IF you can imagine a world before the Internet you would picture a place where your thoughts belonged to you alone, a world that is governed solely by your physical presence. To be heard in this world you were required to prove you had something worth listening to and only if you were talented enough, well versed enough and committed enough would your thoughts garner an audience. Through this meticulous journey towards making your voice heard you must have weighed and measured every word before it was uttered, every action before it manifested. Through this examination of one’s self you would’ve eventually etched your legacy, one that will remain long after you have gone.
If this virgin world seems more like fiction than reality, you are probably one of the many who have grown accustomed to the ease with which sharing your every passing thought with the world has become. These thoughts will never know the struggle of being caged and your voice will never feel the strain of continuous shouting. This schizophrenic world requires us to live in two separate spaces, one physical and the other cyber. Many of us fail to make the connection between the two, losing ourselves in this newly formed identity we choose to project. In this world where I sit at my desk writing these words, people die, they pass on, people are mortal. In the cyber world we inhabit they do not. The immortality of one’s social media persona is real, for we leave behind years of comments, images and interactions that can never be taken back.
According to a report recently released by the research firm Internet Monitor, dead users of the social media world will soon outnumber those of the living. It estimates that at the moment there are some 20 million Facebook profiles that belong to people who have passed on. Through social media one becomes immortal, he continues to be.
These sobering figures are worth reflecting upon if only to reassess our online footprint. Does the social media persona you control reflect how you want to be remembered?
The spontaneity with which we tend to share our musings with the world makes our online person more prone to spreading hasty generalisations and at times even hateful comments. The false security the glaring screen provides allows us to let our ugliness through. And the fact that this haste, hate and ugliness will remain floating through cyber space long after you are able to defend it is reason enough to make us take a step back from our keyboards and smartphones.
After meeting many of my social media friends in the world of the tangible I can safely say that for some, their online personas do not do justice to their real life selves. I have come to realise that the most critical of the social media accounts are the least verbal in real life and I can assure you that most social media trolls have no physical troll land to dwell.
As this cyber cemetery grows bloated with people’s endless thoughts, existing in a virtual limbo, we must do ourselves justice and try as best we can to be true to who we are. We must find a balance between our real selves and our cyber ones for, like it or not, it is the legacy we will leave behind. Make it one that you wish to be remembered by, one you would be proud of for it will be the shrine your loved ones will visit when their longing for you becomes at its heaviest.
Your words will continue to live, make them count.
This article was first published in The Gulf Today Newspaper, March 10, 2015 http://bit.ly/18x2SMN
Arabic version of this article was published in Al Khaleej Newspaper http://bit.ly/18x30fn