Tag Archives: Musings

Where are the folks going next: The present and future of social networking

The next big idea in social networking is the application that finds friends of friends near you, giving you an opportunity to meet them in real time. The idea is a disaster ab initio. The whole idea of social networking is to prevent people from meeting each other, to create a screen persona so awesome that all friends just shrivel and wither away, to light the fire of jealousy and to keep it stoking with every post and tweet. Making people meet will wean them away from the screen, causing loss to the business and will only lead to the bursting of the bubble.

Before diving further into the world of social media, let us first cover our flanks – are there any challengers who can pip the social media networks in the enar future?

The game is to keep them hooked. But there are people who are not yet in the trap (believe me, it is true). Most of these ‘others’ are still stuck to the idiot box – to the never ending soaps. The approach of the soap writers is simple – create a circular story around adultery, and put it in a loop. There is no way the viewer will be able to get out of it. It is something like what the geeks dread in computer programming, or like the mazes of the old times. But these soap junkies are from the older generation, and not growing in numbers.

Where do books, movies and theatre fit in?

Books have a great future – as status symbols for the rich, as decorations for the spare drawing room that classy people call study, as snob accessory for the intellectuals to bang each other with (physically or with quotes – the effect is the same) and for being kept in the umpteen libraries that were created in the last generation. But, and this is important, people are actually not reading books – as in spending their time with it. So, they do not pose any challenge what so ever. In any case until they find a way to limit a book to 140 characters before they can even begin to think of challenging the social networks. (Here ‘characters’ means alphabets, including blank spaces, and not the heroes, the knights, the villains, the Chinamen, the inspector, the…)

Movies are part-time – side business – they do not need complete, full time involvement. They will survive, along with the reading of gossip columns and page three of newspapers and the occasional dining out.

Theatre is dead – I introduced theatre in the discussion just to sound classy. (To sound classier, I could have talked about classical music, ballet or opera – but that would have exposed me as a sham, it was not worth the risk.)

There are only two serious challenges to social networking – sex and gaming. In both the cases the social networks are trying to ‘sleep with the enemy’. The idea is to promote ‘sex-appeal’ and gossip as an alternative to real sex (and here I am not referring to pornography, which does not exist, so we will not discuss it). This suits the modern male and female very much, thank you. Real relationships are so cumbersome to maintain, so time consuming, so draining, so messy, that flirting on the social network is, in fact, a good option.

As for gaming, light, addictive gaming is on the Facebook-type platforms already – it is the ‘heavy-metal’ gaming of the addicts that poses a threat. But with careful and constant vilification campaigns against it, promoted through the agency of parents and schools, that the threat can be nixed in the bud. Something like the anti-smoking campaign. There are signs that it is succeeding – I see less and less of gaming fanatics around me these days.

Social networking includes videos (you tube), pictures (facebook, flicker) and text (micro-blogging of Facebook and Twitter). In that sense it is a mutli-media attack on the senses (or whatever remains of it). It seduces the ego – making it seem that it is you who is in control, who is creating the content, who is making people sit up and think, who is the one at the centre of the universe. Moreover, the tools that it gives – cut-and-paste quotes, edit your pictures, edit out bad comments, fit yourself into ‘frames’ created by applications…the whole industry is like the cosmetics industry, working hard to make you look awesome.

There seems to be no getting away from the fact that we live in the age of social networking. The few, mutually exclusive, platforms that rule the roost at the moment are having it good. The wanna-bes’ are burning the midnight oil to find the next big idea, and upstage them. For them, here is a ‘take-away’ from the above – pander to the ego of the individual, and he will be hooked. The advertisers will follow, and thou shalt be rolling in the…er…in whatever the rich roll in.

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(All cartoons in this post are taken from social network sites/blogs on the net.)

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In praise of Inefficiency

Inefficiency is not a difficult concept to defend, given its widespread prevalence. However, it has suffered from a lot of bad press. Moreover, its chief rival, efficiency, has cornered glory far exceeding its worth. Before we deconstruct the myth of ‘Efficiency, the good guy’, a disclaimer – I have nothing against efficiency in moderation; it is super-efficiency that I am wary of.

Now let us consider some facts:

