“Kau meeting dengan aku dekat KL lepas itu kau bercakap telefon dengan orang dekat PJ, kalau kau nak bercakap dengan orang PJ, kau pergi la PJ, biadap tu!”
The comedic nagging of the elderly man was met with roars of laughter from the audience. His simple words reflected an old man’s annoyance with technology as his perception of the media had been challenged by it for so long.
It is common to hear the aged blabber on about how they did not have all these bright screens and buttons to play with in their small home towns deep in unnamed jungles and minds. They remind us of how it was a peaceful time, when they did not have to think about going with the trend and could thus take an apathetic stand towards the validation of others.
But as their stoicism developed through the years, the stoicism of the young with our bright screens and buttons comes from facing the temptation of being validated by acquaintances and strangers alike. It is addictive to know that we are validated, yet it is also addictive to think that we do not care about being validated.
In perceiving online personas, it is easy to scrutinise them for their lack of involvement in the lived reality. Activists advocating empowerment can sometimes be so out of touch with the things they are advocating for. They are an easy target for these old and experienced social justice warriors to pick on, but do they deserve to be picked on for their performative activism or are they more impactful than we give them credit for?
To compare the influence of these online personas with individuals of equivalent traits from the past generation is immature. While the current voice may be shallow, it is shallow so that people do not need to think too deeply in order to share about it. While the past voices were pragmatic enough to be remembered for their contributions, the era that they were in did not witness their everlasting presence.
Being around youths of various backgrounds is an enlightening experience. While the things they share may differ, from modest daily activities to partying with online debutantes to reflect their own personal stands, beneath the variety of posts is a strong need to showcase themselves as someone. They are anchored to each other by the need to be validated as someone, to be seen as more than a one-dimensional identity of youth.
The way I see aged individuals who are adamant about their anger with connectivity by the web, the anger they have is because they have to acknowledge that they will have to be a part of the youth’s trend in seeking validation. Their stories of past adventures will soon be lost without any audience to listen. But they may not be granted an audience without technology.
They will have to either respect connectivity by web or have their tales unvalidated by the audience they seek. The comical statement is a plea to be listened to.
No matter how we may perceive the technological advancement itself, it is inevitable for us to stay relevant through it as well. Having acquaintances claiming radicality has taught me that even in being radical, they are bound to the trend of being validated. Having a stance distinctive from the norm requires a dedicated audience. What good will come of fighting for equality or having controversial views when we cannot show people how controversial we are from the rest of them?
And in seeking an audience, we have to be strategic and calculative because in imposing our views and lives on the world, we want to showcase ourselves as an extension to the norm rather than a norm. There is a need to be different while remaining in the trend in itself. There is a need to be radical within the allowed capacity of the trend of validation.
Even in writing this piece to bring up an observation that may be different from that of the masses, I still have to follow what is needed from the current targeted audience. Bringing up radical ideas must follow the capacity in which they can follow the idea itself. Thus, even showing how radical we are from the masses, we are still taking into consideration the people from whom we are seeking an audience.
In seeking our audience and validation, what must be taken into consideration? Can we sacrifice not putting out any content at all because we do not believe in the current need for technological advancements?
It is neither unhealthy nor healthy to be within this new norm. The online sphere is an uncontested parallel to the physical realm, and so is the need for us to be known as impactful in the virtual realm itself. To fight this need is to fight a losing battle. With reluctance or excitement in putting out ourselves, we have to pay respects to validation via social media presence.
Does showing my groin in this photo make it too racy to be posted? What if a distant relative that I do not speak to anymore from the estranged side of the family comes across this post and reports it to my family? Will people understand my 280 character-limited sentences on how a particular brand of soya bean milk is a superficial recreation of a nostalgia for millennials? I think this social commentary using a meme of an extremely obscure anime reference will be too radical for my safety – should I still post it? Will it be worth it if I press “post” on this accidental post-incident inspiration on Myvi biru that I put so much of my five minutes brainstorming energy in?
The thumb is positioned on the digital button, yet to make a simple tap is a heaviness that gambles a significant amount of consideration and formulation.
As our finger gently taps the screen, all of our struggle is absolved in a moment.
What follows is an answer to the questions we put up in our contemplation leading towards that simple tap, connecting ourselves to the world, within a trend is deeper than our understanding, a radicality that ends up in a flow of the world.