Is the internet closing our minds? (And our dogs’ too.)

The internet is a funny thing. Everyone has their own perspective on it, but there seems to be a general consensus amongst the learned on one aspect: that the Internet has helped make people and societies more open and free to new ideas and influences.

Well. Not sure if that’s really true. In fact, the internet, esp. social media (we’re looking at you, Facebook), seems to be making everyone increasingly uniform in thoughts and behaviours. It is slowly erasing the quirks of individuality and spreading a web of conformity across its population, where people who like cats and tag holiday pictures from Goa are ‘cool’, and the ones who dislike cute animals or the DSLR disease are just weird.

Of course, the web lets us indulge in every possible hobby or interest, from philately to light-saber fighting, which is great. But the uniqueness is becoming increasingly confined to the niches, and the masses are becoming more closed to new ideas or challenging thoughts.

Perhaps the best example is the online matrimony business – one of the few which have been wildly successful since the beginning of the internet era in India.

A quick glance at the matrimony websites will show you how they work. They positively encourage you to choose people from your own caste. Whatever caste you can dream of has its own yourcastematrimony.com. Not just the obvious ones like jat matrimony, gupta matrimony, brahmin matrimony, etc. Even the most obscure ones. Do the Khandelwals really only want to marry other Khandelwals?

Perhaps it merely reflects the way Indians work. But the internet here is not helping anyone be more open. If anything, it’s manipulating the caste-focused culture to help us be more inbred. Without it, if your options were limited to relatives and neighbourhood aunties, you may still have had to find someone different. But now you can search for people with the same surname from across the country, even the world.

Google also throws up sites claiming ‘caste no bar’ in their URL. The first thing they tell you is that they have “18 different community channels to choose your life partner from your own caste”. Then there’s a little link at the bottom for ‘caste non-oriented people’. Clicking on it opens a woman’s profile, where the 5th word in her description is, well, her sub-caste.

Maybe, as a capitalistic enterprise, you have to give people what they want. But don’t you also have a social responsibility to encourage ideas and behaviours that could help our societies be more open and free-minded?

On the bright side, there is also a dog matrimony site. They offer Arabian Nights-themed weddings for your dogs, followed by “We are against animal cruelty”. I don’t know about you, but to the male author of this blog, it sure sounds cruel to be dressed (against your will) as Aladdin on your wedding day.

The Thing about Goafest

For most of the people there, or should I say ‘delegates’, it was the most fun they’re going to have until April 2011.

And that’s the problem.

It’s not that I have anything against general merriment. I love my King’s beer as much as (probably a lot more than) the next bald guy in low-slung shorts and a clever t-shirt.

I just think the source should be a little closer to the lecture halls and showcase rooms than the silly little insulated bubbles that are the agency shacks.

No matter how hard you try, you can’t fight the feeling that it’s no more than a paid holiday for the people who’ve just joined the industry, and the seminar halls tucked away in the corner are simply the excuse given to justify the astronomical costs.

And it’s sad because you can see where this is going. The skirts will keep getting shorter, the tattoos and facial hairstyles will keep getting more creative, and the work will keep going down the toilet.

Interestingly, a sign inside the toilet read: ‘If it takes too long, it’s not worth it.’ I don’t know if that’s meant to be funny, but it sounded like a fairly good reflection on a few things.

And then there are the awards themselves.

(Full disclosure: We were nominated in 5 categories and were disappointed to not have won in any. However, this is not about being a sore loser. I respect the jury’s decision and judgment. I just disagree with the way things were done, which would have stood even if we had won.)

That said, I still found the childish absurdity hard to believe. Cheering and hooting is one thing, sending cheerleaders on stage and acting like a bunch of drunk college freshers just takes whatever dignity is left in the ceremony and chokes it do death with a pair of blood red pom-poms.

And like a friend tweeted: What if the Oscars jury was also ‘strict’ and decided there were no good movies made this year, or that nobody cares about ‘best cinematographers’ so there’s no need to call them on stage, or Katheryn Bigelow came to pick up her Oscar with a bunch of cheerleaders… and so on.

Again, I don’t have anything against having fun. But doesn’t the value and stature of this event depend on how the ‘delegates’ treat it?

If we all want it to be an excuse for a paid, drunken holiday, that’s all it will ever be.

Being in digital, I’ve never really felt a sense of belonging to this community. But seeing the show at Goafest 2010, I have lost whatever desire I had for it. People wearing checkered shirts and normal hairstyles simply don’t cut it at the festival of cool. The fits, it seems, have become the misfits.

So, after spending this one at the opposite end of Cavelossim beach, peacefully distant from the party zone, next April, I’m going to shave my head, grow a goatee, get a Chinese tattoo and yell ‘What the fuck, dude?’ at the top of my voice, all the fucking time.

That’s probably the only way this circus can be enjoyed.

Disclaimer: This post is by abhishek prasad, copywriter at digiVaasi. The views and opinions expressed by this author may not represent or be endorsed by digiVaasi in any way. Well, maybe in some ways. It’s a bit tricky … we’ll have to ask our lawyers.