A few days back, it occurred to me that I was spending too much time online. My BlackBerry kept me connected to the world with emails and Google alerts, popping up in an unrelenting manner. I was watching all the talk shows on TV. Politicians, wrangling in a boisterous and often pointless manner, are a strange kind of entertainment almost all of us take a fancy for.
But part of the exercise of surfing through news websites and watching TV shows with political prattle was useful. After all, I have to write about political developments and much of the knowledge that one gleans through different mediums of communication is invaluable. But here is the problem. I realised that I had become enslaved to a plethora of extraneous information. I started feeling encumbered by this overload of the most mundane kind of knowledge that was at best futile and unnecessary. On Twitter, I was following journalists and self-styled analysts who tweet with every breath of their lives. It was becoming hard to keep up with their fastpaced train of thought and experiences of ennui, boredom and existential angst. One journalist’s tweets included complaining about being at a press conference of a Sindh provincial minister who was characteristically late. There was another person who thought that his ramblings and regurgitations amounted to a nuanced political analysis of what ailed our political system and politicians. Another novice journalist seemed to be tweeting to win an award for three million tweets per day. There were some who were tweeting every bit of ‘breaking news’ that television news networks keep airing. And of course, everyone was ‘re-tweeting’ one another’s tweets in a strange mutual admiration club kind of a way.
It was getting too much. On the blogosphere, I was reading blogs that were supposedly full of commentary and analysis. These days anyone who has a computer and an internet connection can turn into a political analyst. It doesn’t really matter what day jobs they have. Some of them simply follow political talk shows on TV and then ‘analyse’ — mostly in a pedestrian and amateur way. A few bloggers thought that it was their responsibility to take a swipe at everyone — be it those in the media, sports, celebrities or politicians.
The posts were ostensibly written with an effervescent sense of self-righteousness and oozed with condescending and cavalier remarks towards others. YouTube broadcasts were added to their arsenal of selective judgmental pronouncements. And all this was done while hiding behind the convenient, self-serving comfort of anonymity. Commenting after watching TV channels is the easy part. But what is the substance behind such comments when most of these folks lack on-the-ground journalistic experience and interaction, and therefore lack understanding or even empathy, with their targets in the media, society and politics that they were so keen to ridicule and deride? I am all for freedom of expression but this kind of freedom seems to have thrown all kinds of wishy-washy hogwash into the cyber-world with a self-deluding sense of sanctity and profundity. This wasn’t the pithy or insightful analysis or commentary that would help me in anyway, I concluded. Enough with the bombardment of inane tweets. Enough with glorified bloggers masquerading as serious analysts. The liberating result after this conclusion was to click the ‘un-follow’ button on Twitter several times and to remove a lot of blogs from my ‘bookmarks’.