Are you for real, bro?

Are you for real, bro?


From naming yourself after your favourite Star Wars character to putting up highly fantasized pictures of your human self on Bitstrips, your online identity has seen you do a bunch of crazy things.  However, what started as fun and games has long since existed to be just. You’re now as much of an amalgamation of your online experiences as your real-life ones and who’s to say which one’s what?

With phone vibrations punctuating almost all our human interactions, the time and importance we give to knowing what #Karachi on Twitter is saying is way more than how we actually spend an ordinary day in the city. But where does our online life end and where does the real life begin and does the latter even matter anymore?

Though seemingly a preposterous idea, our increasing participation in cloud communities (online food groups, art pages and movie review forums) at the expense of real-life interaction with fellow mortals says otherwise. Even when it comes to doing such things as developing skill-sets or finding a living, we are more likely to spend time on activities that are valued on the internet as opposed to real life things, like getting out of bed.

Adorning our cell-phone experience with the furniture of apps, we are slowly doing away with the need of having tangible things around. Notebooks, calculators, chess boards, canvases, alarm clocks are all examples of things that have slowly disappeared from our physical surroundings, only to appear in our virtual one.

In fact, we shy away from having real-life encounters (try running into a “well-meaning” acquaintance at Dolmen Mall) and wish for extra lives in Candy Crush as opposed to brownies in real life (or maybe, that’s a tough call). It is the banning of websites that makes us abandon our comfort zones to protest and it is when we are blocked on online pages that we truly begin to feel for our “fundamental” rights.

With our rooms slowly transforming into Batcaves where we wish we could store a week-long supply of food to go with our technology, we know our online lives are taking over, leaving little or no room to develop our offline identity. We know how to respond to various situations online with standard phrases like YOLO (you only live one), bitch please!, the staple LOL (laugh out loud) coming to the rescue but often find it hard to tell someone off in real life – a fact which was made more convincing to me when my friend disclosed she had taken a “How to say NO and stand up to your peers” course online!

Even though we’d like to thing that this is a problem that only concerns a certain strata of society, upon closer inspection this gets proved wrong. From daily-wage earners to salaried drivers, sometimes it is their life in their mobile phones, which keeps them going.

With people Instagramming to add filters to their photos to cropping out their photo-bombing friends, our appearances online have started to matter just as much as our real selves – if not more.

Who are we turning into and who are we leaving behind? The question in these times to ask your self is, “are you for real, bro?”

If you think I’m exaggerating, here’s why I am not:

Mark Zuckerberg’s sister thinks you should register a baby’s online identity at birth.

Published in The Express Tribune blogs here.

 

Mafia Wars


I woke up to my cellphone’s call for attention – the occasional ping of a social media website that sends a shiver of excitement down anyone’s spine each time it’s heard, only to often end up being an invite from a food group that they had forgotten to unlike.

With partly open eyes and a mind still clouded with the last night’s episode of Game of Thrones, I clamored to find the phone from under my pillow – my hands reaching out as if a drowning man calling for help – frantic and all over the place.

“Fauzia Arif,” the notification read, “has completed 56 levels of Candy Crush. Post on her wall to congratulate her.”

“How difficult is it to have a life these days?” I questioned angrily before, logging in to Sims Freeplay to check if my Sim was well-hydrated after the hours of virtual gardening I had put it through.

Now that I was finally up and getting my daily installment off the newsfeed, I scrolled down to spot familiar faces doing things that I only wished I could.

Sofia “Princess” Mir, the first update read: Just got updated to an iPhone 5, thanks to my hubby to be <3.

This was my friend from school who I had lost touch over the years and what remained of her memory were just the ugly bits that still stung like an evil bee. The status, as if spiraling me back to that time had me wanting to reply, but I couldn’t just comment on her status. That would just prove that she had my attention, which she didn’t of course.

I decided to update a status of my own.

“How cute. People are just beginning to get an iPhone 5. Steve Jobs is dead, folks!” I wrote.

And just as I was thinking my passive aggressive rant was done with, a new notification checked my smile that hadn’t fully appeared on my sleepy face.

“Don’t compare yourself to me. I’m someone they couldn’t even dare to be.”

“Whoa! Who is comparing who? Wait, where is that picture of Ali with that goofy smile of his where everyone thinks he resembles a deer?” I thought immediately scanning my desktop for saved pictures from yesteryears.

