Old news

It’s 6:30 am on the 15th of February. And I’m angry.

It’s is not how I’d hoped to start my day. My first realisation for the day was how bloody America has become. A teenager has gunned down high school students—again.

I don’t live in the US. I’m no longer a high schooler, and I’m no parent. I know no one in Florida or anywhere near its vicinity.

But I’m angry nevertheless. It pains me—who lives 11.30 hours ahead of PST—that someone somewhere has unrestricted access to such vile weaponry. I’m silly that way. Because I care about what’s becoming of this place that I no longer want to call home.

Just last week I was proud—thrilled that a fellow human propelled a rocket to space. A single man’s determination and persistence has given us all a lifetime worth of achievement. Last week as Falcon Heavy made a safe landing, we celebrated human-ness  and our intense ability to reach beyond our confines. Our race had pursued the nigh-impossible and proven nothing’s impossible. For one week, I was proud of humankind.

This week, I’m repulsed by it.

Sure, life’s full of good and bad incidents. And philosophers would argue we wouldn’t appreciate the good unless we experience the bad. Which is all sage advice, except the bad is no longer bad when it extinguishes the innocent and exalts the unworthy.

Elon Musk had to fail hundreds of times before he could succeed. That’s the bad pill we need to swallow so we can appreciate the good one when it comes.

A teenage murderer isn’t the kind of bad that leads to realising goodness. Nothing good ever comes from entrusting a loaded weapon to someone unauthorised to wield it. That causes more than an unfortunate turn of events—that’s a consequence of utter insensibility.

Scrolling through social media, I saw videos and text messages from students inside the school during the shooting. They’re communicating with family and friends outside and most of them seem calm and collected.

Calmness in the face of adversity is healthy, some might say. I’d say no, though.

Although panic gets us nowhere, calm indicates familiarity. Despite grieving, people have grown accustomed to such incidents. It’s the first time for some folk, but nothing unheard of. Violence and guns amiss are so common that no one’s surprised that it happened again.

Everyone’s shocked because it happened, of course, but no one’s surprised that it happened. And there lies the fundamental fault in our stars.

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Love’s not love…

In our obsession to explain every thing under the sky, we’ve also defined our tendency of being unable to accept ours. Imposter’s syndrome is a clinical term that refers to one of the most fundamental emotions of humans.

‘I don’t think I deserve credit because I don’t feel like I did a good job.’ We all feel that sometimes. No one person is always satisfied with the yields of their efforts. That’s when we’re so guilt-ridden that we refuse to admit achievement.

We don’t realise, however, that anything that’s sloppy to us may seem exceptional to someone else. Ironic and though difficult, we must accept that. We all see the same thing in different ways — we have our own perspectives — and when someone declares how much we mean to them, not only is it decent to smile, acknowledge, and thank them, but it’s also a mark of self-help.

For only when we accept recognition from others can we appreciate our own self. We’re so hard on ourselves sometimes that we don’t love ourselves enough. How are we to love others if we can’t love ourselves first?

How we love others depends on how we love ourselves. When we’re unconditional towards our own self, and satisfy our self, we become happier from the inside out. That reflects when we interact with others, too. That’s why it’s almost impossible to enclose love in a dome. Love’s not only the love that young frivolous couples share, but love’s what we all share towards one another, living or otherwise. The more we love ourselves, the more we have to share. And the more we share, the more we receive.

It’s one infinite loop.

What I learnt from social media about being social

I’ve grown more active than ever before on Twitter. And if there’s one thing that it’s taught me, it’s that reciprocation is everything.

When I first joined Twitter over six years ago, I looked up to celebrity accounts like every other novice. It amazed me how much the paparazzi buzzed after them and how even though they followed no one, their accounts boasted a massive following. I wanted to be like them. Shame on me, I now realise.

Because I tried so hard to be an influencer even before I understood the purpose and meaning of social media, I couldn’t get past a few tweets a week and a meagre following of friends who signed up for Twitter and forgot all about it. My account was at a sorry state and without trying too much I faltered, ignoring my account altogether. What I didn’t realise is that everyone who did well on social media were either channelling their success from offline or from other platforms. Industry specialists, cinema stars, subject matter experts—all of them were already established before they posted their first tweet.

I, on the other hand, was a scrawny 19-year-old drunk on Shakespeare, trying to be poetic in every line I said. Plus, I wouldn’t follow anyone. People should follow me for my genius—I thought every day as I logged into Twitter. I didn’t think about meeting new people, conversing, exchanging insights, or learning.

That’s why I couldn’t get the hang of social media.

It took me long enough, but I’m glad that I’ve come a long way since. After years of being a failed twitterer, I discovered how chats brought out the sociableness in me. I understood that we gain value from a network when we offer value in return. Social media isn’t about posting a fantastic message and the likes. It’s a community, instead, where we should be willing to follow other people’s train of thoughts, thank them in sincerity for their opinion, and reply only if and when appropriate.