  1. The highly motivated and super-achievement period of the Cold War was marked by a race for complete annihilation of life as we know it. Great milestones were achieved in the research of nuclear, biological and chemical warfare. No one really understood the sense behind Mutual Assured Destruction, but, my point is, such destructive capability would not have been possible without a high degree of efficiency.
  2. Then there was this race for bringing the under-developed world under your sphere of influence by setting up blood thirsty dictators or by starting civil wars. The entire terrorist industry was created, funded and nurtured in the era. Again, no one doubts the commitment and the efficiency of the foreign services of the ‘great’ powers in creating these monsters.
  3. There was also this race to space, moon and mars – that led to the cluttering of the immediate surrounding with rocket junk. Somehow sense has prevailed (due probably to lethargy and inefficiency of our generation of leaders) and there is a ‘need-based’ funding to research in outer space.
  4. The ‘soft power’ concept gave us horrendous Hollywood movies and the rockstars. It destroyed a lot of beautiful art forms throughout the world. I remember wondering in my younger days, why would any Hindustani speaking person waste time on Michael Jackson and Madonna, when beautiful ghazals, old Hindi songs and classical music were available. Now of course the question has become moot. The trend has culminated in torturous sequels of Indiana Jones, Terminator and Rambo and in Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber. Poetic justice. Again, the point is, the super efficient ‘Western’ juggernaut killed the heritage and culture of much of the rest of the world.
  5. Coming to the economic and advertising part of the ‘multi-national’ phenomena, what has the world really gained out of it all? Coca Coal, Avis jeans, Colors of Benetton, Zara, Ray Ban, Mercedes and an armament industry that has institutionalized bribery? The very things without which we (the rich) cannot imagine the world now.
  6. If we continue to move backwards into history (let’s get over it first), we are first hit the ‘high achievement’ periods of Second World War, the Inter-War period and the First World War. You would find the awesome inventions like the Atom bombs, aerial bombing, trench warfare and machine guns, in reverse chronological order. Further back, we are into the colonial era, when the ‘progressive’ European powers destroyed all the indigenous cultures around the world, bringing misery and famine of astonishing dimensions.
  7. Let’s forget the big picture and get a little personal. How many times have you experienced the fact that not having done a task saved the day? I have, on numerous occasions. Most problems, I have noticed, resolve themselves with time – our unnecessary meddling aggravates the situation in most of the cases. I could, but will not, give hundreds of personal examples to support this. Personally I am convinced of minimal intervention in the working of fate – I, for one, would never provoke it by acting smart.
  8. The best way to win a girl is to be a bumbling idiot, and say sorry. It pleases the girls, and eliminates the ‘efficient’ competition real quick. In support of this, I present the fact that the best girls are married to the biggest idiots around, and that winning the sympathy of a girl is the easiest way to her heart. My simple advise to the youngsters looking for soul mates – just get yourself injured (by sheer stupidity- and this part is important), and you will find a maiden to rescue. Rest is up to you – your chances would depend on how dumb-headed you are. If you are naturally disadvantaged by having some brains, send it for a long vacation.
  9. For husbands, stupidity works wonders. Just take my word for it. I shall not elaborate, for then I would be revealing secrets that my wife may get to know. Lest I am accused of presenting a gender-biased view, let us also remember the blonds. They are the most successful sub-species of homo sapiens. And how did they win the world – by projecting and maintaining an image of dumbness.
  10. In office, anybody can notice that the least efficient, the least productive of the staff are the happiest; they get the best training, the least work and fastest promotions. They cultivate the bosses better, create little hindrance to the half-baked projects with their nagging doubts, do not pose a threat to their superiors by acting smart in the meetings (in fact they give an ego boost to the bosses by talking silly and getting themselves corrected all the time) and are usually not to be blamed for any disaster – for everyone knows that they do nothing.

I know many would still not be convinced by these facts – their brains would, in all likelihood, be producing counter arguments and facts to reject this thesis. They are most welcome to listen to their brains, but I would also like to draw their attention to their hearts. Just listen to what your heart is saying.

Let me marshal some more arguments, as a last ditch attempt to convince you. I shall now quote Bertrand Russell (not a man you could shake a finger at, in terms of brains), who wrote an inspired piece of common sense in “In praise of Idleness” way back in 1935 (I wish the world had listen to him then – we would have saved ourselves from much of the disasters of the twentieth century):

  • “I think that there is far too much work done in the world, that immense harm is caused by the belief that work is virtuous.”
  • “The conception of duty, speaking historically, has been a means used by the holders of power to induce others to live for the interests of their masters rather than for their own.”
  • “The idea that the poor should have leisure has always been shocking to the rich.”

Pay careful attention to this argument by Russell regarding a ‘sensible’ idea like savings:

  • “One of the commonest things to do with savings is to lend them to some Government. In view of the fact that the bulk of the public expenditure of most civilized Governments consists in payment for past wars or preparation for future wars, the man who lends his money to a Government is in the same position as the bad men in Shakespeare who hire murderers. The net result of the man’s economical habits is to increase the armed forces of the State to which he lends his savings. Obviously it would be better if he spent the money, even if he spent it in drink or gambling.”

Lest you feel Russel is biased towards idleness, we will consider what other authorities have to say in the matter:

  • Agatha Christie says, “I don’t think necessity is the mother of invention. Invention, in my opinion, arises directly from idleness, possibly also from laziness – to save oneself trouble.”
  • And here is a definition of an Idiot by Ambrose Bierce – “A member of a large and powerful tribe whose influence in human affairs has always been dominant and controlling. The Idiot’s activity is not confined to any special field of thought or action, but “pervades and regulates the whole.” He has the last word in everything; his decision is unappealable. He sets the fashions and opinion of taste, dictates the limitations of speech and circumscribes conduct with a dead-line.”
  • “What keeps earth air breathable? Not oxygen alone. The earth is a freer place to breathe in, every time you love without calculating a return – every time you make your drudgeries and routines still more inefficient by stopping to experience the shock of beauty wherever it unpredictably flickers.” ― Peter Viereck.
  • “This type of man who is devoted to the study of wisdom is always most unlucky in everything, and particularly when it comes to procreating children; I imagine this is because Nature wants to ensure that the evils of wisdom shall not spread further throughout mankind.” This comes from, no less, the father of Enlightenment, Desiderius Erasmus in his ‘Praise of Folly’(1509).

I shall not labor any further to convince you. This is because, one, I do not like to labor, and second, if it requires a perfect argument to convert one to inefficiency, then it is not worth the effort.

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