I had posted of photo of Ali and I at our best. The caption read, hubby already. It was the only picture of him where he hadn’t lost those few extra strands of hair covering his forehead and when his smile was just a genuine show of good countenance and not a silent question of “What’s for dinner?”.

The photo even though misleading was gold. Contented, I thought this would shut her bitch fit up but here’s the thing about social media: You can never be too sure – about anything.

And sure enough, a new status update from Sophia had followed: “I pity my friend who ended up with someone who has such an ugly face.”

My head was now reeling. I felt betrayed, backstabbed, insulted – all at once. This person, who had more asterisks in her name than my computer password was actually having fun at the expense of me? Me? Who had always scored the highest, got the better job, gotten the guy and had real friends for a change.  Who does she think she was?

My mental blabbering was interrupted by another ping from my cell phone.

“What? Is she not even going to wait for her turn now?”

It was a notification from my high school’s principal who thought tagging both of us in a status would be akin to calling us in to the principal’s room. She had proceeded to give us an online scolding – caps lock and all and said something about how our failed attempts at trolling still gave her nightmares.

If our online spat with each other wasn’t embarrassing enough – well, it wasn’t quite embarrassing, I am known to be more challenging on Facebook, that tagged status took the cake.

I quietly switched my phone off, pretended the online me was going on a hiatus and proceeded to tend to my real life responsibilities – the first of which included me getting out of the bed.

(This was done as part of a creative writing course at SZABIST)

 

 

Into The Vile


It’s so bad, I can smell it!

From extra-long curly toe nails to phantom arms that originate from nowhere, everything that could possibly be disturbing manages to find a way in your newsfeed. You scroll down your Facebook page with a cup of coffee in hand, probably munching your breakfast snack and all of a sudden, a sight as hideous as Voldemort’s poo greets your gaze. What do you do? Scroll down as fast as you could? But it seriously cannot be fast enough. After all, you’re not done scanning the entire feed for weather, traffic and strike updates. For what good is using a social networking website in Karachi if it doesn’t give you the necessary information to start your day with? Err..

An influx of highly disturbing, vile, sometimes utterly gross and often, offensive images seem to have found a way to attract people enough to share them on their profiles for everyone in their list to see. If it’s not your Facebook people, then it’s some “insert-emotional-quote-here” page you had somehow liked for a friend that doesn’t think filtering images for quality is a good enough idea. From comic pages drawing almost real-looking poop to images of people with missing limbs (that seem to be funny to them, for some reason), there really is no knowing what type of content could come up next that you’d have to wash your eyeballs thoroughly for.

If it’s not the outright grotesque, then there are photos “commanding” you to like them or you’re likely to burn in hell. Seriously, isn’t waking up a Monday morning to get eyed angrily by your boss, only to be “surprised” by your favourite relatives while you’re on your way to head out hell enough? Apparently not.

Maybe imagining a world where people would rethink the kind of things they post online is actually day-dreaming, but do we really want to go down the road where everything we lay eyes on is a vomit-in-your-mouth kind of content? Clearly, the day isn’t far when you’d see surgeons uploading pictures of their patients when their stomachs are half cut up and consider it their contribution to the world of daily humour. Who am I kidding. I already have.

Social Media Baithak – Take 3


Declaring that you don’t have a full time  job to a room full of people is not easy. In our society, it’s akin to admitting that you don’t believe in sacrificing goats on Bakra-Eid. Cue nasty side glances and an extended eyebrow raise. Mind you, only one.

“Then why exactly are we listening to you?” would say anyone with their hairs on.

“I make my money through the social media.”

What? Wasn’t being jobless bad enough? Now we have to live with people who call themselves Facebook Junkies and Serial Tweeters and get away with it?

For your own good, yes.

Faizan Laghari talking social media goof-ups

What started off the Day 3 of Social Media Baithak that took place at T2F this weekend proved the point and took the cake: Faizan Laghari, a “technopreneur” by his own admission, put forth the trade secrets that everyone seems to possess but no one seemed to have gushed out with as much enthusiasm before him. Unabashedly bald and quick with wit, the speaker dished out tips after tips (for want of a better word) on how to suck at social media but ended up revealing a  great many insights as to how to go about things, once on the social media platforms.

Shoaib Taimoor and Raheel Nabi in conversation about crowd sourcing and online scams.

