp), its going to take some time for everyone to switch over to Signal. Till then, I could not allow my WhatsApp to share my data to my Facebook a/c. So, I took the step (which I wish should have taken before) to delete Facebook and Instagram accounts. This would disable my WhatsApp data to be shared due to non-existence of Facebook account. I hope many of us become aware of this to keep their data safe and secure. Goodbye Facebook! Goodbye Instagram! And Goodbye to WhatsApp soon!

As Evan Greer, deputy director of the digital rights group ‘Fight for the Future’ said “Their business model is surveillance. Never forget that.”

© Abhishek Karadkar and abhiknotes.com, 2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Abhishek Karadkar and abhiknotes.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Copyright © 2021 AbhikNotes – Powered by WordPress.com

Why is depression on the rise? part 2

Continuing with this topic, there are some common causes for people to often get depressed in life. This includes consistent failures/setbacks, losing a dear one in family ( parents/wife or children), health issues such as incurable diseases, financial problems/debt, and even hereditary from family. There is no perfect one stop solution to address the effects arising from varied sources. But to understand why this generation suffers more than previous can be studied and discussed.

One of the main understanding is the way my generation lives. My generation has been dependent on technology more than all the generations combined. I have already mentioned about the facebook effect, and other social media exposure. But along with that, the lifestyle itself is enormously altered by today’s technology. The way we eat junk/fast food leads to health effects such as obesity and which thereby leads to a bad physique. No wonder then guys and girls feel terrible about their looks, and this acts as a domino effect to trigger their moods. Not being in shape makes them feel jealous of those who are in good shape, and thus the mental trauma starts. People then step into gyms and fitness programs, but not everyone can manage to get in ideal photogenic shape. This all adds up in depressing thoughts and lack of self worth. So, as simple as eating habits can even lead to increase in depressive thoughts.

Failure in achieving a goal or aim in life is one of the most common causes to get depressed or even commit suicide. Failing in competitive exams like IIT entrance or going bankrupt in business, failing to fulfill parents wishes, or even failing to become famous actor or actresses are some of the most common failure driven depression. I have seen one of the friends commit suicide due to low grades in grad school. We all know the infamous Sushant Singh Rajput suicide case. I was shocked to read that India has the highest suicide rates in South-East Asia. And the fact that there is an infamous forest in Japan called ‘Aokigahara’ known as ‘Suicide forest’. All this shows how serious depression can get. But unfortunately, the society always blames the one who does the act. But what conditions made him do the act is hardly questioned. There is one famous movie ‘The Social Network’, based on Mark Zuckerberg’s life. In one of the scenes, Sean Parker tells Mark about the story of Roy Raymond. The case of Roy Raymond is a perfect example of what can failure and depression do. But the movie scene also conveys the underlying message that if we don’t want to end up like Roy Raymond, we need to keep working hard, and never quit. It seems like Mark took Sean’s advice pretty seriously, and that’s why Facebook has become one of the richest companies in the world. But I do feel that not everyone can become Mark, and blaming Roy ( which the movie scene unfortunately does) is not the solution to get away from depression. It was obviously Roy’s mistake to give up, but the situation that made him do so is also equally culpable.

Then, this generation is also living in a nuclear family unlike my parents or grandparents generation, which used to live together. Adding to that, is the nation’s family planning policy ( China’s One child policy or India’s ‘Hum do, humare do’ Two parents and two children policy). Many couples today cannot even afford to raise two children, and hence, many of my generation are raised alone. Due to rising cost of living, it is increasingly becoming difficult to a make both ends meet with a single earning. More ever, we see that the kids and teenagers often spend their time in playing video games, on social media and watching movies. Things even go worse when friends get together and get involved in wrong habits including smoking, social drinking, or even violence. Unlike previous generations, today’s teenagers and young adults often find themselves alone without support from family. Hence, they try to find like minded groups or even to pass time online, by making friends with unknown people in online chat rooms, or on dating sites. This always does not work, and can lead to addiction, or even sexual harassment, which further leads to depression.

Relationships have never been so fragile before as seen today. Just like the hire and fire corporate culture ( better known as Trump’s culture), breakups and patchups have become the current norm in romantic relationships. The options to find a partner have increased through dating apps like Tinder, OkCupid, Aisle etc. Many of them provide a platform for speed dating or even casual dating, with no stings attached. Many of the couples who want to date casually find this convenient, and they carry on a ‘Friends with Benefits’ type relationship. But the problem is human mind does not comprehend such type of relations. Things can speedily go from casual to serious for one of the partners, but the other one might not accept this. And so this leads to breakup, but emotional attachment is something cannot be erased overnight like swiping on such apps. So, such type of online dating and casual relationships often leads to heartbreaks and headaches, and soon they find themselves depressed and undergoing therapy.

