By Mehr Tarar
April 17, 2015
“Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe.” — Albert Einstein
The sheer profundity of Einstein’s patronising but infinitely wise words is as relevant today as when he uttered them sometime in the last century. Life’s become too hectic to be spent too much among mortals who’re nothing more than a passing diversion in our self-important but inherently quotidian lives. In the case of a self-avowed recluse like one, being an innate chatterbox and receptive to people in general, one’s many interactions, these days, are virtual. And embarking on one’s journey to become a great Pakistani novelist-cum-non-fiction-writer (dream big, no?), many a happy hour is spent on one’s laptop, ergo connecting one to the virtual world that has all the trappings of reality. Chaos reigns supreme, albeit the effect is short-lived, shallow and insignificant. Until the virtual threatens to overshadow the real. Beware of that.
How the narratives shape up these days, and how the tweets have become pieces of mouths that are too big for their own good. While there exist the usual troublemakers, more aptly known as teeli-throwers, there’s an army of those tiny, teetering-on-the-edge-of-methodical-insanity, tenaciously vitriolic creatures otherwise known as trolls. The main teeli-thrower has a few tricks, one of them being rants about a faith/nation/politician/celebrity, and viola, your tweeting-job for the day is done. Do you ever feel your words that were once-upon-a-time an expression of your truth are now mostly merely an exercise to seek attention that is as transient as the flirtatious advances of a stranger in a dark, smoky pub?
Add a selfie or two about your interaction with someone remotely famous, or your latest soiree, and after a few re-tweets/favourites, you smile uneasily because this ain’t good enough. The real validation of your existence would be when you attack — unprovoked — someone from the faith, country, party that is deemed nothing more than that scorpion from that Aesop fable about the frog that gives ride to a poisonous creature.
Criticising and trolling are as different as Tom and Jerry: both are seen together, but one can’t be mistaken for the other. The judgments on Twitter are sans any ifs and buts, and that’d be hilarious if it wasn’t so venom-tainted. As Richelle E Goodrich, an American author, mused, “While you judge me by my outward appearance I am silently doing the same to you, even though there’s a 90 per cent chance that in both cases our assumptions are wrong.” If only most of those who attack perfect strangers online could decipher the truth of these words.
A 140-character tweet is just what it is: a 140-character tweet. Despite the insertion of emoticons, there’s no way the intent is absolutely transparent. The motivation behind a tweet is something for the tweeter to know and the reader/follower to only interpret as per her/his perceptions, ideas and responses. Same words hold different meanings for different people. Ever wonder why yours has to be the only one that matters?
In the end, it doesn’t really matter. Seriously. I mean who really cares what anyone tweets? If you’re a celebrity you’d have followers as naturally as bees swarming around a nectar-filled flower. Don’t take your online popularity-cum-following so seriously that you start to mistake it as… life. Before you know it, what used to be a way to give words to your constant thoughts and opinions becomes your sly modus operandi to elicit re-tweets and favourites. Like selfie-posting on Facebook, and counting the ‘likes’.
Just one more thing. The tiny sentences known as tweets are a glimpse into who you are. Therefore when you judge someone, or abuse, instead of extending healthy criticism, or troll instead of giving feedback, or throw teelis to elicit anger or ovation from your set of tweeter-toadies, don’t forget, you’re only exposing one person in this process: you. It’s your words that are dipped in poison; it’s your thoughts that reflect darkness.
And then there are some like me who use Twitter as an extension of their daily conversations, and weekly writings, and there’s mostly that one thought — patronising, duh — when one writes the uncomfortable truth — civilly worded, sans any agenda: “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.” — Bernard M Baruch.
Mehr Tarar is a former op-ed editor of the Daily Times and a freelance columnist.