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Netizens who happen to be on Facebook come in different sizes, shapes, hues and ethnicities. Their value systems, personalities, mentalities and quirkiness quotients form a captivating rainbow of humanity. The psychology of the individual varies for all. So do their posts.

Even though the Posters and the Postees on Facebook are merely prisoners of their own individual psychologies, one can discern broad patterns in their behaviour. Some are compulsive Posters who consider a day wasted if they are not able to pass by their Facebook account. Others are casual by temperament and saunter in occasionally, sharing something on their timeline and then getting busy with the mundane affairs of their lives. Many others, who form but a minority, create an account and then blissfully forget all about it.

(The term Poster here refers to those who post on Facebook. The term Postee alludes to the hapless souls who have no choice but to go through it in their daily feed.)

If Rupert Psmith (of P G Wodehouse fame) were to endeavour to classify different kinds of Posters normally found on this social media platform, the results may be somewhat along the following lines.

  1. The Conscientious Poster

The Poster posts something of genuine interest to many, gets beefed up by the number of ‘likes’ and comments received, and a healthy discussion ensues.

If the Postees happen to be chasing their own dreams in life and no ‘likes’ and comments ensue, the Poster is likely to get into a V-shaped depression which takes some time to wear off.

Such bouts of depression are not dissimilar to the kind of traumatic phases Lord Emsworth passes through when the Empress of Blandings starts refusing her daily dose of nourishment.

The popularity and longevity of a post depends on many factors: (a) Contemporary relevance of the topic, (2) The time at the disposal of the Postees, (3) The degree to which the topic is controversial, and (4) Whether the Poster keeps responding to the steady stream of comments pouring in.

  1. The Ghost Poster

The Postee gets a notification from someone like Stiffy Byng on her friends’ list providing a link to something which interests the Postee. However, upon visiting the link, the Postee finds the item alluded to missing, much like a fakir of yore doing his vanishing trick.

Perhaps the administrators, in their infinite wisdom, decided to dump the link, deeming it to be inappropriate for civilization at large.

  1. The Detached Poster

Such Posters follow the advice dished out by Lord Krishna in Bhagavad Gita. They merely exercise their right to post things which, in their opinion, could interest the hoi polloi. They do not crave for any results from such posts. Having posted, they move on to perform other duties in their lives, only to return with yet another post. ‘Likes’ and comments on their posts are none of their concerns. They post in the true spirit of a detached soul. They happen to be true practitioners of renunciation.

  1. The Share-a-Crap Poster

Some people are in the habit of unleashing every single thing they find in their notification upon all the unsuspecting persons on their friends’ list, leaving many of the Postees twiddling their thumbs trying to figure out the rationale of such posts. Many of them, particularly those who believe in the power of introspection, start wondering as to what they have done to deserve the honour of receiving such inane posts.

  1. The Political Garbage Poster

Nowadays there are many arm-chair political analysts who keep posting their political opinions disguised as deep analyses about everything happening on either the national or the international stage. They keep unleashing unwarranted garbage of all kind on the clueless Postees, while themselves living in a delusional bubble of superior knowledge and analytical stills on matters in which they have no real responsibility of their own. It is a superb exercise in flattering the fledgling ego of the Poster.

Come election time and such posts further heighten the decibel level of the kind of rhetoric and jingoism which is sometimes made to look like hyper nationalism. Roderick Spode would heartily approve.

The presence or absence of ‘Likes’ and comments on their posts fail to dampen their enthusiasm; they keep posting relentlessly on matters national and international geopolitics.

  1. The Religious Rowdy Poster

The Posters of such posts forward photos of some benevolently smiling God over Himalayas or a boon-granting Goddess with the backdrop of a jungle, both clearly a result of some clever photo-shopping. The hapless Postees are then threatened with dire consequences if they fail to share forward the post within 3 seconds of having set their eyes on it.

The fate of Postees who do follow such instructions is not known; what is certain, however, is that such chain-posts do keep the Facebook guys and the internet service providers laughing all the way to their respective banks.

When the same Poster keeps posting about the same God most of the times, he willy-nilly ends up offending the Gods left out, who take a jaundiced view of the proceedings. The risk of inviting their collective wrath keeps going up with each offending post.

  1. The Sympathy-gainer Posters

These are Posters who follow the rules of commerce laid down by Ukridge. They have perfected the art of playing with the Postees’ heart-strings. Emotional blackmail of this kind could take the shape of either a blood-smeared kid or an IV lined ICU patient whose photo is posted, claiming that Facebook gives them One rupee for every ‘Like’, Five Rupees for every Share and 10 Rupees for a comment. Some posts even try and touch the wallets of the gullible Postees.

One can be certain that poor Mark Zuckerberg has enough troubles on his plate other than facing the prospect of going bankrupt thus.

  1. The Narcissist Poster

In the universe of this brand of Posters, God is always in heaven. There is never a problem in sight. The sun never sets. Rain never plays a spoil sport.

Hourly updates concerning themselves, their families and friends, their pets, their escapades in life and anything that happens to them under the sun keep popping up at such regularity as to put even atomic clocks to shame.

It is common to find an apparently loving wife posting an anniversary greeting to her equally apparently loving husband; fathers greeting their sons on their birthdays, even when both are living under the same roof, and doting daughters wishing their mother on her birthday, etc.

The underlying belief obviously is that love for their near and dear ones needs to be expressed publically and not in private; that public approval of a private sentiment is necessary.