Then, I find a sense of serenity missing in my generation. I have seen my grandfather and even parents having a feeling of serenity towards life and its problems. ‘Come what may‘ was the attitude they had towards problems which came in life. They did not get depressed when things did not work out, or when they had to walk on the path filled with thorns. Maybe because the previous few generations had seen some of the toughest time in human history, be it wars, fight for independence from colonialism, fight against poverty & inequality etc. But inspite of all the problems, they were mentally strong. They did not give up easily. But this generation is exceptionally blessed with all the comforts and leisures. This is also the fruit of the hardwork which our parents and grandparents did back then. That’s why we are living a good life, with abundance of resources like food, clothes and tech gadgets. The kids today get whatever they want, many times they don’t even have to ask for it. This lifestyle has led to a loss of value in achieving things. Ofcourse, there are many teenagers and young adults out there who do value what their parents have given them. But the attitude to face problems of life with serenity cannot be taught in richness or through books. Only life’s tough experiences can teach it, and hence, the excessive luxury with which my generation has been living has made them more vulnerable to lose faith or get depressed easily in life when things go on a rough side.

Thats why, we are seeing more and more people getting depressed in life. As discussed, there are many reasons and we do not have one perfect solution to solve it. The combination of modern technology, food habits, family structure, affluent lifestyle, social pressure, boundless aspirations etc have lead to rising cases of depression and even worst in suicides. I do believe that inspite of all the education or technological prowess, my generation should learn about mind and act like social humans. Today’s capitalist and market driven competition makes us run towards more education, better jobs, higher salary, hefty bonuses, enormous profits in business, getting the job done, make and break relationships, fast food and drink culture, and many more vices. As mentioned before about the example of Roy Raymond, it can be said that he was a perfect victim of a capitalist driven system where one mistake can end up losing confidence, hope and life at the end. Ofcourse, there is nothing wrong to work for a better standard of living, which can certainly be obtained with good education, better job prospects and good salary/business only. But only achieving these things is not life. As J K Rowling wisely said in her harvard commencement address,

personal happiness lies in knowing that life is not a check-list of acquisition or achievement. Your qualifications, your CV, are not your life..

J K Rowling

However, There is No Alternative to go back towards old living like our grandfather’s generation did. We have to progress ahead and we cannot go back. But we can know our mind, and take things calmly. Meditation can be of great help here. Spiritual practices are known for making us calmer, and peaceful inside. But more than anything, the first thing to cater this problem is the awareness and acceptance towards this issue of depression, and thereby suicides with an open mind is extremely important. Only then can we solve this problem, and save lives. This post should not end here, but rather make the readers think and act to do something to help those who need a ray of hope in their life!

Finding the right one..

Many of us have missed catching that train where our right partner for life was traveling in!

In life, it is never easy to find true love. Everyone understands this at some point in life. When we are teenagers in school or young adults in college, our thoughts and ideas are often influenced by external world. We start constructing an ideal image of a guy or a girl based on movies we watch, or some character from a favorite TV series. At that tender age, we being young, start assuming that we have lot of time to find a genuine partner. So, most of us just limit ourselves to short relationships, or even a no strings attached kind of relationships. But all this is never accepted by society and neither by life itself.

Because, life is not something to be taken for granted. Similarly, finding a partner is also which needs to be given due attention. And this is where most of us fail, including me. We are told by our parents, or family to concentrate on our education, career and get settled. Then we can look for a suitable partner. But in today’s age, when our education often includes not only a 4 year degree, but also going to grad school ( or post-graduation). Be it working in Tech, or becoming a surgeon, or even working for an investment bank, every profession needs masters degree, or atleast a higher education with credible experience. All this takes quite a number of years, which often gets extended to mid 20’s or even late 20’s.

Now, once a man or woman reaches his/her late 20’s, and if they haven’t seriously thought about relationships, or even finding the right partner before, then it becomes quite a difficult ballgame. I have seen quite a few of friends struggling to find a partner in their early 30’s as well. This is because they have been either too pre-occupied with their education or career, or they have been involved only in short term relationships, which is not a very enabling experience. My story isn’t very different from this. And having seen friend’s situations and experienced myself, I often think whether there is any real need for us to avoid finding the partner just for the sake of career or even for an obsession to find the right partner at the right time?

Because, career is not something which ends after a couple years of experience. We cannot say we know everything in the field of work with only a handful years of working. In career, we never get settled, as today, technology is continuously evolving. There is no beginning or end of career, learning, or working. Unlike few decades ago, when everything was laid back, it was expected to complete education by a certain age, and then with couple years of experience, people used to become proficient or in other words ‘settled’ in their career. So, after that, family used to make arrangements for a suitable partner for him/her, and life moved on. But now, this no longer exists. No one can agree that they are comfortably settled in their job or career with a few years of work experience.

And further, due to social media, internet, movies and OTT media, life is filled with options to explore, know, learn and move ahead. Similarly, in relationships, no one gets settled down for the first choice. We all think we ll find an even better one, because we have options. We compare with our real friends, our social media friends, soap opera actors and actresses. We dream of a perfect partner, and a perfect life. But unfortunately, this rarely happens! While we are busy dreaming about the fantasy life filled with richness and a perfect partner, we often miss the right one in front us. He/She might be in our extended friends circle, or music class, or even living across the street. But we often overlook the ones nearest to us.

Just like in the bollywood movie ‘Jaane Tu… Ya Jaane Na‘, where Aditi and Jay, who are made for each other friends cum couples, they start finding true love everywhere outside. Only at the end, do they realize how perfect they are for each other. I feel we are like the Jay’s and Aditi’s in life. Many of us have missed catching that train where our right partner for life was traveling in!

They could have become our high school or college sweetheart!. But in this endless game to make a career, get settled down, or under the false impression to keep looking for the right one with an over inflated expectations, we often ignore or turn down the right ones, foolishly! Then after a while, it becomes very late in life and few of us give in to the family pressure to get settled down with the parents choice ( as it happens in India!). But then later, do they realize that they are not compatible with each other, and it opens a whole new arena of problems, fights, quarrels, which leads to divorce at the end.

I know there is no perfect answer for this, and this blog post is only an expression of my views on this subject. But I do sincerely feel this has a lot to do with our over inflated expectations about the partner( maybe like Mr and Mrs. Smith couple Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, but unfortunately they are also divorced!), our pre-occupation with career, getting rich and getting settled down, or even a string of short term relationships, due to lack of mutual trust between each other, or a no string attached, ‘friends with benefits’ driven mindset between the partners, none of which gives a long lasting, genuine relationship.

Hence, maybe my generation which is obsessed with the social media and virtual world, needs to think and understand that finding true love or a soulmate cannot be done by any algorithm, or using artificial intelligence. A true relationship does not have any checklist which states to have a certain education, or career to qualify for an enduring relation. Love simply just happens, and to know this is the first step.

-Abhishek

Stay tuned for the next post…..

Rushing through Life!

How technology has created a rush in our life!

The world has changed immensely in the last few years. Everything happens quickly, instantly nowadays. If we want some information, just Google! If we want to connect with someone, just WhatsApp or connect on Facebook with them. If we need something, Amazon is at our service. The physical boundaries on the planet have been surpassed, and no longer any obstacle or any iron curtain can prevent us from connecting with someone.

On one side, when we can have anything at our finger tips, but on the other side, this change has created quite a few problems for us. First, this fast and instant result oriented world has created a deficiency of patience in us. We are slowly losing our power to be patient. Our forefathers had an impeccable sense of patience. They used to wait for years for results to come, or even to get any information. They had to work hard to find that info, and hence, this tested their patience. But we on the contrary, can get that info within seconds, and so we are forgetting the value of patience. This generation seems to live a life where waiting is like waste of time, and when having patience is looked down upon. We want everything to be happened instantly, and hence, we rush our life to get what we want.

But in our natural lifetime, nothing can happen without having patience. We cannot grow up from childhood to adulthood instantly. We cannot get all the education or knowledge in the world immediately. Relationships and bonding cannot form within seconds. All this takes time, and that’s where the importance of patience comes in. But unfortunately, Google, Facebook and Instagram cannot teach us the importance of patience, as they thrive upon the need for urgency, rush hour and fast communication. For them patience is like a deadend!

Then, the next problem we are having is Fear. Yes, I am right. We are becoming more fearful than ever. Because when we rush things out, we tend to lose them quickly as well. As we are getting things instantly, we are no longer enjoying the fruit of the hard work to attain it. Because technology has made it possible for us to keep us away from actually being involved in the process.

