The pressure of being visible

Meenakshi Bhagat
A cell phone is an addictive device which traps a soul into a lifeless planet full of lives… Munia Khan
Hey are you not on facebook… come on facebook. All our friends are there now! It was in college when I first heard some classmates exhilarating about this word and asking the friends who were not on facebook to join facebook. It immediately caught my attention and I thought that this is something related to internet and computers (since it wasn’t the smart phones era yet) and this is something trendy and cool which youngsters use to connect and socialize. I got to know much and be a part of this virtual world only when I went for higher studies. So it was a peer pressure and considering it as something very necessary to be a part of modern world that I joined facebook. At the same time google, email and you tube came in as compensatory friends with of course free campus Wi-Fi. It was then I came to know that facebook is to show yourself, your ideas, views and perspectives to other people.
Hence began the process of uploading images, status updates, sharing whereabouts, sharing how one felt at a certain place in a certain point of time. Some friends even suggested to write about socio political topics to enhance the writing skills and to some extent I did that too. All of this went on for another six years and by then the market was flooded with small touch screens mobile phones and hence the compulsion to be seen or to see others’ lives became more convenient. However it was after 2015 that I went through some rough times in my life and by then another green icon friend called watts app had arrived. So I used to change display pictures and put a few words of status there in order to make myself feel better and the same thing would be done on facebook too but occasionally. The thumbs up likes and looking good comments made me feel good about life for some time. But this feeling of euphoria was temporary and would evaporate from my mind in a day or two.
It was this time which made me realize that being seen on social media applications does not change the real problems of my life. People liking appreciating or commenting on my picture or status don’t know the real situation I am facing or the kind of pain I was going through and even if I put a status about that pain; alas it won’t give me any relief.
Realizing all this, I stopped posting pictures on facebook and wats app for quite some time and also stopped posting about my life, feelings, views and whereabouts on any social media platforms instead I tried to focus on my work by being regular with writing and by doing real works like household chores, going out, drawing, working in vegetable garden at times, doing yoga and meditation. So from the activity of virtual world I switched on to being active, aware and conscious in my real life. This transition was very slow and was also hard to get used to but gradually it became a part of my life and I did not even realize when I came out of the emotional turbulence of my life and became more accepting about people and could learn to let go the things, situations and people, all of which was out of my control.
In How to Disappear, AkikaBusch, a writer and a swimmer contemplates how government surveillance, smart technology, and our own desire to be seen have all contributed to a perhaps irrevocable loss of personal privacy. We are in a constant need to be visible, to be seen and appreciated. Sharing the good moments of our lives and sometimes even sad, emotionally draining parts of our lives are making us very anxious of being lost out, or not running with the others speed. To cope up with this we are constantly using means which can make us feel seen, visible, important and worthwhile.
But what and why is there the need to be visible. Youngsters, adults and those of old age people use this social media platform to show their private lives, accomplishments or opinions to others. It seems there is no end to this.
There are a million of videos and pictures being circulated through internet every day and we just consume this information, without even giving ourselves a chance to think whether or not such information is useful to us or not. We look at these images and videos on social media platforms and we compare ourselves and our lives with others and sometimes we act on a piece of information which might not even be authentic or true to perpetuate hatred for a particular group or people. So, there is something compulsive about this desire to be a part of this virtual world and to be seen.
Perhaps the only times in our lives when we are not concerned about being visible is our childhood. A child is happy in her own world where there are questions, curiosity, excitement, fear but not the desire to be visible. In fact, children create spaces where no one can find them. They like to be hidden there out of the sight of their parents. Their games like hide and seek let them explore that desire to be invisible and unseen for some moments. They like to listen to stories where their imaginations run wild into deep forests and unseen imaginative lands, to imaginative people. The amusement they get in watching a magician perform a trick in which she will make a thing, animal, bird or sometimes even people go disappear for some moments and then bring them back by her tricks. All these memories are a part of our sub conscious being and they still play a major role in the way we grow up.
These experiences remind us that as much as we have this desire to be seen as we grow older, there is also the desire to disappear which is also intrinsic to us. But unfortunately that desire is not given a lot of importance.
Many sociologists, philosophers and psychoanalysts have worked on this growing new trend where the use of social media platforms is affecting people’s lives. In fact many people who can afford and who know the ill effects of using the screens all the time have reduced the use of screens in their homes so that their kids become smarter and more efficient. There are ways by which kids are kept septic to technology and screens at home and in special schools. The example is the employees of the Silicon Valley.
Judith Donath, author of, “the Social Machine, Designs for living Online,” predicted, “We will see a big increase in the ability of technologies to affect our sense of wellbeing. The ability to both monitor and manipulate individuals is rapidly increasing. Over the past decades, technologies to track our online behavior were perfected; the next decade will see massively increased surveillance of our off line behavior. It is already common place for our physical location, heart rate etc., to be tracked; voice input provides data not only about what we are saying, but also the affective component of our speech; virtual assistants learn our household habits. The combination of these technologies make it possible for observers (amazon, government, facebook etc.) to know what we are doing, what is happening around us and how we react to it all. At the same time increasingly sophisticated technology for emotion and response manipulation is being developed. This includes devices such as Alexa and other virtual assistants designed to be seen as friends and confidants. Alexa is an Amazon interface- owned and controlled by a giant retailer: she’s designed ultimately to encourage you to shop, not to enhance your sense of wellbeing.”
So some decade ago having computers and mobiles and being able to connect to people through technology was considered as a luxury, now it is reversing. So the common people, who are not much aware of this development continue to use screens or to say the screens direct and control most of the part of their lives. The on screen time for adolescents is much more than the adults. They spend an average of ten hours every day on their screens. This might be necessary for their education, knowledge and for staying connected with friends apart from being able to multitask. But various recent studies have shown that the dependence on screens has brought a sense of loneliness and reduced the feeling of being accepted in a particular group. Their happiness and sadness is depended on a rectangular light flashing machine which is where we are doing wrong. The screens are still an important part of our lives but it’s not untrue that without the use of screens our lives will just stop. So a minimal use of technology is what we need to sustain our lives peacefully on the planet.
Luddite is a person who does not like the technological advances in everything. Someone who would be called boring and old fashioned to use old ways of getting the things done and not using advanced technology. The word has come to English dictionary from the Luddite movement which happened in England in nineteenth century when a radical group of textile workers destroyed textile machinery as a form of protest against the use of machinery which were replacing the workers role in the industry. Today there is a need for people to understand, to acknowledge the ill effects of being with screens all the time and to be a little luddite. This is because the over dependence on digital technology and the screens is making people more and more anxious and also less patient. We are in an era where we want to quick fix everything with the use of technology, where everyone is portraying another image of themselves as a happier person than the other by showing instances of their personal lives through social media. This desire to be seen and be visible as others has no limit as there is always a new thing, new emotion which lets people realize that they still lack certain things which other people have. So this vicious circle continues unless we stop acting like one of those machines and reflect on to the basic ideas of happiness and contend.
There is a lot more to see and explore than limiting ourselves to be seen on a screen. There should be a life which is hidden from the rest of the world, not everything needs to be shown to everyone. Instead one could try to find happiness in little things, in little accomplishments and keeping a part of their being little hidden from the world.