Visited your local library, or the local bookstore recently?

When was the last time you visited your local library or peeked into the bookstore? If you’re like me, then more likely you’ve browsed through Amazon books online. Or, if you’re unlike me, you’ve read your books of choice on Kindle, or listened to music on your iPod. Who wants to drag oneself to the car, then drive several miles to the library, only to see drab faces along drab aisles filled with books on self-help? Depressing, eh? Well… if sitting in the car to drive a few miles is construed as ‘dragging oneself’; and real people appear ‘drab’, then online activity is drifting you, me, and them farther and farther away from reality into a phony, make-believe world… and that is surely even more depressing.

We need to snap out of it. Real people have real problems, and they may wear sombre expressions, but so what… that is the reality. By actively escaping into an online world, donning avataars that appear sexy, seductive, aggressive or egalitarian to our online audiences does not make the real you, I, or me that kind of a person. To truly deal with our reality, shouldn’t we face real people, live through real situations, to find real solutions to real problems?

Escapism is fine for an hour or two – as we did in the past when we had only movies – our entertainment on celluloid. But spending hours on end online is neither healthy for the head, nor is it heart-healthy. If we step out of our online space – that space which we believe is our comfort zone to meet people in person… in real time, not simply as facetime, that would be truly cool. Again, just going to the nearby mall, or to the grocery store don’t quite count for stepping out of one’s comfort zone. With self-checkout services everywhere, there’s little scope to actually speak to a living soul. We have to make it a point to chat to someone. Even in our job, not all jobs call for speaking to people… we may go to our desk day after day, and are not required to actually speak to anyone. Colleagues knocked on our door, or would drop by to say hello, or to resolve an issue, or we would go to their desk, interrupt with an ‘excuse me’  to ask a query that would take but a few seconds to answer! But now, our colleague physically next door, or even just a wall — or a hallway away, sends email, or text message. Isn’t it against current business etiquette to walk to a colleague’s door to resolve a tiny issue? Conference calls, video chat, voice chat (by appointment only) are the order of the day. Spontaneity is out in contemporary business or even personal communication. We leave messages, whether it’s in our office, or for someone we try to reach urgently at their office. Nobody answers their phone… oops, sorry, cellphone. Blame it on what was once a boon… the caller id. Whether it’s a bill we want to pay, or a charge we wish to dispute… no matter where, it is all automated. Try searching for a new job… “Don’t call me, I’ll call you” is so yesterday! Should you receive even an email response, consider yourself fortunate, or well, it could be an anomaly.

So what is this world turning into? Isn’t it beginning to seem like the world we used to watch in films? But that was science fiction… oft they were memorable sci-fi films depicting degradation, a depraved human race, and decadence in the future. We are fast approaching that scenario… only now, it’s not on celluloid, it’s in real life.

Why is it then surprising that those self-help bookshelves are burgeoning? Why should it be irksome that people who approach those aisles are in fact searching for some meaning in their life. Folks who are actually taking the effort to drive up to the poorly-funded libraries, and to fast-disappearing bookstores, those who’re browsing through those depressing aisles are actually very real people. So I ask myself, “Who am I to mock those men, women and children who are struggling to keep head above water, striving to be human… while I busy myself furiously typing away at my laptop on a blog online”!