Let me give an example. Before mobile phone technology came in, the only way we could reach out to our loved ones were the telephone, or letters. Unlike mobile phones or social media, it was not possible for real time tracking or connecting with them anytime ( 24/7). But our foretathers and generations before used to travel across continents, countries, fight in wars, explore forests and mountains, and still were brave and patient enough to remain away from their family and relatives for a long period of time. But in this generation, we see that we hardly can stay away from calling or texting our loved ones, if they are not at home or away without leaving any message. We can’t even stay away from our phone for more than few hours. Ofcourse, people say that technology was not available in old times, and hence, they had no option but to wait. I agree that we are very fortunate to have all the latest communication modes at our hand, but the side effect of urgent and fast communication has led to a form of conditioning of our mind, that we are losing patience, and becoming fearful if we are not able to reach out to our loved one instantly. That is a problem we are seeing in modern times.

And finally, I see the most concerning problem brought in by technology rush is the instant self-gratification. Its like a genie which has escaped out of the bottle! We make friends within seconds just by sending a friend request. We don’t even know about the other person whom we are sharing our messages and pictures. We see something on Amazon or Flipkart, and we instantly want to buy it. And the best thing is it gets delivered overnight. Google has made our life so simple that we don’t need to remember any facts, or birthdays, or even road maps.

Instagram, Facebook and Twitter are the universities of self-gratification. We spend a lot of our valuable time in studying in these universities, and we then learn to master the art of self-gratification. It leads us to becoming narcissistic, self-concerned, devoid of patience, fearful of what society thinks of us, and status conscious.

All these attributes are of no use in life. Infact, they are the vices which our forefathers avoided, and which our parents & teachers taught us in school to be careful of.

Hence, even though the modern technology and social media applications have made our life better, simpler & smarter, but this rush and fast paced world impacted by the technology has brought in its own vicissitudes. Even though many things can be done instantly today, but life itself has its own pace. As mentioned before, we cannot change the way our body grows, or how relationships mature. We cannot alter the time it takes for the seasons to change, or even for the human reproduction. Everything takes its own time. We cannot get instant peace of mind using some app, or neither can we attain mastery over a subject by googling over. It needs time, and patience, and hard work. And that is the only way to become proficient at something. Be it becoming an athlete, writer, doctor or even becoming a mother!

Technology has created an illusion that if we go slow, then we stagnate. But this is not true. Everything has its own pace. There is no need to rush or hurry for anything. Its okay if it takes time to learn or get a job or make friends. The technology and apps are designed to work faster, and give instant results. Because they are machines made of circuits. We are not. We are humans, and lets evolve at our own pace. Lets not rush over life, else sooner or later, life will rush away from us!



© Abhishek Karadkar and abhiknotes.com, 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Abhishek Karadkar and abhiknotes.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Digital Frankensteins!

Today, I watched the Netflix documentary “The Social Dilemma”. Its a terrific and also quite alarming documentary. It reminds us as Tristan Harris said, “The social media are becoming ‘Digital Frankensteins!’, steering billions of people’s attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors”.

It is quite true. We see the young generation not only prone to the venomous effects of social media, but also becoming more and more separated from reality. They are becoming slowly a part of virtual reality, in which whatever is seen, heard or read on social media is believed to be for real by the young generation, especially the Gen Z. We see that the Gen Z were born after 1996, and when the kids born in this generation started going to school, that’s when the social media erupted and expanded enormously, and started galloping our social world.

In the last 10 years, the world has changed a lot. Most of the apps and technologies we have become addicted to during the previous decade had been started only a few years back. Like Facebook in 2004, Youtube in 2005, Twitter in 2006, Tumblr in 2007, Whatsapp and Pinterest in 2009, Instagram in 2010 and Snapchat in 2011. We see every year there has been some new entry of social media app, except the 2008 year, ( due to the Great Recession effect, maybe). And soon these apps started dominating our social and personal space as well. The most latest entry is of TikTok in 2016, and which has gained considerable notoriety under the Trump Presidency, due to its sophisticated and super-addictive AI. The last decade was the breeding ground of new fan base for these apps, and now they all have become somewhat “Digital Frankensteins!”. This is because we are so much used to them, and our life is entwined with them on such a massive scale, that if the government decides to shut them down( which would never happen in near future at least), they cannot do it. Just like the big Wall Street banks which had failed in the 2007 recession due to sub-prime mortgage crisis, and the government had to bail them out under the label of “Too Big To Fail”( and the banks made sure that the bail out money went to pay their exiting CEO’s and board members some really hefty severance packages!). Similarly, we can see that these social media giants have become “Too Big To Fail” and their continued dominance will stay undisputed in the near future.

