A chorus of honks at the Sion signal rang in my ears, as I lazily went through Facebook's daily batch of self-congratulatory updates. And it didn't help that some of them were, in fact, more moving than the horrible traffic I was stuck in.
"Hmm, Paul got married."
"Oh, Tina had triplets....again?"
"Cool, Arya graduated,"
"Ben got into Harvard! Good on him"
"Ah, another anniversary post"
"Oh, and another"
It was as I scrolled past more of such posts celebrating anniversaries, birthdays, marriages (and the birth of over a dozen more babies, we're clearly pros at it) that realization hit me as enlightenment did Buddha under the Bodhi tree on that fated day – there was too much of positivity on my timeline; enough to build a world entirely out of protons, actually. Everybody wanted to celebrate everybody else's achievements, promotions and what not– so, naturally, everybody built up an online identity surrounding just that.
My Facebook timeline was this huge bubble of happiness in which people either graduated, got married, had kids, bought a new house, or vacationed in Hawaii. (Oh, and did I mention more baby pictures?)
What suddenly stood out to me at that moment of perfect clarity, was the silent existence of the distance that was maintained from pretty much anything that didn't scream happiness or fart joy.
"That friend from school could be slowly breaking apart while still managing to maintain an online pretence of leading a happy, enviable life – and we'd never know," I realized.
Stigmatizing anything that doesn't make its way through a Unicorn's bowels is probably why that teenager across the street is internalizing a dangerous mental illness instead of seeking the help that he/she desperately needs– or why that super quiet guy from class who nobody talks to, thinks about ending his life.
My blog post about my fight against depression probably lacks the glamorous lustre of a vacation album; besides, why does the society need to know about something this personal anyway? It is absolutely crucial to bring to the world's notice every time Wendy visits the local Spa, however.
This massive circlejerk that is the social media has successfully ingrained in our psyches that if you don't follow the blueprint chalked out by your peers, such as graduating early like Jim, getting engaged at 25 like Ken, or landing a high paying job like Rachel, your life is probably shit.
While pretty much every profile on your social media paints a dreamy picture of a flawless, ideal life, what percentage of it are they actually living?
I know of couples who I'm willing to bet got married only to get photographed, because really, the underlying intention of the entire ritual was to change their cover photos and update their profile pictures on Facebook. Those supposedly 'candid' and 'all natural' pictures actually took a little more than a hundred retakes. What those pictures don't show, however, is an irritable bride telling the photographers to take pictures from every angle perceivable, a visibly frustrated pundit, and several starving guests waiting for the photo session to end just so they can finally get access to what they really came for – food.
Those token graduation day updates made by your batch mates from school probably bespeak of happiness, but what their post won't tell you, is that they spend sleepless nights wondering how they are going to pay off those massive student loans they convinced their parents to take.
Somehow, projecting that you're leading a happy life has taken precedence over living one.
I know of young girls who deal with feelings of inadequacy stemming out of not getting enough 'likes' on their Facebook pictures. Oh, and that woman who according to you "applies like a billion filters on her selfies"? She secretly deals with body image issues.
A majority of my generation easily spends hours debating what effects they should apply to their pictures before uploading them to Instagram. We go to Goa's beaches just to get that perfect shot, and then spend remaining time of the evening sitting in the sand and editing it in order to make it Facebook ready. While I may not remember the moment itself, I may certainly remember photographing it.
The truth is, we're slowly, unknowingly, evolving into people who go on fancy vacations, visit friends, get engaged, married, what have you - and aren't necessarily as excited about the event as they are about photographing and sharing it online.
The inevitable truth of today is that while we may physically traverse great distances when on a holiday, our eyes travel only a few centimeters beyond our phone screens. In a bid to make the world see us in a certain way online, we're losing out on a very real life that exists off it.
The Sun is moving , the Earth is turning, and neither are going to stop just so you could take that perfect picture of the sunset for the purposes of sharing it onto one of your billion social media accounts. I hope we realize that none of this is going to matter when we're on our deathbeds, drawing our last breaths , wishing that we had looked at the world around us oftener, wishing that we had lived a little bit more. Wishing we'd felt the wind in our hair and the air in our lungs while we still could. Wishing it was the breathtaking view of the Himalayas that flashed across our eyes for the last time before we closed them, and not the image of our phone screens.
Here's a thought – Let's do ourselves a favor – Let's turn off the goddamn WiFi and look at the stars sometimes. Before it gets too late.