Saturday, June 13, 2009

Living the moment

At 12am today, as we sat satisfied after smearing delicious vanilla cake on birthday girl Chetna's hair, we began a new standard ritual of birthday questions. A spirited discussion about 'The Best Birthday Ever' did not materialize, as Chetna got increasingly disheartened by the quality of our interrogation. Regardless, we continued to annoy her. I too began my own independent thread of thought on what was my best birthday.

It just took a second to pick one. 9th grade. A good selection of gifts from friends which were promptly torn open and inserted in the music system. A barrage of new 90s music of Backstreet Boys and Ricky Martin for the party! Lots of dancing. Snacks. Some more dancing, followed up a standard Army party cuisine of samosas and chips. A 'return gift' for each guest and a huge exit procedure of Thank you Uncles, Thank you Aunties.

A note to my early 80's born Indian friends - admit it! You did listen to and enjoyed Backstreet Boys/Boyzone. You may jeer at their saccharine and boy-bandish videos now. But when you were first exposed to their songs in 90s, you were no doubt awestruck!

It first seemed odd to me that birthday celebrations in ensuing years did not translate into a coherent narrative in my head even after a lot of effort - though I had a lot more pictures of the same.

While we are growing increasingly hasty in clicking a torrent of pictures for every experience, the number of pictures you have for an event is probably no indicator of its worth in your life. Nevertheless, having sufficient batches of pictures has become the basic criterion for validating an activity. "Arre...photo nahi kheechi kya??"

This phenomenon is happening because of two technological transformations 1. Digital cameras and mobile phones, with seemingly infinite capacity for content 2. Platforms like Orkut and Facebook for you to share and respond to other people's content. And this is further fueled by a growing number of people contributing to online 'shared narratives'.

Experiences now are measured brutally from their facebook-worthiness. You make a trip with friends, you want every activity captured on camera. You see a beach and a mesmerizing sunset, you feel a stronger urge to show your back to the mellow sun and get a picture clicked rather than sit and enjoy its enchanting plunge into the sea. As Renny Gleeson eloquently says in this TED video, through technology our social world is changing 'where the experience we're having right now is less interesting than what we'll tweet about it later.'

This moves away from the main topic, and I may be incurring some curses here. But girls seem to have this tendency a lot more than the guys. I first ascribed it to a teenage overdrive of self indulgence. But the strain persists through later phases too. A typical girly-girl album would have definitely have pictures like this - a picture template for 'me doing fun cuddly stuff' which thankfully hasn't percolated into manly-man albums!
We are constantly a distraction to our own present. We experience, we click with an aim to post it later. After the initial joy of discovering an online footprint abates, our highs come from a splattering of responses from our online friends - and pictures form the easiest medium to create this narrative. We live life hoping to paint a better version of it online.

I am skeptical if we will go back to living a moment for the moment itself.

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You might also like to read:
A piece on the 1980s generation: 1980--85
A comparison of childhood vs. present life: The Song Remains the Same

7 comments:

  1. Fully agree with this one!!

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  2. It takes guts to admit publicly about your liking for Backstreet boys and Britney Spears. Way to go boy!

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  3. Nice :-) You've surely stirred a hornet's (her-net's?) nest with that observation!

    Hehe to the Backstreet Boys observation.. true actually :-) feel ashamed now!

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  4. "Experiences are measured... ... tweet"

    BANG ON! Very true these days... :(

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  5. wasn't this a blogworthy idea? :P

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  6. Very true.
    Glad someone said that.

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