But unlike economy and banks, where our money and thereby livelihood is dependent on the savings we put in bank, or loans we take for our businesses, hence we are dependent on the banking institutions just like they rely on the customers. But in case of social media, atleast we have a remote chance that our lives can still be managed and survived without the social media. This is because there are still some old and credible sources of information and connectivity tools existing. For ex: Radio and Ham had been one of the most reliable info sources before TV and internet ushered in. People used to stay connected to each other besides use of telephone for connectivity.For news, we have the all weather print media, journals, magazines and books which often convey the most authentic and reliable information. We don’t need Facebook to stay in touch with friends. We can do that over the phone, or messaging service. After all, we all have hundreds of Facebook friends, but how many of us really connect with all of them? Do we even care of who is in our list, and do we make some serious effort to stay connected with all of them. The fact is we simply do not have time to spend to stay connected to all of them. We are used to a small group of like minded friends, and we tend to stay socially connected with them.

Same goes with instagram. Do we really care for the likes of our photos and videos we upload on the wall? After initial curiosity, it simply vanishes. Infact, human nature does not care for the repeated likes from our friends, but we slowly start looking at the comments and those friends who have not liked the pic!. Though there have been many positives brought by social media such as YouTube where one can share any video and become famous overnight. Justin Bieber is known to have gained his reputation via YT. Its a great medium for sharing knowledge and talks as well. Even Twitter was a new revolution for those who have amassed millions of followers, and any tweet would create sensation in the world. Trump has been using Twitter as a official tool for his Presidency, and many of his orders and declarations have been communicated to the world via Twitter. All this is terrific, and has changed the mainstream media world.

But slowly, we see that it has made us addictive, and lose sight of the relevant information. As I mentioned, earlier, there used to be only few ( and reliable) sources of info such as Radio, Television and Print media. Later, the new channels replaced the print media, and now we see the social media is replacing all of them. The most important concern on the social media is the complete lack of accountability of the content posted by anyone. Unlike radio or print, which is verified and edited, social media is rarely verified, and so the new world of fake news has emerged. Though the content can be reported, and the owners do take appropriate actions against them, but often it is too late and the content by then has reached millions of people all over the world. There is no way a tool can verify if the information is accurate and up to date. We do not have intelligent machines yet, and hence anything posted on the social media cannot be entirely trusted. Then comes the question, if the content is not verified, not trusted then why do we spend our precious time in scrolling through them?

Infact, there has been so much information ( tons and tons of bytes) created and uploaded everyday that it becomes nearly impossible for humans to decipher and absorb this information, let alone analyze and understand it. When there is too much information, its nothing but chaos!. But this continues because of the very basic fundamental of social media, which is everyone has the liberty to express their opinion or add content on grounds of personal freedom of expression. Yes, and this cannot be denied. I am writing this post due to this freedom and I agree that this is needed for the fresh influx of new ideas and opinions to be injested into the world. Hence, the real challenge is to know the difference between whats right and whats wrong. If we do not allow the social media to share all the content freely, then it will be a world of communsitic media, where everything is censored and restricted, just like it happens in China and erstwhile USSR. We do not want to live in that iron-curtain world again.

Finally, there is nothing wrong with the social media, and its usage in our daily lives as long they remain tools just like radio and TV, to share information, to connect with friends, to get the most recent information, or even to express our opinion about some injustice, or grievance. It is one of the most wonderful mediums we have today. But if that tool becomes complicated enough to intrude in our personal life by making us addicted with incessant notifications , updates, fake news and viral videos, then that’s a problem. If the social media like Facebook, as mentioned in the documentary is creating a digital footprint of our activity, and without our consent selling the data ( or selling us indirectly) to third party companies for advertisements or trying to change our opinion about political endorsements, then that’s a big problem. As its seen that all the social media tools have become powerful enough to predict our life, our decisions, our interests and our future as well. This is where the real problem lies. As long as we have the levers of control, we are okay. But if the levers lie in the hands of few social media giants, then we are in a big mess. This awareness is the true message this documentary has courageously conveyed. We all should appreciate the valor and genuine concern of all the people who left their secure and well-paying jobs in Google, Facebook, Twitter etc to come out and speak about this to the world. It is because of these few brave men and women, that the world is still a humane place to live.

Need for mindfulness!

History will assess the present as chaotic times. This is because of the ever complex world we are living in. Humans have achieved the highest pinnacle of technological progress in human history, and hence, we are ever surrounded by complex, high-tech machines. On one side it might seem that we are relieved of all the hardwork and sweat, as all the tasks from cooking, transport, calculations, communications, and even intelligence are managed by intelligent machines. We have the best technology at work today.

