It’s a pretty great time to be alive. More people are living better lives than ever before.
It can be hard to see this big picture in the normal course of things.
We have access to more news than ever before, and because no one wants to know about all the things that are going well, shitty news tends to dominate our various feeds. No, I’m not saying that we need to tune the bad stuff out. I’m just saying that it’s not all bad.
So don’t book your tickets to Mars just yet. It’s the beginning of another year and hope is in the air! To be able to make 2017 better than 2016—to keep this trend of betterment rolling upward—we need to get better at a bunch of stuff. Collectively. All of us.
And because we live in a digital world, a lot of these things have to do with what we use technology for.
So, here are a few resolutions that we might want to consider this new year.
Kill Instant Gratification
This is coming partly from a selfish place. I need people to stop constantly checking their phones when they’re doing other things with me.
Talking to a friend about your crippling existential anxiety? Their phone buzzes and you get to watch the dance that happens when their eyes bounce back and forth between you and the phone.
But this is the best case scenario. The worst is when they mentally check out and completely zone out for a couple of seconds at a time.
“… Did you catch what I just said or do you need me to repeat myself? Err… hello?”
My social life aside, cutting down on how often you hit the social media crack pipe might actually make you happier.
Studies have shown that the more someone uses social media, the more likely they are to be depressed.
When my Facebook usage was at its peak, I was a dopamine junkie flitting from one fix to the next with a few swipes on a smartphone screen.
Cutting down on how much time I spent on social media vastly improved my overall quality of life.
Where Are Our Filters?!
No, not filters of the Aquaguard or Snapchat varieties.
According to this article by The Guardian, fake news contributed to Trump’s rise to power. Closer to home, r/India, the subreddit, successfully convinced Indian media that the controversial new Shivaji statue is packed with everything from solar panels to terrorist detectors. Here's part of the infamous forward.
How'd this happen, though? They relied on the utter disregard for fact-checking on WhatsApp.
Can we just take a moment to appreciate how hilarious this is?
One thing we need to acknowledge is that the people who create the content we consume are, at the end of the day, just that—people. Human beings, like you and me, who could fuck up and make mistakes.
The internet is a giant pool of opinions—both informed and hilariously misinformed. As content consumers, we also need to be able to filter this stuff and fact-check to avoid believing or sharing information that’s false.
I’ve seen far too many interactions on Facebook devolve into personal attacks and name calling.
Oh, your views on demonetisation don’t align with mine? Obviously, your parents must have dropped you on your head as a child. Maybe you’re even a homosexual!!
It’s gotten so bad that I reflexively flinch and move on every time I see a discussion about gender equality, sexuality, religion, or politics.
Honestly, though, I wouldn’t be surprised if people started shit on a post about puppies.
I’ve had similar experiences with online games. It’s easier to tell someone that you can see their mom from orbit (because she’s really fat, in case you’re not fluent in your-mom) if you don’t actually have to deal with the consequences.
The seemingly infinite gap between our respective screens is as dehumanising as it is liberating.
What helped me become less of a dick online was constantly reminding myself that there’s an actual person at the other end of every conversation.
What do you do when constructive discussion is absolutely not possible, though?
Welcome to the internet. It’s pretty vast. Just switch to another tab.
This year, I’d like us to get a little closer to being able to talk about the hard things, the things that cut too close to our core beliefs, without losing our heads in the process.
Lock Yo’ Doors
If all the information on your email accounts and social media channels is protected by a password that is simply your date of birth or your spouse’s name, you have a problem.
In light of all the high-profile “hacking” that’s been going on lately, it’s time we took a closer look at our online presence.
It seems Legion has taken Modi's request of disclosing everyone's account details personally. #MallyaHacked
— The Viral Fever (@TheViralFever) December 9, 2016
For one thing, beef up your passwords and have different passwords for different accounts.
I can’t think of too many situations that would be more embarrassing than finding out that the person who changed your Facebook profile picture to a drawing of a penis also took all your money.
Brace yourself for some news that’s both sad and pretty ridiculous at the same time.
Apparently, India has the highest number of selfie-related deaths in the world.
And it gets worse—India has the highest number of selfie-related deaths in the world, for the second year in a row.
And most of these tragic deaths-by-selfie were associated with water. So, if you remember that you’ve been meaning to take a selfie with your showerhead, don’t. Put the phone away and BACK AWAY FROM THE BATHROOM.
Of all the ways to go…
2016 has ended in somewhat dramatic fashion, with bad news rolling in seemingly from every corner.
Now that it’s over, let’s allow some nostalgia in, dust ourselves off, and remember that it wasn’t all bad. Another year came to an end, and we made it through, still alive and still kicking.
We’ve got a whole year to go, a whole set of new resolutions to break, and a bunch of Facebook comment wars to (hopefully) avoid.