Followed by a relatively demure Shoaib Taimoor, the conversation turned towards on how the relatively new medium is now being used. From crowd-sourcing, to delivering food online and from travel photography to corporations maintaining a friendly appearance on the social media, the diverse palette of endeavours that the medium supports is miraculous at the very least and still growing. However, when the session’s moderator, Raheel Nabi ventured to ask if there are any areas where Twitter fails, Shoaib Taimoor replied “Twitter fails when people think it’s a substitute to real life,” and left the crowd with some food for thought while the event carried on with its list of guests.

“We have not spent a single rupee on traditional advertising,” claimed Lollipop and Laddu (the duo that handles photography and video making services) to an extremely awed crowd. “Would we really be able to leave the moustache adorned billboards of news anchors behind?” is probably what’s on everyone’s mind.

                 Bilal Lakhani talks corporations and the pressure of handling instant feedback

However, an observer from the audience was quick to point out how online Facebook pages run the risk of “shoving content down their followers’ throats” to which Bilal Lakhani (Communications, P&G) replied “We (corporations) are trying to identify how Facebook can work like soap operas.” and while no one really wants the thought of Saas-Bahu TV shows while logging on to their personal profiles, one can maybe foresee social media coming out from its 11-15 million people mark and being taken to everyone across the country.

In an heart-warming turn of events, Rayaan Chaudhry, a 7 year old food blogger talked about maintaining impartiality while writing reviews

To be or not to be on social media is not the question. How to be on social media is what the event answered best.

Bareeze Man and The Wrong Sword


Bareeze Man woke up on the wrong side of the world.

Let me ask you something. How many times have you passed by a billboard and said to yourself “Wow, that’s exactly what happens in real life.” The answer for most is almost second to none. And then you pass by one of these while humming to a tune in your car and your mind is jolted out of sleepiness so that not only do you turn your head back to ogle at what our ingenious brands have cooked up to advertise this time but you are also left questioning your rational self.

Basically, you’re just asking. “Wait, what’s that?”

As rewarding as that kind of attention can be for most brands and most of the time, that kind of reaction is exactly what they are going for, what I fail to understand is so many things that I pretty much put this article in danger of sounding like one of those feminist rants. God forbid, right?

However, my two cents on this brand new piece of advertising go something like this: Are you freakin’ kidding me?

Right when gender stereotypes of men being this aggressive and an embodiment of hulk-like physical strength are being questioned and rightly so, advertisements like this continue to reinforce the status-quo in place since the Stone Ages.

While a number of people are calling this advertisement apt, claiming that it’s in line with that time of the year when goats are sacrificed, there are a handful of people who look at this and for unknown reasons think of it as representing the “real man”.

In times like today, when having an idea is like being armed with a sword, do we really need people to be found carrying the wrong sword?

 

Lipton’s Mega Disaster

Lipton’s Mega Disaster


Lipton’s Mega Daane – a mega disappointment

Imagine the wind blowing in your hair while you drive past the many shops and traffic lights in the city, only to come to a staggering halt in the face of mini-boards and bill-boards that hang around the cosmopolitan like a curtain. National Fruitily, the countless Iftar Deals, the “exclusive” eid exhibitions and Lipton – Mega Daane, Mega Taste. Your mind wants to snap shut but can’t. This has to be some kind of a prank. Is tea really being advertised owing to the strength of its Daane? Thoughts about oversized pimples come unbidden to mind. Daane. Ow.

Besides, whoever knows anything about tea beans? A quick internet search would tell you that even Google hasn’t heard of them. Even considering the fact that Pakistan has become the place where the impossible happens, talking about tea beans is taking things a bit too far.

Tea is an essential part of not just our routine but our lifestyle. It’s no longer just a beverage. You seek tea the moment you enter your work place, the moment you binge at a dinner (which happens often) and whenever you think you are going to lose it at someone.

While it’s true that the aforementioned has been used as a concept by a number of tea brands and Lipton itself has come out with really memorable ads (Remember, Chaye Chahiye?), a new ad campaign should have been a welcome change considering the enormous run that the old jingle has enjoyed. Unfortunately, the Mega Daane, Mega Taste has instead of engaging the local community established Liption as a brand that is aloof and distant from what the consumers want and understand.

If one really thinks all it takes to succeed in the ad world is a portrait of a woman enjoying a cup of tea and a tagline boasting about how mega your beans are, you really need better research or maybe just a new ad agency.