Imagine a concert. Of an artist whom you worship.
Or a sunset. Of a place you have always dreamt of visiting.
Or a moment. Of which you have craved for all your life.
Like watching Leonard Cohen live in Albert Hall.
Like watching the sunset by the Dal Lake.
Like watching your baby stepping onto the world.
Most of us would reach out to our smartphones and lose this moment, in an effort to record it for a Facebook like, or a Twitter favourite or a Tumblr share or even a filter on Instagram.
Because for us, for our digital selves it is important to win instant approval. Instant, social approval.
Cultural historians argued earlier that the self was defined by the other. The male gaze made the female attractive. Not anymore. Today, our perceived gaze must match the other’s response. Like. Comment. Share. Retweet. Digg. Pin.
Have you ever noticed how the social media vocabulary is full of verbs? None of it is passive.
What does that do to self worth?
What does that do to memory?
Is the memory of the social media currency earned or of the moment that makes it memorable?
Research suggests that after a post gets 11 likes or positive validation, one does not look at who likes it, but just the number.
At some level we are ceasing to see.
At another level, we are ceasing to exist.
In a rush to live out our digital lives we fail ourselves in the real world.
Digital cognitively (or intuitively) forces us to perform.
We feel like Kim in the Great Indian Bazaar fetching likes and comments in the Great Game. Except that Kipling’s Kim never sought anyone’s approval, unlike us.
And this performance makes us view our life as an ‘opportunity’, waiting to ceased.
Our parents also recorded memorable moments. But for themselves. For their children. In thick black albums with photo corners (you are probably in your 20s or below if you don’t know what photo corners mean). Pictures that did not need sepia filters. They turned yellow anyways as time kissed the pages.
If you took out your phone and were busy choosing the filter when Cohen strained his muscles to sing Dance Me to the End of Love, then you have missed it all.
If you were busy uploading the picture of your child when your wife needed you to hold her hand, then you have failed her.
If you were busy commenting on the sunset as the sun fell below the line, you missed that moment of miracle when it showed you what no digital tool can – magic.
We are losing out on the magic of our lives.
And focusing instead on the performance.
On the act.
To seek applause.
No wonder then that magic itself is so rare. And magicians have quietly huddled with John Galt, realizing fully well that they are not needed in this world of Muggles.
Do yourself a favour. Live your life.
Digital can wait.
Anirban Roy is head of strategic planning – Saatchi India. Also seeker; student of design; explorer of the unknown; observer of culture; devotee of Ramana Maharshi.
Twitter handle: anirbanroy1.
Views are personal.