I have realized something on my recent trips to Mumbai (and now Bengaluru). I have realized that Bharat is a country that makes noise. And a LOT of noise.
Noise can be just plain honking the car in front of us because its not moving (nevermind that the signal is red), honking at dogs, motorcyclists, rickshaws or anyone who is in front of you! Noise is also using very very loud speakers during the festival times. Sample this - there is an illegal roadside temple in front of my parents' apartment building and then there is a temple on the second floor ramp of a building complex right across from my parents' building. Both play very loud devotional music during Ganesh festival and both direct the loud speaker towards my parents' building! You can guess who and what we can hear those 10 days ..
Noise is also people talking. And I mean we people really TALK .. on buses, in trains, on TV sets, on Facebook pages, on Twitter .. and then react to all those who are talking on all these places ..
We have created so much noise that we hardly listen. Actually we have stopped listening a long time ago ..
I guess with any kind of new media, a new outlet is created and its new form of engagement and grammar has to be eked out by the users. Something like this happened with internet, then emailing, then chats and now twitter and FB. The problem is, any kind of such new engagements need time - time to form, to normalize and to become one with the humanity using it. We had tons of time to be adapted to the news media in paper form, for example. We had also an ample time to get used to the news media on television. It has been progressively shriller - but progressively so. It did not become shrill from the first week of its launch! But, we have hardly had time to get used to instant outlets to our emotions like the twitters, the whatsapp and FB. This is because the timelines and lifecycles of these outlets are themselves shrinking.
This instant availability and need of instant availability of even the most trivial of information causes us to desperately disseminate without any form of editing whatever it is that we want to write, say or voice! Now, if we recall from our print media heydays (as also with our books till date), the editor has one of the most important jobs. Not only the editor used to decide what gets printed but how! What will be said is very important. With 24 hour news media, that has become a luxury not available to any news editor on television (still exercised by some newspapers but then how many really read newspapers today? That is an activity on the way out and once the generation of adults changes to my generation, I am pretty sure there will be a minority of people actually reading newspapers). And increasingly with always online news media, even print (digital print) media is not having much time to pause and edit and sanitize what is being said.
The results sometimes are humourous (think grammatical and spelling mistakes .. that would be sacrilege when I was young but you find them quite regularly these days), sometimes outrageous (speaking of a Muslim victim/perpetrator of some crime as if his/her religious identity is all that is important and not the fact that he is a normal Indian citizen) and at times quite dangerous (think about the coverage of 26/11 attacks showing exactly where the Indian Army was air dropping its jawans on which building .. covered live!)
This paucity of time to think before reacting is not just on the ones distributing the news and media. The paucity is also omni-present for the receiver. No one today has time for sitting down in a chair and ruminate on something. Everyone wants to know everything there is to know about anything instantly. The compulsion is clear. No one has time. For anything. The noise in our lives claims every second we have in the day.
We thought technology and development and all these beautiful digital toys we are building will ease our lives. We will not have to worry about anything. Machines will work for us. The grand utopia will be a reality some day. It is so today. As it stands right now, those same digital toys have started to get us busy. And guess what, they are noisier in their silence. There is no dearth of information now. In fact we are flooded with it. But it is useless more or less. We get addicted to our toys. Slowly we are starting to base our lives around them and around this non-stop information overload. We are using them to substitute other more important things which should demand our attention - like nature, or a quiet time of thinking, introspection, rumination, some music in the evening or a chat with friends.
A direct result of this overall noise in our daily lives is that we start using wide brushes and stereotype anything and everything - from the smallest menial detail to the biggest things. In time, this also leads to prejudices and biases. On a healthy level, these biases aid us in discerning the truth. On an unhealthy level (which most of us are reaching today), we become downright racists, xenophobists and phobists of all kinds really. It reminds me of the below..
“Prejudice of any kind implies that you are identified with the thinking mind. It means you don't see the other human being anymore, but only your own concept of that human being. To reduce the aliveness of another human being to a concept is already a form of violence.”
- Eckhart Tolle
Although Eckhart Tolle's words are more philosophical and more concerning non-violence of even the thinking kind, the idea is valid for us in this noisy digital age. The violence is not just towards people who are suffering our biases. But also towards us as we violently create inactivity in our lives. Inactivity of all kinds because we are busy being online!
It is about time we paused our lives. Took a look at what really matters to us and clear the clutter. Sharing your private moments with your loved ones should mean a lot more than sharing them with random online strangers and similarly getting the real factual news should be more important than getting it as it is happening at the very moment. Quality in life is what we should focus on going forward .. quantity is just a number! Isn't that why we wanted all these toys in the first place? Let's get rid of all this noise ..