Last week, I came across the article taking a dig at blatant insensitivity shown from all sections of the society in the horrific Robinson Street case of Kolkata. While it became another hang out destination for selfie-obsessed people, media raced into reporting every possible detail about the house without even verifying the facts. A Kolkata based theatre group even completed 75% of the script for the play they will be making on the incident – even as the Police is in the middle of the investigation and lot of facts are yet to be confirmed. A Durga Puja organizer is already planning to put up a pandal this year at the venue. Media is adding its own fiction to the half available facts to make it sensational TRP spiraling breaking news. Reporters broke all the possible laws to get access to the mentally ill son of the 77 year old man who burned himself down and alleged to have been staying with skeletons of his two dogs and his sister.
In the last couple of months, this was the nth story I came across showcasing mass insensitivity shown by the public towards very serious issues. While media has often taken a lead in terms of setting the insensitivity benchmark, if the public is doing the same, it will be incorrect to attribute the behavior to media only. Having said that, it is also important to see that two different causes are driving this behavior.
Media insensitivity is primarily driven by commercial interests associated with the TRPs. People love to watch sensational news and the one who is able to sensationalize anything and everything, grabs the maximum eye balls. Reporting news, just as it is, was the trend of 90s Doordarshan era. While we would want the journalists to be more responsible, it is easier said than done. If we want them to worry less about TRPs and worry more about reporting the most accurate news, it requires a change in the way public select the news channels to watch. Expecting it from media is foolish. It cannot happen, thanks to game theory. Even if someone wants to desensationalize the news, they won’t do it because of the risk involved with losing out on TRPs.
Talking about people, obsession and pressure of being popular in the social media era rides high on people. Recently, I came across a radio commercial of a theme park that claimed that you will get more likes, more comments and more friend requests if you take selfies (they had another term for it) at their theme park. Otherwise, the person will meet a miserable death in solitude (that’s coming from me!). A real estate company aired a radio commercial that showed a man narrating his misery of ending up liking his friends’ world tour selfies on Facebook as he wanted to settle in Mumbai and hence, couldn’t afford to go for world tour. But then he purchased a flat at the township constructed by this company, 50kms away from Mumbai, which had architecture inspired (not copied) from the buildings across world famous cities and now he can take selfies inside his township which will make him popular among his friends.
A large part of this obsession and pressure comes from the peers. Before social media, the peer competition was only restricted to the real world and people hardly used to know what their current 700-800 FB friends are doing with their lives unless they communicated 1:1 or during gossips but not to a great detail. While the competition still stays, the speed and the detail with which people come to know about the “rocking” things happening in their friends’ lives has increased. With posts sharing overly rosy picture of their lives to make others jealous, one has no idea what kind of sh*t others go through on a day to day basis.
And then the more time people spend in peeping into others’ all-rosy lives on social media, the more they feel insecure about the quality of their own lives. When the insecurity rides over common sense and more importantly, humility, incidents like Robinson Street or the one of the Statue of Two Hercules or the one of Nepal tragedy happen.
Only when we stop evaluating our lives with the number of Facebook friends we make, number of likes we get, number of retweets on our tweets and number of shares on our posts, number of comments on that Instagram photo and instead, start evaluating it by – how many times we smiled today, how many smiles we received today, how many close friends did we catch up with in last one week, how many people we helped today, how many new places we visited in last one year, did we move a step ahead in achieving our dreams, did we watch that amazing movie just released, how many new places we visited in last one year, did we enjoy what we did at work today, did we share any good experience with someone close today, did we feel happy about something good happening to someone else, did we had a good laugh at least for once today – will we be sensitive towards the things that really matter in life.