We live in a world where the number of people we interact with online is more than the number of people we see in our day to day lives. Therefore, we gradually change our sharing behaviors based on the people we don’t see. Profile pics, status messages and tweets become our default outlet for emotional release. In such a world, how does one express sorrow, channel grief and share misery? I feel that unlike happiness, sorrow is a more genuine human emotion. To really experience and recover from sorrow, the human mind needs time and a particular setting that allows it to develop the understanding that it needs to go through this sorrow. Sometimes you need the input of others but to really recover, you have to go through the process all by yourself with people leaving you alone because they see that you clearly need some time to recover. But how do you do that in the current world of social networking? It is our innate desire to let the world know how we are feeling but the tools that we have for expression are too shallow; too… inhuman. Does changing a profile picture have the same effect of shedding a tear? Absolutely not. Instead of processing our thoughts internally and walking through the forest of confusion into some sort of clarity, we post our thoughts and let other people – who have no idea what the background is and might even be suffering from some sort of mental disorder themselves – come and take us to some distorted form of clarity. Instead of arguing with our inner self, we argue with others and instead of answering our own questions, we end up being more angry at others. After sometime the act of changing your profile picture, which in the beginning seemed like a profound way to share other people’s misery, starts to appear as an insignificant gesture and now you are confused whether you are healed enough to go back to normality or not.
I am not a huge fan of social networking. I believe it’s not genuine and it’s trying – and pretty much succeeding – to replace genuine human interactions. I see husbands and wives living in the same house posting things in public to each other’s walls, which should be said in private – and in person. I’ve seen people declaring that it’s their 2 year old son’s birthday, which doesn’t make sense since the kid doesn’t really care who liked this amazing news since he or she is more concerned about things that really matter at that age. Like getting fed. I see wall posts replacing phone calls and likes replacing genuine affection.
So in this context, how do I grieve the loss of 141 lives? Do I change my picture, write an angry post, argue with people who don’t share my views, like the status messages that reflect my views, block people who anger me or look for content that keeps me grieving? And believe me, I tried to use all this to process my emotions. Initially I thought it was a reporting error, that it’t not possible to lose 132 children in one incident. Then, when it was certain that it was true, that such barbarity has happened, I skimmed Facebook and wrote comments expressing my grief and liked statuses. But then I couldn’t go on. I had to stop because there was only one way that I can actually grieve. I cried.
It’s been a couple of days now since 12/16. My online world is full of demands for justice and calling for heads. It’s full of people spreading false information and overly dramatic posts. It’s full of people making fun of and defending the mullahs. It’s full of hopeful and hopeless sentiments. And I don’t care about any of it anymore.