Friday, October 14, 2016

114. The unmaking of human emotions!

Festive season reminds me about the transformation the world of sharing seasons' greetings has gone through. From those days when as teenagers we were made to ferry plateful of sweets across neighboring households to later years when we often poured emotions in hand-drawn greeting cards, the subtlety of sharing emotions were to become outright blatant in the following years.Telephonic greetings and printed cards arrived much later, by which time greetings had started bearing a crass reflection of social and economic status. Emotions were tagged to a price, and the trend is in vogue till this day! 

In parallel, there is a new trend that has caught on. The present-day gadget-friendly generation has gone a step ahead, for them emotions are a product of digital technology. The manner in which they use bland text, passive status and predictive smiley makes one believe as if the youngsters, and even some of their senior followers, have run out of emotions. It seems conscious expression of thoughts have given space to copied text and downloaded visuals. Need it be said that the realm of digital communication has unleashed a world of electronic emotions around us. Digitized emotions have become virtual products for real consumption.    

I am as disturbed as novelist Ayn Rand would have been, who considered 'emotions as a product of man’s premises, held consciously or subconsciously, explicitly or implicitly'. Since lot goes into making of human emotions, I have difficulty with the digital emotions. Consequently, I try not to acknowledge text messages, bulk greetings and electronic cards. For me, the cut and paste emotions that are re-invented and re-send are worthy of quick deletion, as these are but a reflection of the general drift of our culture. I like conventions. I like personal touch to greeting family and friends. May be, digital greetings don't assure me of the attention that I think I deserve! 

But much to my discomfort, passive electronic emotions continue to fill-up the virtual space.    

As touch-screen technology moves center stage as a mode of communication, the business of saying things face-to-face is seemingly on its way out. Mediated by communication technologies, emotions too have become packaged products which can be clicked and picked online. As these are produced so are these consumed, a perfect reminder that we live in a 'read and delete' society. That electronic emotions lack the ability to communicate the essence of an emotional response isn't a majority concern, and yet it has the power of unstoppable proliferation. Pity that no one considers the value of the glorious personal greetings the sun showers on the mountains!      

Despite my personal disliking for digitized emotions, I am still convinced that it has given a convenient vent to positive emotions for a large majority who may not be able to afford the economics of sharing greetings (printed cards, expensive gifts etc) the traditional way. Consequently, sharing of feelings through a variety of 'emoticons' have worked ever since digital form of emotions were uploaded on the Internet on Sept 19, 1982. Since then, human emotions have got a non-human face to them. These environment-friendly emoticons have been downloaded and shared several billion times. Not sure if these make the recipients happy, though. Isn't expressing emotions through written words getting obsolete?

But what worries me is the accumulation of 'negative emotions' in the process, because humans are a mix of both positive and negative emotions. While 'positive emotions' exit through the electronic route, 'negative emotions' fail to escape human psyche. No wonder, pent-up emotions and hidden aggression increasingly confront us as a society. Be it unprovoked violence in social life or increasing incidences of road rage, the 'negative emotions' are finding a variety of violent escape routes. This is a subject that has yet to be researched to any appreciable degree, though we do read about the flip side of our over-dependence on the digital technologies. The trouble is that unlike electronic emoticons these (negative emotions) cannot be easily deleted from our lives! 

This piece was first published in Deccan Herald on Nov 26, 2016

Friday, October 7, 2016

113. You do yours, and mine too!

Times may have changed but not for today's parents whose collective frustration spills out in the open when it comes to discussing their offspring. Unceremonious adages like 'highly irresponsible', 'grossly careless', 'poorly empathetic' and 'increasingly narcissistic' are pressed into service to reflect their unending ire. 

Age has forced me to switch sides now, but it wasn't too long when I was one among many of my generation who had braved parental verbal tirade. My mother would often compare me with my father for being 'half as diligent in discharging my duties towards the household'. Like all parents, she was repetitive enough to trigger my immune response.      

Neither was the problem diagnosed then nor is it being analysed now. Across the world, I have learnt, a generation is growing up expecting more from their parents. A narcissistic generation afflicted by the 'selfie epidemic' is growing in numbers. Need it be said that the otherness of others has become mostly irrelevant to this generation.            

If you ask me, we are the problem we are trying to solve. Haven't many of us been hollering our children not to forget things they must carry before leaving home? Aren't most of us doing the household work ourselves because getting kids to do the same will suck more energy out of us? If that be so, then blame it on our style of parenting.   

We have allowed children’s sense of entitlement to be inflated alongside decline in their responsibilities towards the household. Gone are the days when children were perceived as a generation which was raised to gain practical tips for survival from their parents, and to lend supportive financial hand for the household to thrive. 

In present times we want our child to be child  - to play, to laugh, to have fun, and to enjoy the carefree state for as long as s/he can. Perceived as an emotional asset whose primary purpose is being loved, most parents today want their kids to spend time on things that can bring them success. Rarely it is realized that the pursuit of success comes at a price.    

It is our attitude plus the change in living conditions that has prompted children to be what they are today. Why should children spend hours doing chores when the technology - mixers, microwave ovens, washing machines, handsets - has improved living conditions in favor of individual emancipation around the house? You do yours and mine too, they seem to be saying as technology has eased the task of doing work!

I would be surprised if there are parents not wanting their children to be tech savvy, and not ape modernity to stay in the race for endless material acquisitions. Comes packaged with it are the terms and conditions that discourage children to do household chores. Knowing it well, as many as 30% of American parents no longer ask their children to do household chores.

So much for our side of the story. Have you ever tried asking the young generation about their side of the story? I have heard many say that they were labelled 'little emperors' and 'little princesses' on their birthdays by their parents. And they are behaving like what they were labelled as. Where do you see emperors and princesses do household chores, they ask!!