Jaideep Shergill: Mirror, mirror…

13 Feb,2017

By Jaideep Shergill

 

Our lives are no longer ours to control. We have given up our lives up to the 24×7 world we live in and social media rules us now.

We are now slaves to the virtual universe and while we all believe we know the difference between the real world and the virtual one, the truth couldn’t be further away. Remember what the evil Queenalways said in the Snow White story: “Mirror Mirror on the Wall, Who Is the Fairest of Them All? In our quest to be loved and liked, to be accepted into society, to be embraced into the established norms of friendship and kinship, we are all turning into the very same evil Queen and all we now desire is constant reassurance and acceptance and the social media platforms on our devices are now like mirrors into which we stare every waking hour of every day only to ask “Who Is the Fairest of Them All?” in our equivalent of the perennial and instant gratification we seek via the number of “so called friends” we have to the number of likes we get, or retweets or Instagram shots we can garner.

 

One of the recent shows I really enjoyed watching is Black Mirror which is a science fictionanthology examining dark themes in modern society, particularly highlighting the ramifications and unanticipated consequences of new technologies and social media. While I enjoyed most of the stories told across three seasons, two stories in particular stand out: “Fifteen Million Merits” from Season 1 and “Nosedive” from Season 3. The first is set in a satirical, dystopian world where everyone has to mandatorily cycle on exercise bikes in order to power up their needs including electricity and other utilities and they are paid using a currency called Merits. The citizens of this alternate world are constantly distracted by advertisements which play around them and they are not allowed to skip these without financial penalty. In this world, obese people are treated as second-class citizens and only the ones who stay fit cycling are rewarded with more merits. The latter, “Nosedive”, tells the story of a female character who lives in an alternate world or possibly even our world in the very near future where everyone can rate one another or be rated constantly. Everyone’s popularity is tracked on a five star rating and owing to the available technology, everyone is judged all the time, everywhere. Not only does this technology and constant pressure to get good ratings affect day-to-day lifestyles, it also affects social standing, employability, perks and benefits and even home rentals!

 

Now while all of this can be brushed away as fiction, isn’t real life quickly turning to emulate art when it comes to how we all live today? Children around the world are suffering cyber bullying, peer pressure and are becoming introverted. Adults are living out their alternate lives in chat rooms, dating sites and in consuming porn and all of us together are trapped in the virtual world we have created around us where success and fame is measured by how well we are liked or how we look on social media platforms. What scares me most is how everything revolves around how we are perceived, how well we can show a brave face and always smile for the camera and put up our best pictures, always dressed sharply. How many times can we show pictures of the most exotic restaurants we went to or the food we ate or the holiday we took or the friends we partied with every week?As a society, we have become socially unstable than ever before and are becoming incapable of remaining real people anymore.

 

I recently read somewhere that in the time an average person spends on social media in a year could have been replaced by reading 200 books. Incredible! Of course, we are all to blame and if there is one thing I would like to change; it will be to go back to doing more real things with real people. After all, that’s how our life was before we became slaves to our screens and turned them into ugly, dark mirrors!

 

Or to put it differently, in the words of the legendary Freddie Mercury and Queen…Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy? Caught in a landslide, no escape from reality…

 

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