I recently decided to switch off my phone on Sundays all day and every night before I go to sleep. This decision came from the realisation that I was spending endless hours consuming information that was negative, banal and addictive as against loving, cerebrally nourishing, positive information. Recently when someone I look up to wrote about how social media is killing the very purpose of friendship and fanning negativity, I couldn’t help but nod in approval. This also got me thinking about why negativity is so appealing? The simple answer I could come up with is this: Negativity sells. Nothing better than money can fuel the negativity fire so much.
Let’s take the case of popular media like cinema and television – these industries thrive on negativity. When was the last time we saw a blockbuster that did not showcase pain, defeat, suffering and war to elucidate even positive issues such as human rights, success or love? I mean don’t even get me started on the small screen crowd pullers... conniving wives, cheating husbands, foul mouthing middle aged women, mother in law sagas, dying children, stalkers and child abuse – there is no end to negativity on the small screen. Cerebral content went out of the window and threw doors open to the banal the day we welcomed reality shows like Indian Idol to entertain us. It is so bad that even humour cannot be conceived without sexual innuendos and gender biased slapstick! This is true of the so called opulent firangi channels too! Reality shows stooped down to their worst when they started featuring crying children losing out on India’s best something titles, desolate couples seeking justice from an all knowing host, fading celebrities losing it in an insanity fare called Big Boss and endless reels of obscene displays of vanity on prime time. We had some great spirited content when we were restricted to good old DD 1 DD2 channels. I mean even until we moved to Sun TV & Zee TV we were okay. Great shows entertained us for limited hours and there was a feel good about entertainment. But today 653 channels to choose from and still we are left with a sense of boredom and restlessness once the day is done.
News and Infotainment are no better. The louder a talk show host shouts the better he/she gets paid, the more tarnishing a news item is the more number of adverts they earn, I don’t know of any channel that starts the day with news that makes one feel like life is worth a second chance. Even animals need to be killing each other or be kinky to get our attention. Negativity entertains us and we are not protesting. I mean are you there just to tell me what’s wrong with the world and nothing else? Why should someone dying or losing be entertaining to me? This is just a 21st century version of the Gladiator arenas.
We elect a government, we choose leaders, some of them we choose come to power some others don’t; that’s just how democracy works... but how many positive campaigns do we see around us? How many intellectually stimulating debates do we get to be a part of? Hate campaigns and sensational exposés are lapped up way more eagerly than narratives that are encouraging and warm. We have made great progress as a nation, as a global entity, but we want to keep ranting about what is going wrong than right! We keep dismissing good ideas just because we dislike the source or its political leaning.
Insecurity is an industry in itself. Case in point fidget wheels, wonder bras, muscle shakes, insta likes, rule our lives. People are beginning to live for status updates and likes. Like a harrowed cousin who took an FB sabbatical puts it a “gloat fest” is out there for all the weak willed to partake of. First days at school, birthdays, flower in a garden, new shoes, fitness regimes, travel, even honeymoons are pasted all over cyber walls in an attempt to deal with an underlying insecurity fed by negative self images. New age social media phrases like cyber stalking, body shaming, friend zoned, dorky duff and PM me have occupied our mindscapes so much so that we hardly have any bandwidth to deal with anything positive. Every other discussion online has its generous sprinkle of cuss words and phrases such as “be ma bitch” “ u got swag dog” are accepted like an initiation ritual crown. Call me old school but I just can’t see how swearing can be positive or welcome.
Why should we as consumers of this media accept so much negativity into our lives? I mean wouldn’t we all like to trust that the cabbage we are eating is healthy and the cotton clothes that we wear is not the result of a debt ridden farmer’s death? I am not saying I want to be ignorant of threats and dangers that lurk... all I am saying is that don’t keep saying that there are only threats and dangers and absolutely no scope for sham like peace, coexistence, courage and kindness. Who is to bell the cat though? Well... who else but you and I the end consumer. If you remember the stimulating lecture on supply and demand that we heard back in our days... the minute demand drops supply will have to heed. Can we try and not feed this negativity? Can we encourage cerebral content, more books than TV, more actual compliments than Sarahah posts, more walks in the park groups than WhatsApp camaraderie, more happy thoughts than paranoid fences, more encouragement than sarcasm, more of what’s good than what’s not, more of laughing together than laughing at the other, more we than they... Why Not?