What is happening to my generation? Are we getting dumber every day? I get peeved every time I hear or read about this stupid game called ‘planking’. It is one of the most popular trends in social media circles right now so I guess it needs no introduction. But think about it again. You lie face-down, like a motionless plank, and you have yourself photographed. The next step is to upload the photo on a social networking site, say, Facebook or Twitter. The more daring you get the greater the buzz you generate as more people get to view your picture – and frankly that is the whole point of this mindless adventure. One more thing about this game: It does not qualify as planking unless it is done in a public place. Take a long pause. In fact, I don’t have to say anything further.
It is not news to say that technological advancement is one of man’s greatest achievements. For instance, innovation has made it possible to go from using analogue telephones to cell phones of varying sophistication. The fastest, and arguably the safest means of travel is by airplanes. Rail transport has evolved from conventional rail lines to high-speed Maglev Trains that travel at 431 km/h. The internet has revolutionised not just the way we socialise; it has also changed the way global trade and commercial activities take place. However, as much as technology has positively impacted our lives, it has also become a curse. Apart from the obvious examples of chemical, nuclear and biological weapons that can be used to do harm on a large scale, or the environmental hazards that industrialisation has brought to our planet, technology has also brought about an intellectual and moral decline to our world.
Instances of this moral and intellectual decline abound – and planking is the most recent fad that this societal breakdown has spawned. Cellular Isolation (CI) is another example; the habit of fiddling with a cellular device while ignoring a real person with whom one is supposed to be having a conversation. Somehow, we don’t realise the rudeness and faux pas that comes with CI. Then there is the avalanche of ridiculous new words that the social media has created, such as LOL, OMG, SHM etc. Unfortunately, even the Oxford English Dictionary incorporated some of these words because it could not ignore the powerful influence this new media has on the lives of young people.
Old Media – which thrives on scandals and disasters and is equally culpable in the crime of dumbing down society – is obliquely responsible for stoking up this planking phenomenon. Apparently, planking has been around for a while. According to Wikipedia it used to be called the lying down game, and it became very popular in England back in 2009 when some seven doctors and nurses were suspended for playing the game while on duty. But the media became abuzz with the game once again when a 20-year-old Australian, Acton Beale, fell seven stories to his death while allegedly planking. So basically, someone dies while playing a nonsensical game and it becomes a blowout. The official Facebook page of Planking has over 500,000 members. (By the time you read this, it must be well above that figure.) In today’s world, if I go around with my trousers hanging low on my bum and it gets people talking on Facebook and Twitter; the video can be viewed on YouTube, and it becomes a news item on CNN, Fox News, E News etc, I’d become an overnight star. I’ll become a highly sought-after celebrity that young girls would swoon over whenever I appear in public places. In fact I’ll be offered some insane amount to attend parties. Think Paris Hilton.
Somebody wrote this idiotic statement on gizmodo.com in defence of planking: “People die driving. You don’t say driving is a bad thing.” It is a tragedy of our time that it has become “cool” to be dumb. When was the last time a humanitarian movement to promote love or eradicate racial or religious discrimination generated such global hysteria? I know what I am saying is pure garbage.
I think this whole networking or communication frenzy is either misunderstood or simply overrated. How come we have suddenly realised that our survival as a human race is contingent upon access to a telephone or the internet? It’s common to hear people say stuff like, “I can’t do without my Blackberry.” Someone needs to remind such folks that they were not born with a Blackberry.
We are no longer satisfied with how we look so we feel the burning need to share our photographs online, get compliments from a community of thousands of people who know next-to-nothing about us, and then we feel we now have a self-worth. Unknowingly, we’ve created a vicious cycle of over-sharing and unending search for attention and perverse relevance. We dissipate a lot of energy communicating with so many people and also prying into the lives of others who are as empty as we are. Because it is such an unproductive enterprise, it leaves us emotionally enervated and we are back full circle floating in cyberspace in a bid to fill that void.
This generation desires more to be ‘entertained’ than to be informed and educated. The entertainment industry has grown considerably in the last 25 years. There is a wide variety of music that we listen to; as more reality TV shows pop up every day, so has our appetite for gossip intensified. There might be an economic recession but the entertainment industry is one that is least hit. We cannot complain of a shortage of entertainment yet it is this generation that has the highest record of complaints of depression and boredom in the history of mankind. I guess it is partly because much of the so-called entertainment is a bunch of fluff and trash. Consider for a second Beyonce’s new hit single, “Run the World (Girls)”. Why would anybody waste their time listening to such vapid nonsense? The chorus is a repetitive monosyllabic and sexist drivel.
By my very conservative estimation; if a young person becomes active in social media by the age of 13, by the time he or she is 30-years-old, that individual would have spent about 4 years of his or her life on social networks alone. If we don’t restrain this hysteria and ask ourselves the hard-hitting questions of why moral values are on a steep decline, all the hoopla about modern technology would put us on the path to Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD).