Sabahat Quadri Works


Enslaved by Social Media

I think Facebook and Twitter were created by aliens.

Hear me out. I think aliens have found a unique way to tap into our brains, allowing them two significant victories with one phrase: social media. They get, simultaneously, a repository of our ideas and knowledge, and a captive audience too immersed in ephemera to resist when they finally invade.

Has anyone actually seen Mark Zuckerberg bleed? I mean, bleed red blood? I wouldn’t be at all surprised if his blood was yellow (no green slime for my aliens. They’re bursting with yellow energy from the sun).

The blinding epiphany came to me at a girls-only dinner party last night. After dinner, over coffee and idle talk, almost every one of us (with the exception of myself. I don’t have a smart phone) whipped out a familiar rectangular phone and started sharing jokes and images found on Facebook. Before long, the discussion swung to politics and how some people shouldn’t be allowed to share their uninformed opinions on public platforms. The conversation revolved around the Azadi and Inqilab – freedom and revolution, respectively marches happening right now in Islamabad (more on that later. Time to vent first).

Ummmm, maybe I missed something here? Isn’t that exactly what Facebook and Twitter are for? To be able to share your viewpoint, albeit originally just with your friends, but with the option to tell the world that you think cats are our overlords and we must fulfil their every whim? And don’t get me started on the sheer lunacy of sitting together in a physical group and sharing virtual jokes via a device too small to read without reading glasses. Now, I don’t have reading glasses and I do have an iPod Touch that allows me to surf the net, but my phone is just a phone and I do my social-media-ing on my laptop (a brand new Macbook pro, courtesy, my long-suffering husband. Imagine me jumping for joy every 12 seconds). I certainly do not sit in a room filled with my friends and send them messages via social media. Not when I can look directly into their eyes and say what I want without typing it out first.

The oddest thing about the after-party was one particular friend (whom I don’t want to hurt, so let’s call her Sara – not her real name), who has started to use emoticons in her language. She actually used the phrase ‘colon D’ to describe a grin. She was grinning maniacally at the time, and wrote the emoticon in the air when she was talking. The fact that no one else found it weird just confirms that I am the only normal one left in my group of friends.

They are among us

I came away from dinner wondering if aliens were hiding in the bushes, ready to pounce on a population so robotised by the internet, we’d probably only object if we were cut off from it! Think about it: if a watery ray of sunshine came at you and said, ‘We are taking over your planet. Do not try to resist.’, what would be your first reaction? My guess is that you’d snap a picture on your 3.0 megapixel camera phone, post it to Facebook and wait for it to go viral. All the while, you’d be docilely led off into a shimmering blue craft and whisked deep into the center of the earth (where the aliens are hiding), too absorbed in responding to the incredulous comments to realize that an alien abduction is actually underway. You could be the first citizen reporter to uncover the most amazing fact of our time: they are already here.

The aliens, having anasthesized their captive with their more than effective tool of mass absorption, will have placed you in a cell with other inmates, similarly glued to their ‘smart’ devices. As long as you’re still going viral, you’ll be a willing slave. In the midst of your online conversations, you would find confirmation of your experience as other inmates share their experiences. You may even be sharing a cell with that person, but the need of physical contact having been diminished to such a great decree, your greetings would all be online.

“Dude, r u onboard 2?”

“Sharing pics now!”

“Did the thing spk to u?”

“couldn’t understand wot he said. Do you speak arabic?” (Because, as programmed by the world, the aliens are probably ‘Islamist’ terrorists in disguise).

Pakistan is our only hope

My sole consolation of this scenario is that when the aliens get to Pakistan, they’d be faced with a wall of people so obsessed with marching to the city’s capital on the call of two separate (but equally crazy) leaders, we’d probably trample them underfoot. The aliens might sweep up Imran Khan’s followers, who are constantly tweeting their adoration of their cricket-legend-turned-politician leader, and therefore ready to be abducted. On the other hand, they’d have a tough time taking down Tahir-ul-Qadri’s followers, none of whom are on social media, none of whom have smart phones, and all of whom are ready to stand and fight given the word. My hope is that Tahir-ul-Qadri (an Islamic scholar settled in Canada and running several charitable organisations around the world. He believes he can bring a ‘peaceful revolution’ to Pakistan using his hundreds of thousands of non-political followers for a sit-in in Islamabad) will recognise the threat before it’s too late.

Nothing in Pakistan, you see, follows any normal pattern of human behaviour. We do have a large presence online, especially on social media platforms, but we’re obsessed with politics. Your average Pakistani will either be blindingly unaware of the country’s issues, or so well-versed that debates on our country’s ills could span decades. It’s rare to find intersecting moments of agreement and unity among those that are aware.

I can’t decide, however, if the rabid political and social discussions are better or worse than the constant stream of ‘positivity’ and cat images. As a cat-owner (read cat-slave) myself, I may lean a little towards the latter (only a little!).

When I think about it, if the aliens disguised themselves as cats, most of the world’s populations wouldn’t be remotely surprised, or resistant, to being enslaved. Aren’t we halfway there already?

4 responses to “Enslaved by Social Media”

  1. Great post, Natasha. Now I understand it: all those dancing cats on YouTube are really the aliens doing their morning calisthenics.

    1. Natasha Avatar

      Hahaha! They’re getting us used to their presence. Making sure we’re all gooey with cutesy images and turn into putty in their hands when they finally make their move. Colon D.

  2. Brilliant post, Natasha, full of lovely humour.
    I don’t know if you remember the old Beatles song, ‘All the lonely people’ which has a line saying ‘where do they all come from’? Well I don’t know where they came from, but I do know where many of them are – on social media, or socme (pronounced sock-me as in hit or thump me) as I call it.
    My excuse – I have a PURPOSE (capitalized because of its importance) – to create my tribe (what?), my online family (well at least I can shut them off when I want) a ‘presence’ so that when I publish my novel I’ll have a ready made audience. At least that’s the line I swallowed.
    (By the way, I did publish it last week, yeah! Now all I do is tweet ‘buy my book, buy my book to my poor desperate tribe who’ll no doubt ditch me very soon if I don’t shut up. 🙁 (Apologies for the emoticon.)
    It does seem like a surreal game doesn’t it? Again, a very enjoyable read, Natasha, I love the insights into your world.

    1. Natasha Avatar

      Eleanor Rigby. I remember it well.

      Congratulations on your release! I’m in the same boat as you – working hard to build my ‘followers’ in the hopes they’ll buy my book. I’m hoping to captivate readers of my blog in order to get my (pen) name out there. Just on the peripheries right now, but at some point, I may just step into the limelight. Fingers crossed.

      I’m heading over to your site to learn more. While I’m reading, I may dig out that old Beatles album and listen to some lonely people…

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.