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Lust For ‘Likes’

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I have finally compiled and documented a secret list of completely immaterial things that irritate me to my core, the sort that you most definitely know could or should never destroy you or even remotely alter or affect your existence; and yet they contain a lethal power to capture every bit of your attention and blur your simplest capabilities of acting sensibly.

This list contains an amusing assortment of ‘things’, utterly unassuming and mundane, that have irked me and continue to do so from time to time. Trust me, we all have such lists neatly tucked away in some corner of our otherwise sensible mind. For some, it could be a booming and boisterous boss, for some a meddlesome mom-in-law, or a colleague whose hair gel reminds one of a brothel house, while for the likes of me, it is our own ill-timed sneezes, or an itch in some awkward corner where the hand refuses to reach, or even a persistent drilling sound on a Sunday afternoon on the floor just above ours! It’s when you are compelled to look so incredibly ‘above-all-this’ and then further ornate that sentiment with refined civility that you know it is one of those things that constitute the hush-hush list.

These are things that have the calibre of ruining a perfect state of equanimity in a painfully defining moment, yet they masquerade as objects that are beyond our control. When we are happy this list seems petty and when we aren’t as chirpy as we’d like to be, the characters from this list stealthily drag themselves out and become the first to push us off the tipping point.

After reaching a complete saturation point with all my daily duties I noticed something very interesting, a few days ago. I am not certain if it was my declining concentration level or utter joblessness that led me towards compiling a list of things that often seemed to irk me so I could officially execute them, one by one, once and for all. I realised that I had a to-do list, a wish list, a bucket list, a groceries list, a phone numbers list… so, most logically there had to be a what-sucks list. Why shouldn’t I write down things that make me drive up the wall, so I could look them in the eye for once before trashing them away for good; the way some stores take photographs of their shoplifters before barring them from entering their shop again.

My list disappointed me with its deceivingly not-so-long stretch, quite contrary to what I had been keenly looking forward to, though something very striking came out during this liberating process. I had found a new entrant to this list that was uniquely versatile yet insentient. It had an innate ability to entertain, amuse and provoke me and leave me bewildered, annoyed, distressed, disappointed, and even concerned. It was the ‘Like’ button on most social media sites, a one-stop-shop that assured and testified a person’s popularity vis-à-vis the quality of her craft; as if the traditional ways of ego massage to gratify the suffocating levels of need for social-acceptance weren’t enough!

This single button could stir even the most nonchalant person like me (or so, I’d like to imagine), who even for an instant would be tempted to check out a post that had been liked by so many and sometimes even wonder how it had been liked by this many! Makes me feel like a wolf in a pack, where I howl and the others follow suit irrespective… and that remains my sole comfort, the reassurance that I am not alone, that my existence is acknowledged and approved, and that somehow counts… I need to be told that I am liked, that I make sense to others, that I conform to the norms of the herd – what a deplorable state of affairs!

Today, what doesn’t seem to matter is the credibility of the zillions who hoot or chant your name, just as long as the numbers go up and up so we are able to selfishly get our word and agenda successfully across to as many; and who cares how eligible others are to judge me. Everyone is apparently qualified to pass a judgment on my craft and that is bearable. But the fact that everyone’s judgment counts is what then begins to get unbearable.

Hence, I propose there be two buttons instead of a single ‘Like’ button. One that reads ‘I Beg to Differ’ and the second one that reads ‘Fair Point’. In this way, we don’t get into rights and wrongs, likes and dislikes; instead we stir a debate, we welcome an opposition that spells something a little more worthy of our time; we reconfirm our belief in ‘perceptions’ and not in a single defined unidimensional set of good or bad. After all, a platform as powerful as this one should be more than just a mere whiling away of our time!

As for those who treat this space as a dumpster to dispose of their perpetual state of disillusionment with almost everything – starting from appropriate dressing tips to how to poop in a fashionable stance – should definitely have the ‘Like’ button replaced with a ‘Good for You’ button (though, I’d actually prefer a ‘Mind Your Business’ button there). These people disapprove of almost anything that comes under every individual’s basic freedom of choice.

I remember coming across this hilarious character, who had a perennial bitterness towards anyone who posted a beautiful profile picture of herself; only old haggard faces seemed genuine to this person. But again, this is the most innocuous group of them all.

I have had the chance to meet all sorts of Like-lusters. Some mail or message me by the minute asking me to like their page, others consciously refrain from liking a page thinking that a petty act on their part can actually contribute towards stunting a person’s good work. Well guess what, to the Like-luster such an attitude reveals the stunted mind of the Like-avoider and then this stance only further stunts the already diminutive mind with every avoiding act.

Then, there are ‘conditional Likers’ whose motto is fairly simple, ‘you scratch my back and I scratch yours’. A small break in your regime of liking their post and you have lost them for almost ever. And finally, there are ‘seasonal Likers’ who appear like a comet once in several months and flood the online area with generous ‘Likes’.

My favourite among all these are those who silently read and enjoy a post and very cunningly refrain from conveying the fact that they liked (or disliked) reading it. There are apparently many explanations behind this entertainingly insecure attitude. I don’t have the inclination nor the time to indulge in a painstaking analysis of these insecure weasels. The most painful revelation was, however, a completely different thing.

I realised that among all these people who seem least affected and feel supremely über cool to be keeping up with the times, I appear to be the most thick-headed fool for considering this outlandish trend as a threat and a fuel for fanning our sense of insecurity and the perpetual need for acceptance and popularity as an individual; where such behaviour, however absurd and invalid, seems to confirm our sense of being only through the verdict passed by the collective bunch of we-don’t-care-who-s. It is like being sedated by drugs. It is after all an era of echo addicts. And I can almost hear the cyber gods chant in unison:

I matter if I matter to you

I exist if you can see me

I deserve to be if you say so

If not….

© Madhurima Duttagupta 2013

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