But on the other side, there has been increase in depression, mental issues, anxiety, unemployment and lack of stable relationships as well. As per WHO, more than 264 million people suffer from depression globally. It is indeed a topic of debate as why are we suffering from high levels of mental and health issues when most of our problems have been solved with the invention of technology. We see that facebook and other social media sites have bridged the gap between the world to easily communicate and share information. But on the other side, we are getting more and more addicted to social media, and even depressed as per Journal of Applied Biobehavioural research.

Adding to this are the incessant bombarding of news reports from mainstream media, news channels, radio, podcasts, youtube channels etc. We live in the information age and its quite in excess. Most of us are unable to get the best relevant data from this ocean of information, and hence, it usually ends up creating confusion and loss of interest. The unceasing tweets from followers, viral videos, and debates have ushered in chaos everywhere.

Adding to this mayhem, is the Covid virus infections. Covid could not have come at a better time when the world is already getting polarized on the grounds of right wing, ultra nationalism vs liberal, pro-globalization order. We see massive BLM rally all over USA due to hightened racial tensions against the Trump supporters rally. Then, we have the Indian-China conflict slowly and steadily rising which might escalate to trigger a full-scale war. The world economy except China has tumbled down, and the fear of long term recession, unemployment and social issues are looming everywhere. I find no perfect word other than “chaotic” to name this!

Hence, when I see this chaos howering everywhere, I find mindfulness or meditation to be a perfect solution to keep our mind calm amidst this pandemonium. Nothing better can make me feel good than meditation nowadays. It is jokingly said during pandemic that if we cannot go outside, then better to go inside ( within us). Yes, indeed. We need to contemplate about our life, our goals, our needs and our future after all this chaos settles down. This pandemic is once in a lifetime event, and hence, it seems that destiny has given an opportunity for us to reflect our life inwards and know the self. The pandemic has already made us aware that our needs are much much less than we usually purchase. As Gandhi used to say, “The world has enough to fulfill everyone’s needs, but not anyone’s greed”. I do agree that this pandemic has proved this right.

When there is no sign of covid vaccine coming in near future, the only way to keep ourselves safe and healthy is by increasing immunity and ofcourse, staying inside and taking all the precautions. Meditation is known to make us strong mentally, and thereby we get the strength to fight against this pandemic. More than health, this pandemic is a test of our mind’s strength. We are more prone to succumb to fear, anxiety, depression, or worst suicide, due to the fear of Covid infections in our family, economic recession and social unrest. So, to keep our mind strong and stress free, we need to spend sometime in mindfulness. We need to meditate everyday for few minutes at least.

I practice Art of Living taught “Sudarshan Kriya Yoga” and it has helped me immensely to keep me mentally strong. Infact, the day I do not do the kriya, I feel nervous, and get angry quickly. Hence, I am glad that I learnt this technique before, and now I can practice it everyday at my home. I will write a separate post about my experience with meditation, and how it works like magic!

I hope this all chaos calms down soon, and let peace delve back into the world.

The social dilemma..

Nowadays, the definition of being social is someone who is active on social media. The basic nature of social gathering which makes humans as social animals, have changed from the open, outward social world to a closed, inward social media world. As it normally happens, that with every change, there are unintended outcomes. So does, the world of social media has changed the world of human bonding, particularly love…

Yes, today we see that people are more keen on finding their love, or soulmates online, through social media. Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram have become the defacto rulers of social media world. And several apps like Tinder, Bumble, OkCupid have become the preferred dating apps for the young generation. Gone are the days when people used to look around their friend circles, or family connections for a life partner. Today, the options are plenty and so are its after effects. I personally find these tools to be useful for everyone who wants to make friends, find dates or just hangout/socialize for fun. But these tools have changed the way dating or falling in love used to be before.

As I mentioned, earlier, it used to be a lot different in finding the right partner. The relationship world was much divided based on their culture, religion, work or even ethnic preferences. People from a particular religion or culture could not easily find someone from a completely different religion or culture to date, lest fall in love. Even if they did, it was not easy for them to carry on the relation due to the way society worked back then. For ex: In India, where the marriages are primarily decided by family and hence, love marriages are looked down upon, it wasn’t easy at all to date or even meet someone from different group. But today, fortunately, this does not exist. These tools have revolutionized the world of dating, and marriage as well. Though still, the matrimony sites and dating apps continue to put on filters based on religion, caste, ethnicity etc. But today, we have the choice to discard these non-pragmatic barriers which society imposes, and select the choice of person, from any background as we wish for.