I’ve been trying do that for a while now.

No, my followers count hasn’t peaked up overnight. And no, I don’t have paparazzi outside my window. But no, I don’t feel like a failure either.

I feel like an achievement. Because I now realise the likes and followers don’t matter as much as the ideas and their reach. Amazing how far a thought can go on social media. My old classmates (who I no longer speak to but are on my network) liking my posts doesn’t matter as much as a relevant person chatting over it—of course, retweeting and sharing helps, but it’s not what drives my worth anymore.

Every time I go on social media now, I know that I’m only a tiny speck in an ocean bigger than anything I’ve seen. The deeper I engage with people who share my interests, the more I learn that I have a lot to learn. Every day I come across people I want to probe, to ask questions from, and to discuss what I think.

Social is not one-way communication riddled with ego. It’s social—where everyone knows and accepts they’re a fool sometimes and a genius at other times.

In search of utopia

I always choose comfort first—in attire, in stance, and even in the company I keep. And when it comes to my everyday life, I don’t have many surprises. My day begins the same way every day and ends in the same way. Throughout each day, I focus on things that matter most to me—tasks I enjoy, tasks I’d be willing to repeat.

As a result, I’ve grown comfortable with a certain lifestyle. It’s my zone, my happy place, and I don’t appreciate disturbances in that.

As attractive as it sounds, there’s also the risk of becoming too comfortable. I realised this while replying on a Twitter chat. Sometimes we get so accustomed to what makes us happy, like certain choices and routines that we’d rather not break out of. Most often than not, that’s because we prefer to be happy with whatever we like instead of putting ourselves out there and exploring new opportunities.

That’s how we let great opportunities slip through our fingers. Even if we realise that a new choice or a new job offers more potential for growth, we still choose to stay where we are… because that’s the easier option. And the longer we train our minds to satisfy itself with whatever—little or much—it possesses, the harder it becomes for us to venture into newer experiences. As the combination of fear and laziness builds up, inertia creeps up on us even before we know it.

As our fear to try out new things increases, we begin to focus more on the task at hand rather than the purpose of it. We care more about completing the routine than about the satisfaction it brings us. We start to define our self-worth based on the destination rather than the journey. That’s when routines become lethal. When our journey lacks passion, our life lacks soul, too. We become afraid of unfamiliarity, associating it with discomfort. We hesitate to make decisions, and douse in doubt even when we do. And with doubt tags along the inability to forgive ourselves for our mistakes and accept embarrassment.

And all of a sudden, what once was comfortable would’ve reduced us to nothing but scrawny scared cats. Staying in the comfort zone is as handling a two-sided sword. We just have to find the right balance.

Chit chatting away

I’m not what people call the social kind. I’m more of a…

…selective-social introvert.

It means I don’t like going out in large parties, or to large parties.

It means I’m uncomfortable with more than three people in a group.

It means I prefer being alone in my room than being lonesome in a crowd.

Most of all, I don’t mind people knowing that I’m not a people-person.

As a result, I stayed away from social media, too. I’d always found it too noisy, too spontaneous, and too narcissistic. Until I discovered Twitter chats.

I’d signed up for Twitter six years ago, but for more than five years, I made only feeble attempts at understanding how it works. And then one day, I had to analyse and evaluate Twitter for my work. As I combed through their documentation and scanned popular accounts, I discovered the wonder that is Twitter chats.

It seemed promising — a closed group of people discussing issues that mattered to them. That seemed like a purposeful way to spend time on social media, unlike the posting of selfies and sharing of love-struck statuses my friends did.

Though not all together certain, I joined my first chat. The sheer number of people who contributed to the conversation surprised me. As soon as the first question came on, a bunch of people replied in kind. Funny, enthusiastic, helpful, share-worthy responses piled up. As I read through them, I realised I could contribute something as well. I had a point that no one else had mentioned yet, and I felt an irksome desire to say it out. After all, these were people in my industry speaking their own experiences. It’s fair for me to do the same.

And I typed out my perspective. Within seconds people liked and retweeted my tweet. They replied, they agreed, and some even followed up with questions. The more I shared my ideas, the more conversation I generated. I realised I knew stuff that people thought were valuable. I knew tricks of the trade I didn’t know I knew. It was exciting. Twitter was exciting for the first time in five years! Social media, for once, was social to me.

That chat hooked me right in. From that day forward, I try my best to make it every time the chat happens. Every week, more and more people join in. But I never feel the crowd bearing on my shoulders. Instead, it’s fun to have more people in the discussion. Sure, sometimes my feed floods with hundreds of tweets even before I can read a handful of replies and answer a question, but it’s still useful, engaging, and welcoming as ever.

What began at one chat transcended beyond the one. When I began to participate in many chats, I realised there were others who showed up for particular chats every week. I started to see familiar faces, and I started making friends.

I’d become social. At least on social media.

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Do you hang around Twitter chats? How do you like it? If you’re interested, come say hello @s_narmadhaa.