Every fortnight Iâ€™m in a bit of a dither, trying to figure out what to write for this column. Something thatâ€™s relevant and â€” hopefully â€” engaging. My love for procrastination means that many of my ideas get swiped up by other writers and publications and Iâ€™m left scratching my head again. (Case in point: wanting to write about millennials and our sudden love for astrology, but The New Yorker beat me to it).
However, this time it was easy. I asked my friends regarding millennial issues that ail them currently. The answers I received ranged from economic uncertainty to global warming, to societal pressures. One answer stood out. My friend Saleha Irfan suggested that we know too much about whatâ€™s going in other peopleâ€™s lives and that thatâ€™s a problem. Funnily enough, I was leaning towards this anyway â€” what serendipity!
A couple of week ago I was binge-watching on Netflix, as one does instead of working. The show in question: The Politician â€” Ryan Murphyâ€™s latest venture that assembles a cast of almost new faces, tackling many issues prevalent in modern day society, all the while keeping it fun and campy. If you want to debate the merits of this show, find me on Twitter. Despite what the critics say, I quite enjoyed it and cannot wait for the second season. Ben Platt showed creative range and Jessica Lange was revelatory, as always.
One moment from the show, though, stuck with me. Gwyneth Paltrowâ€™s character is having a heart-to-heart with Ben Plattâ€™s (who plays her son), after heâ€™s had a pretty trying week. She talks (and I paraphrase from memory) about how our generation and the ones below us are constantly bombarded with information; our access to whatâ€™s happening in other peopleâ€™s lives and the world at large creates too much noise in our heads. This is the reason why we continue to spew forth every thought on social media, for the world to read and see. Itâ€™s not uncommon to hear this sentiment about our generation. Iâ€™m sure youâ€™ve heard from many elders that our need to overshare is probably responsible for all the drama we create in our lives.
Since Iâ€™ve already written about oversharing, being constantly on social media and comparing ourselves to others, I will not go into that for this piece. You can read up on those opinions in our GT archives on the website. For this piece, however, I want to focus on how access to endless information is detrimental to our well-being.
Growing up, Iâ€™m sure you must have come across the adage â€˜curiosity killed the cat;â€™ â€” it seems that the cat of nowadays is even more oblivious to this fact than ever before. I believe itâ€™s in human nature to be inquisitive, after all this thirst to acquire more knowledge is what landed man on the moon and took him to the deepest depths of the oceans. Even now, countless experiments and research projects are taking place around the globe, endeavouring to know more about the world we live in and how to make it a better place. So, itâ€™s only natural that this curious nature of ours extends to the mundane as well.
I honestly believe that itâ€™s quite plausible to assume that for as long as humans have dwelled together in communities, weâ€™ve always been intrigued by what our fellows are up to. From peeping over fences to know whatâ€™s happening in the house next door, to gossiping in private and public, this disease of â€œbeing up in each otherâ€™s businessâ€ is a pandemic.
Enter digital technology and the age of social media and this pandemic spreads like wildfire. Never before has it been this easy to know the innermost details of someone elseâ€™s life. One doesnâ€™t even need to work too hard â€” our need to overshare makes it easy for anyone to have immediate access to our daily routines. From Snapchat to Instagram stories, tweets to Facebook status updates, weâ€™re readily providing material for others. Social media stalking â€” whether of frenemies or exes â€” is a common thing now. What was once done subtly and through the grapevine, is now at the touch of a finger.
But what does this excess of information mean for us? Nothing good, certainly.
Weâ€™re constantly feeding the curious cat inside us, endlessly scrolling through othersâ€™ social media accounts, whether out of envy, jealousy or sheer boredom â€” it doesnâ€™t matter. The crux of the matter is that weâ€™re amassing an insane amount of information about others that is almost always insignificant. Consequently, we fall into the traps of social media induced envy, spiralling into mental health issues because how our exes are living their lives, or feeling a sense of doom from all the rants people upload.
The barrage of information we upload to our brains on a daily basis reminds me of a scene from â€˜Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.â€™ In the quest for knowledge, Cate Blanchettâ€™s character ends up dead â€” her last words being somewhere along the lines of â€œItâ€™s too much, take it away.â€
Perhaps thatâ€™s what we need to remember. Feeding the curious cat is only causing us to continue living a more or less accursed life. Melancholy, malaise and malcontent drive us over the edge â€” in my case itâ€™s mostly because of the amount of data out there. The worst part is, itâ€™s a drug that keeps us hooked and we hope that thereâ€™s something more intellectually stimulating out there; like a junkie, weâ€™re on the prowl for the next hit. (In fact, there have been studies that have compared social mediaâ€™s effect on our brains to using hard drugs).
Our only way out is to go back to our basics and learn that this curious cat is cursed. We must actively teach ourselves to curtail our need to constantly know about othersâ€™ lives; social media curfews help immensely in this regard. Minding your own business does the rest. Curiosity will most certainly kill the cat at some point â€” if not, then it will at least leave it with a plethora of mental health issues and an unfulfilled life.