This is a good change brought out by the social media. But what I feel more concerned is the fundamental change of the way we date or even build a relationship. I mean what is happening on the apps is we often try to know about the person based on his social media profile. We tend to believe that whatever he/she has displayed on their walls is the real life. We forget that the pics which are uploaded are edited with numerous fancy filters. We mistaken for the happy pics uploaded on the photo gallery to be of a successful life. We check how many friends they have in their friends list, and based on that number, we define the social quotient of that person. We see how many countries they have visited, where do they eat, and hangout, or which movies and books are their favorites. All this info is easily available on all the social media apps ( this is what makes them attractive for their user base).

Now, the problem is if all this is already known to the person who is looking for dating or making friends, won’t this influence the person’s choice? For ex: If someone has less friends on his friends list, but he is a really nice guy and good at heart. Now these apps doesn’t tell the world about his good nature ( as good qualities cannot be quantified by some algorithm to be converted to some number). Hence, the world will look at him as a socially shy person just because he has less friends as compared to his peers. Further, the girl who might be looking for partner, might even ignore him, based on this pre-condition.

On the other side, if people meet him personally, then there is much higher chance that they might like him, and they can become good friends with him ( which does not mean they have to officially exhibit their friendship status on facebook). Same goes for matchmaking or dating. We tend to fall for the filtered pics, or first class travel destination videos, or even a toned/muscled physique, and wish to make them our life partner. But later do we find after couple of dates, that they are not the right choice for our life.

I remember one scene from the movie “The Terminal” which many of you might have seen. Tom Hanks who performed the role of Viktor Navorski, helps his friend Enrique in exchange of food to get information about the female officer Dolores. Enrique likes Dolores, and is desperate to know what she likes, where does she hangout, whom did she date etc. Victor helps to get this info from Dolores to Enrique, just like facebook does. But the difference is Dolores did not know who is asking about her, and why is someone taking so much interest in her. This is the real secret of relationship. The true beauty in any relationship is that intimacy, bonding and even to some extent uncertainity about the next step. True relationship blossoms when both of them are longing for each other, to know, understand, and even act to share this bonding. It requires a certain degree of social contact.

Like the one in the famous movie “Taxi Driver” when Travis confidently walks in to talk to Betsy. Betsy doesn’t know anything about Travis, and still Travis manages wonderfully to convince her to take her out for a date. This is the real social skill, which comes by real contact. I wonder if facebook would have been there at that time, and if some Travis who is just a taxi driver sends a friend request to Betsy, how much is the probability that Betsy would go out with Travis for a coffee, based on the online request? You know the answer I bet.

Taxi Driver – Travis and Betsy meet

To know the person in real life, by observing their actions, how they behave, how they take decisions,how they react to certain situations is what glues the thread of affection together between them. This cannot happen through an app or website. And this cannot happen, if both of them already know a lot of info about each other from their facebook profile. The ironical coincidence is the movie “The Terminal” was released in 2004, and it was the same year when facebook was launched. It was as if the days of innocent thrill to go after the person, that desperate desire to know about them, and impress them are a part of history now. Today all the information is at the fingertips, and handy but at the cost of lack of innocence, intimacy and curiosity for each other. And Covid has made even difficult for us, when moving out of the house is avoided by most, and so the only way for relationship to build or maintain are through these apps. Facebook, Snap are getting richer but the quality of relationships and bonding is getting poorer.

Thus, I feel our parents or grandparents generations were a lot happier than ours, as they did enjoy the thrill, the excitement to meet someone, to demonstrate the social skills to socialize and even impress the one they loved. Now, what remains is the fast paced like, share, comment, subscribe based networking, facebook wall dependent profiling, and painstakingly time consuming filtered selfies and pictures to share our happy go lucky faces to the world. I hope that the good old days of meeting in person, sharing the joys and sorrows of life ( and not pics and chats) with each other, and then falling in love to remain life long partners still remain in my generation ( Millennial and Gen Z). Lets end this post just like the happy ending between Enrique and Dolores…..

The Terminal – Enrique proposes Dolores

The impact of social media on student life

This was my first opinion column published in Technician, student newspaper of North Carolina State University in 2015. I have added the link below. http://www.technicianonline.com/opinion/article_d1142b70-5a92-11e5-86b4-cb7c98a6e45f.html

Today’s world is a global village. Everyone is connected to one another in this vast network generated by the Internet. As said by Marshall McLuhan, a philosopher of communication theory, “The new electronic independence re-creates the world in the image of a global village.” This electronic independence is inherently dependent upon the Internet. It illuminates the lives of thousands of people by spreading knowledge internationally, thereby making us global citizens. 

