By Chandrasen Yadav
We live in the age of social media, the internet, and initially social media had a radically different definition, it was to connect with our friends and family, which eventually extended to meeting strangers, making new friends and family—which for an era of landline users was one of the great achievements in the field of communication. I was born in mid 90’s, and living in a third world country—as they call it, I luckily and unluckily have experienced every single phase of this evolution in the field of communication, from living my initial years with no mode of communication other than letters, having to go to a PCO booth, having a BSNL landline phone, having a keypad phone—only features being calling and texting, then to the digital era when touchscreen phones came with GPRS connection, and to this age when watches can be connected to the internet as well. So, I have observed this changing eras in great detail, being an observer I always was interested in the underlying psychological and philosophical problems that came with each leap we made, as a civilization.
The initial leaps hardly had any bad consequences, as the need to communicate was purely utilitarian, it was to progress the archaic ways of communication with new technological advancements. So when the mobile phone came, it mostly had positive consequences, one could communicate without having the limitation of being attached with wires. Then with the Internet, the idea was to share a piece of information in real time, websites where if one updates some information, it changes for everyone. It was purely utilitarian up until that point.
Then started the era of social media—a platform for human connection and relationships, still was just another leap for communication, but with the sudden boom of smartphones in the end of first decade of 21st century, the exponential use of social media has changed how we communicated. Just the simple idea of texting has changed one of the primal basis of communication—speaking up, and that has a huge psychological change for humanity.
If I were to go deep just into how communication changed I could go on, but that’s another topic, coming back to what social media has done, especially the apps like ‘TikTok’ and others, which isn’t really a social media platform but still the popularity and what it is doing for this generation has some very deep psychological effects.
The very idea this app runs on, is to attract people who are smitten with popularity, the people who are good looking and have a hunger for attention—which isn’t necessarily a bad thing but this generation’s hunger for attention has a very different idea, it’s an era where attention has become a drug, and this addiction for attention is one of the most dreadful effects of these horrifying apps. Conventionally, attention wasn’t a need of regular human beings, it was a want, not even a need, for geniuses—either in academics, intellectuals, or artists, who wanted their idea to travel, and for generations the best idea traveled, and bad ideas had no place, so it never traveled. But today’s generation biggest psychological delusion is the need for attention for who they are, what they look like—I’m sorry not even how they look like, but how they look like after wearing a ton of cosmetics on their skin. This very idea of creativity, talent, has lost its touch to reality, since the platform has democratised—which for this generation seems like one of the biggest gifts of all, but what it eventually did, is it removed that filter for ideas, now every idea is traveling, either good or bad, and since we all know our affinity to bad ideas, it does travel a lot more than good ones.
The problem with democracy is, most of the times its the popularity—and popularity doesn’t necessarily means good and a large chunk of humanity haven’t really come in terms with this reality. And that majority has put these untalented, accidentally good looking people on this pedestal, calling them so called ‘influencers’ just for mouthing on someone else’s work in the comfort of their couches. It does tell a lot about the audiences in this country and universally, who are putting up fanpages for these people who does literally nothing productive. And also, the obsession with entertainment is another addiction this country has to grow out of, I mean in the name of entertainment this country can consume anything, with no conscience at all, to what they are being fed off. In this bad ecosystem, these so called ‘TikTokers’ live and thrive, when they say they ‘love you’, you should know, if you are a follower, that you are just being scammed, you are one of those people who have enough time to waste seeing their sexual innuendo in most of their so called ‘work’. And for those people who would say ‘there are some really funny and motivational ones too’, if you want to laugh on some cheap and unthoughtful comedy that’s your personal choice, and if you need to find motivation on such platform, there’s so much wrong with your life, figure that out for yourself—there are sensible places to find motivation from, not from the people who themselves needs motivation to do something productive than fool you with their slomo shots.
This is not me moaning on a platform just for the sake of it, I should say for real creative people, real artists these outlets really helps but for that 1% of real artists who would come out anyway, we are consuming 99% of bad content and that’s a big problem.
The need for attention, without having to produce any real art, and the obsession with being famous and known, addiction of looking good, all of these are some very serious psychological issues with these apps.
Then comes the philosophical problems, and the first question one can ask is, and I have heard this argument—’If you find your expression in writing, in different artforms, what’s the problem in finding expression in that app, they are just expressing themselves’, and the problem with that argument is the indication that that app is a medium of expression, an artform—which it clearly is not. Any artform, any art, has its origin from oneself, for oneself first, before anyone else, and the basic flaw in making these apps an artform or a medium of expression, is the need of attention, validation and approval from others first, not to accept oneself. And you could say it was a traditional approach, today if we can do both of the things at once, what’s the problem with that? but then it becomes just entertainment not art, the basic definition between art and entertainment is the approach in the process of creating something, art is for self, entertainment has its origin from outside, and these apps throws prompt, challenges, how is this art anymore? I am fed up with this generation using the word ‘art’ so casually, as if it is that easy, it is not, art needs solitude for its creation and if you are in the arena which literally named ‘social media’, it’s not art, it never was and will never be. It’s just entertainment, no art, so its not really expression, its impression and all they say and do is to impress not express, there couldn’t be a bigger difference than that.
TikTok and apps of this kind is ruining this generation, to think beyond, to create, to persevere, to persist, to have better dreams, to be interested in something other than just merely entertain and consume entertainment, not just the users but also the audiences who are watching it, as a collective society we are just wasting a lot of time. We should be more sensible, to create, to consume, otherwise a worse future is waiting ahead of us.
About the Author:
Chandrasen Yadav is pursuing Masters of Science in Psychology at Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi, he has a background in Computer Science and Engineering. He is an avid reader, observer of current social and technological trends with interest in writing on diverse topics.