Over the past few days the news cycle has been on a rotation of sorts. The same news stories, day after day, with names changed to add variety. Crooked politicians, water-logged roads and water shortages in buildings. It all sounds incredibly exhausting if you ask me, almost as if everyone has his or her focus on something else.
Now if you think I'm hinting at something, you are absolutely right. No one really cares whether our roads get fixed or our trains get safer, because everyone's just too busy tuning into and (then ripping apart) the reality show du jour. Whether it's discussions on Rakhi Sawant's show that easily takes up hours of otherwise valuable conversation time, or whether or not not Indians should be playing, "Sach Ka Saamna", to what the boozing and promiscuous twenty-somethings are doing in "Splitsvilla", it seems everyone is more interested in someone else's reality to give their own much thought.
Why is it that we find ourselves so transfixed by the lives of others? Is this a social dysfunction that we are all possessed with? It seems to be in our inherent nature as a community to always want to get into our neighbour's business. When an accident happens on the streets, everyone feels the need to clamour around, offering some sort of analysis of the situation, some sage advice, and lots and lots of criticism (it is to be noted that very few actually come forward to extend a helping hand in such situations). Similarly, when two neighbours find themselves in a quarrel, it almost always carries out into the streets for the entire neighbourhood to privy in. This doesn't just happen in Bombay, mind you, but in virtually every pocket of the country, someone else is highly interested in someone else's life.
Clearly, we are a very voyeuristic bunch. We unbashedly enquire about people's lives like confident peeping toms. Do we do it because it makes us feel better about our own lives, knowing that somewhere someone is worse off? Do we feed off of other people's issues to feel more strength and confident in our own lives? It shocks me to ask: is voyeurism the new escapism?
In today's technology fuelled world, voyeurism has transcended to another level entirely. Facebook, Twitter, all sites dedicated to knowing what (and who) someone else is doing, wearing, watching are amongst the most popular sites on the Internet. Personally, I'm hooked onto Facebook. It gives me immense pleasure taking all those mindless quizzes and the rowdy fellows from my batch in school (you know, the ones who would always be the favourites of the teachers and walk around the corridors with an air of arrogance) who are now more rotund than being studs.
With friend requests pouring in everyday, I can't help but wonder whether Facebook or Twitter is really about connecting friends or being able to spy on people's lives without feeling guilty (but don't fool yourself, if you find yourself from going to someone else's profile more than once a day without interacting with them, you are stalking them). Surely, it doesn't require a sociologist to understand why we do what we do. Simply put, voyeurism is a great way to distract us from the bigger issues at hand. Distractions can be therapeutic, and sometimes can help to find perspectives, but the danger starts when the very things that distract you tend to run a blurring line between the one life and that should be of utmost importance to you; your own.
So much friendship is Facebook really about? For that matter, how "real" is reality television? If reality TV in India is real, then synthetic, fake and artificial must be virtues. Once we fall into patterns of behaviour, it usually takes something extreme to break us out of it.
It is common knowledge that one addiction replaces another, so while I come up with something equally addictive for everyone to invest large amounts of their time into, do me a favour and treat these shows as you would treat a soap opera; enjoy it for that moment, allow yourself to get immensely hooked, but the moment the end credits start to roll, get off the couch and get back to your life, the one that you can actually do something about.