I am going to turn twenty-one this month, and my brother is a third of my age. The way I grew up was low-key strange and prosaic because I spent the entire day in my room, first surfing Orkut at age eleven, listening to Black Sabbath at age fourteen, and realizing at age nineteen, that had it not been for WhatsApp, I could not have been able to break my heart sending handwritten letters that the other person didn’t understand. So, the internet and social media have stolen from me days I could have spent playing badminton with the kids in my neighborhood, to say the least, but my brother, now fourteen, is being robbed to bankruptcy. The way he’s growing up makes my concerns about my teenage ludicrous. The way he’s growing up is downright daunting.
My brother, you see, doesn’t have any friends. And that is perhaps the one good thing I have derived from all my screw-ups in life so far. Friends, friends from around the world, friends I can rely on, friends I owe money to, friends who are as old as uncles and aunts I don’t have, and friends who are closer than family to me. My brother also does not drive the car,he pretends to drive in her snap stories. I don’t know, unlike most of his peers and mine, how to use it. This sounds like the ode of a fairly exasperated older sister, concern and condescension cascading down my behind.
But actually, not quite! You know the stats; you know social media is not only annoying because our long lost relatives send us digital roses every morning but also terrifying because we are losing the ability to order food on the phone and sometimes convey our truest feelings to bae when looking into their eyes. The debate is rampant, people are losing whatever little smartness they had to smartphones and the next gen is utterly and unhealthily dependent on the internet. When I was as old as my brother, I was one of the few couch potatoes whose parents allowed them to spend that insane amount of time on the internet. And now, suffice it to say, everyone imaginable is that couch potato.
In my tryst with life, I have spent most of my time either online or offline, about to be online. And recently, I have decided that while still maintaining the caustic touch that my personality is all about, I will try and bring to light whatever little positivity I can derive from every little thing. So it goes without saying, for the rest of this article, you will not be hearing about my brother.
So the thing is, I found home in various discussion forums, blogs, in Facebook and Instagram and in people I’d never met because I was ‘beyond my years’ .Instead of listing out all the bad things that have happened to me because of my dial-up connection, the things that could happen to any and all of us, I will list out very quickly the absolutely amazing things I found on social media.
- My two best friends are synonymous to family to me. But there’s also a girl (maybe two) I met way back when I was fourteen, who I still turn to in my darkest, most gullible moments. And she and I have never met each other. There’s this old and grey (I like to exaggerate the handicap that is being in your 30s with salt and pepper hair) man who is the closest I am likely to have to a kind of guardian angel. Also, a weirdo who calls me Kanky Dewdrops and whose mom is cooler than her. People not geographically near me are family to me. And I have only my insane obsession with staying indoors, locked up in my room, to thank for it.
- Courage: Last year, I joined Instagram. I had also just begun my health journey; those were the cute days when I could not squat. And there, I came across a worldwide, gigantic community of all kinds of women – women with muscles, women who lost around a hundred kilograms, women with eating disorders and most of all, women and men who were not afraid to be open about body issues, mental health issues, and all imaginable issues under the sun that they have experienced. So, it’s not a lot. But sometimes, I post a picture or two of my still bulging belly there, not just pictures highlighting my sadly shrinking boobs. Sometimes, when wanting to be as brave as them, I realize that I am not, and that there is so much to learn from freaking Instagram entrepreneurs.
- Knowledge to be basically, everything I am: Social media is information, not all the right kinds, of course. But you’d be surprised how reaffirming it is to find no less than a country-sized fandom of a book that changed their lives too. As Seth Stephens Davidowitz points out in his book ‘Everybody Lies’ the only non-person person we don’t lie to is Google. Then researching a mild stomachache leads you to Ted Talks by cancer survivors. My point here is that social media is a precarious and amazing link between us and information. What we do with it, what kind of information reaches us is now increasingly not in our hands, and that’s scary. The internet is trying to sell itself to us every day and that’s scary too. A top I once looked at on some website still pops in any platform I use. And I see what they’re doing; they won’t rest till I buy it. So internet is for now, making me resilient too, because I’ll be damned if I gave into this algorithm that was designed to make me broke.
Social media has, thus, made me a lot of things. It has inspired me, it has reduced me to tears because I couldn’t stop comparing myself to people I publicly frown upon, and it has brought me lasting lessons, friends and an ever expanding database of everything and anything about which I want to be educated. Return of the Prodigal Brother Time, though. For, it’s (for now) only making my brother preoccupied with the idea of owning a car that we’d have to sell the whole street to afford. That being said, I listen to Taylor Swift too on Saavn every now and then, and that doesn’t make me feel like I’m betraying real music ergo classic rock. I had phases, after all. And I hope what he has got going on is a phase too.
May he have the rectitude to be as little of a slave to social media as possible when he’s older!
Author’s bio: Kankshita, 21, Indian, studying to be a psychologist, survived teenage via writing and books, now, a gym junkie.