In the past, the communicating and free sharing of thoughts among people were restricted by long distance, nationality and/or religion. But now, even these barriers cannot stop the flow of information and knowledge. The new world of social networking allows free sharing of thoughts. Online social networks are created by websites such as Facebook, which has emerged as a giant in this social world. So how do these networks affect our education? How do they influence the lives of students?

Humans are social animals. We always like to remain in some group or another, and we prefer to follow what this group does. All of our traditions and cultures are the product of this group-oriented facet of human nature. A well-known American psychologist, Abraham Maslow, stated in his “Theory of Motivation” that the social need of human beings is the third most important requirement after our physical and safety needs — the third tier in his hierarchy of needs. Even our self-esteem comes after this social dependence. This is the main reason billions of people use social networking to stay connected, make friends and satisfy their social needs. 

As of 2020 the world’s largest social networking company, Facebook, has 2.6 billion active users, and the number of users is increasing every year. One of the most interesting things to look at is the increasing number of student users on such social networking sites. As per the survey conducted by Pew Research Center, 72 percent of high school and 78 percent of college students spend time on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. These numbers indicate how much the student community is involved in this virtual world of social networking. 

Actually, many reasons exist that explain why students love to spend time socializing. Firstly, social networks provide them the freedom to do whatever they want — to upload what they want and talk to whom they want. They like to make new friends and comment on the lives of different people. Students can create other online identities that the real world does not allow. The freedom it gives them to act just by sitting in front of a computer enthralls them, and they then demand for more freedom.

Never before has it been so easy for young minds to create a digital image of their actions through such a spontaneous medium. 

But this has a darker side that has gained the attention of many parents, and even of many eminent psychologists, all over the world. One of the biggest problems is the identity crisis this social networking produces. As said by Professor S. Shyam Sunder, a renowned researcher at Penn State, “The types of actions users take and the kinds of information they are adding to their profiles are a reflection of their identities.” 

Many psychologists are worried about the identity crisis that our present generation may face today. The lives of people, especially students, are largely influenced by what is posted by other people on their profiles. The habits that students learn are decided more by what their friends do and less by the teachings of parents or professors. 

Our students have become prone to frequent fluctuations in mood and self-control. If one of a student’s friends posted about his or her present relationship with someone, then other friends are pressed to do the same thing. Actions that attract more public attention hold more value, even despite some of them being immoral or illegal. We even see that many students are worried about their looks, and so they always try to upload nicer pictures than their friends. A recent survey has stated that whenever someone uploads a profile picture, it immediately affects the moods of friends. It often produces stress, anxiety or fear about their identities as people. Consistently thinking in this way can sometimes lead to depression. 

The most important things in a student’s life are studying, learning good habits and gaining knowledge to become a person with moral character. But today, as we see in various studies, this optimal learning process is seriously jeopardized by students becoming entrapped by the ploys of social networking. Students neglect their studies by spending time on social networking sites rather than studying or interacting with people in person. Active and frequent participating in social networking can negatively affect their grades or hamper their journeys to their future careers. 

Getting too much involved in social media can lead to an addiction that inculcates bad habits. Students prefer to chat with friends for hours, and this leads to a waste of time that could have been used for studying, playing or learning new skills. It is often said that a long-term friendship or relationship is developed when people meet each other, spend time and share their experiences. But this virtual way of communicating with each other does not lead to a natural, friendly experience and hence cannot produce a healthy relationship with those friends. Also, these relationships tend to terminate easily due to a lack of personal contact. 

The system generates a competition to make as many new friends as possible and the so-called “social quotient” of a person is decided by how many friends they have and not on how good natured and congenial the person really is. Often, students who are not old enough to accurately analyze the world “like” or comment on social or political issues, and this leads sometimes to serious controversies. 

Picture credits: https://www.teacherboards.co.uk/community/the-effects-of-social-media-in-student-teens/

Considering all of the above pros and cons, it is necessary to develop certain regulations over the use of such social networking sites, especially for high school and college students. But still, students should get the choice to spend time socializing in an effective way. It should not hamper their school or college performance, and it should be kept in mind that social networking sites create virtual worlds that drastically differ from reality. Students should develop the cognitive and intuitive ability to analyze how much time they want to spend on social media. It is left up to the students to decide what really matters in their life and how much of this virtual life translates into their real life.