The internet, social media and relationships

Whenever I sign in to my Facebook account, I am greeted by hundreds of smiling faces wanting to tell me about their lives. I can at the choice of my whim get entertained by my friends doing stupid things or choose to wonder about the beautiful world through that friend’s pictures who just spent the last month in New Zealand. I can feel nostalgic by hearing that old song which was posted by another friend or even choose to cry reading about the sad story of a friend who met with an accident and who’s ‘wall’ is full of messages from well-wishers. I can choose to feel jealous about my mate who just found the hottest girl-friend or go to the profile of my class topper and get a dose of Schadenfreude from knowing that he is on a minimum wage job. I have the whole platter of emotions served to me everyday at whatever time I would like.

The cherry on top of this platter is that I also have the choice of declining to listen to any of these stories without it being considered rude. It’s great. Even King Louis XIV could not afford this kind of social luxury with all the power and money he had.

We live today with hundreds of friends on Facebook and similar number of followers on twitter. We have the ability to broadcast are thoughts in words, written or spoken, to millions of people for free. I can build friendships across the seas and over the mountains. I can have intellectual debates or learn something that blows my mind away. I can buy gifts for my parents sitting at my desk at work. The Internet has made plenty possible and yet I can’t stop but wonder when I heard the following from my dad.

“I was at your aunt’s place the other day and had a somewhat surprising experience. I was chatting with your cousin and asking her about her work. She explained it well in detail and we had a nice chat which was interrupted only because she had to leave. When she left your aunt came to me and told me, ‘You know she has never before explained to me what she does at work, despite having asked many times before.’ On further enquiry your aunt explained that she spends most of her time at home on the computer. She’s either on Facebook or watches some videos on YouTube. Rest of the time she doesn’t talk much. And I could not disagree because this was the first conversation that I had had with her in many years where she answered in more than a few words.”

I know my cousin somewhat well. We used to have lots of fun as kids but it has been many years since we spent any substantial time together. I know that she is a smart girl and although I can’t say much about her conversational skills. It makes me wonder that if the social media revolution had happened while I was still at home, would I have fallen in to the same ‘trap’ – showing a lack of interest in the people around me but paying more attention to those on Facebook. I tried to dismiss it as a singular case but my dad retorted that it is not a singular case. He’s heard the complain from many other parents in the recent months. More importantly though, the case my dad described was of an urban Indian family. In India, Facebook hasn’t quite reached the levels of penetration that it has in the US or UK.

You are angry by choice

I don’t know anything that I have done in anger that made me proud. Do you have such an example that you are proud of?

Sure there may be some constructive examples that may have popped up. That time when, because you were angry, you decided that you will beat the competition and emerge as a winner. Or that time when in an enraged state you made an argument which won you the debate (something you could not have done had you not been angry, you think).

May be you have some more examples but they will be in similar categories. If so, then go back to those examples: How long did that resolve to emerge as a winner last? Did you really win that debate or did the opponent play the right card by not opposing you at that time?

If by being angry you think it will lead to a better future, then think again.

You could have controlled that thing which made you angry or you could not have. But it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if the person who made you angry could have done what you asked. Nor does it matter if the driver in front of you could have driven with some more sense. And it still does not matter if the thing you could have done to improve that project, you did not do in time.

You are angry now and what you are angry about is the past.

There is nothing you can do to change the past (even if you believe that scientists may invent a time-machine someday!). But there is much you can do to change the future. Anger helps no one’s cause.

More importantly though, almost everything that you think makes you angry, will not make you angry if you don’t want it to. Every bit of anger generated can be avoided, but you have to actively want to avoid it.

The root of our anger is always some person (either you yourself or someone else). Trees cannot make you angry, nor can your car. They are inanimate objects, they are as they are. They cannot do anything about themselves or about anything else. Then how can they make anyone angry? They can’t.

People make other people angry. And changing people is extremely hard. So if you react to someone who made you angry because you think he will change and thus, not make you angry the next time. Don’t react. And if you want to react because that reaction will ease your anger, even then don’t. It does no good. There are much better ways to ease that anger.

A process that works: when you know you are angry, stop right there. Don’t react to what made you angry. Instead, think about why it made you angry. Rationalise for yourself. Most of the time the reason is because some one did something. And if you accept that you cannot do much about  that someone, it means that you don’t have any reason to get angry.

Quite often you may be angry because of yourself. Something that you did, but did not want to or something that you could’ve done differently but you did not. And although in this case, the person can be changed if the will to change can be gathered, it still doesn’t give you enough reason to remain angry. Because remaining angry on yourself means you are wasting valuable resources (energy and time). You could easily use those resources to change things for better.

When you are angry at yourself, it is not a good time to give in to what the anger wants you to do, instead it is a good time to introspect. To understand what could have been changed and make that change.

If you are angry, you are angry by choice. What made you angry is irrelevant. You can choose not to be angry, if you want. And you know that there are more benefits in that choice.