Imagine Bobby Wickham having access to Facebook. In order to get her mother to approve of her intentions of walking down the aisle with Reginald “Kipper” Herring, all she has to do is to announce her feigned plan of marrying Bertie Wooster on her timeline, accompanied by a selfie of herself and her mentally negligible fiancée beaming happily together at an exotic locale.

Under this category, there exist several sub-categories of Posters.

a. The Foodie (Bakasura) Posters, who post photos of what and where they are eating at any point in time.

Fast food joints like McDonalds’ and CCD just love such Posters, though it is not clear why they don’t offer freebies to such promotional creatures. For all the Postees care, they could be swallowing some form of poison or the other.

After all, drooling over the snaps of a 32 course meal dished out by a local Anatole is injurious to the lining of the stomach of any of the Postees who might already be suffering under strict instructions from their physicians and better halves to lay off the succulent variety of vitamins.

b. The Travelling Posters, who keep posting photos of their national or international sojourns, thereby keeping not only airlines, hotels and other service providers but even robbers back home in brisk business.

The destination as well as the mode of travel is often highlighted so as to make the Postees green with envy.

Often, the Posters forget that one is permitted to catch a flight or a train without having to compulsorily post it on Facebook. Sure enough, they believe in the sage counsel from Jeeves – that travel is highly educational.

c. The Emotional Posters: They could be feeling sad or elated at some event and would post a soulful quote of a famous poet or lyricist. They simply forget that when they cry, the Postees are not interested in sharing their bad fortune. Yes, some might make sympathetic noises. Also, when they laugh, quite a few may join in, but are not enthused enough to get out on the street and shake a leg or two.

  1. The Thoughtless Posters

It is a sad commentary on the kind of times we live in when we find that even terrorists decide to become tech-savvy Posters.

Gullible Postees who act like headless chickens, lose no time in becoming Posters themselves, thereby giving instant publicity and wide coverage to such heinous acts.

The case for a Social Media Detox

Some posts are amusing and anecdotal in nature. Some are entertaining. Few are educational. Quite a few are inane and eminently forgettable. But a vast majority of the posts basically share information about happier occurrences in the lives of a Poster with the Postees in their circle of friends and acquaintances.

Those who have become addicted to social media are more to be pitied than to be censured. Rather than using a platform like Facebook as a useful tool in life, they have opted to become its slaves.

Perhaps, there is a strong case for more of such hapless souls to join SPIN, the Society for Prevention of Internet Narcissism! Or, taking up an internet de-addiction course offered by the Droitgate Spa!!

(Note: Sriram Paravastu is an ex-Indian Air Force professional. When he decides to take a dig at some of our social ills, he uses the laser beam of a soldier-like discipline and precision to carpet bomb the issue at hand.

This blog post is penned by him. Yours truly is guilty of having taken quite a few liberties with his original text.

Illustrations are courtesy Suvarna Sanyal, a retired banker who has an eye and an ear for all there is to see, listen to and laugh at in this world.)

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2014/08/04/mirror-mirror-on-the-wall-who-is-the-smartest-of-them-all

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2019/01/05/the-droitgate-spa-now-offers-net-detoxification-programs)

 

 

 

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(The following is an abridged and modified excerpt from an upcoming book on Leader Mindsets, authored by Prof G P Rao, founder of SPANDAN, and others.)

Advances in technology inevitably lead to more efficiencies, better products and improved lifestyles for people. But each leap of faith into the domain of a newer technology brings with it a set of newer challenges for mankind. As machines increasingly take over the drudgery of repetitive tasks and become more intelligent, human beings invariably need to re-skill themselves. This applies to business leaders as well as their followers.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution in the offing now builds on the Digital Revolution, representing new ways in which technology becomes embedded within societies and even the human body.

Skill-sets of the future

As per a World Economic Forum document titled ‘Future of Jobs Report’, employers are said to anticipate a significant shift in the division of labour between humans, machines and algorithms for the tasks of today.

The aforesaid report states that of the total task hours across the industries covered, on an average, 71% are currently performed by humans, whereas 29% are performed by machines or algorithms. By 2022, this average is expected to have shifted to 58% task hours performed by humans, and 42% by machines or algorithms. It can be readily appreciated that this signifies a very rapid pace of change, something for which leaders need to be better prepared.

The report goes on to project that skills related to analytical thinking, active learning, technology design and technology competency would grow in prominence. It also proposes that such ‘human’ skills as creativity, originality and initiative, critical thinking, persuasion and negotiation will either retain or increase their value, as will attention to detail, resilience, flexibility and complex problem-solving.

It follows that in the impending man-machine conflict, human beings are not likely to suffer the same fate as that of the non-avian dinosaurs which went extinct some sixty-five million years ago. But the writing on the wall is clear. They need to roll up their sleeves and get down to the task of sharpening their soft skills. A humane approach to handling team members needs to be consciously developed, especially when operating in a business environment characterized by a shortage of skilled workers. In turn, this would pre-suppose a higher Emotional Quotient and better service orientation. Even as the reliance on artificial intelligence grows for the analytical part of decision making, the role of intuition would become even more crucial.

A focus on the bottom line

Most employers would go in for innovating through technology if it makes business sense. It follows that technology would continue to remain a tool in the arsenal of the corporate world to squeeze more profits out of their operations, thereby making careers more fragile and impacting labour incomes adversely. With 24×7 connectivity, people are already working longer and enjoying lesser leisure time.

In a scenario of this kind, there is a grave risk that leaders would end up losing a connection with themselves even more than at present and hence end up de-humanizing the work place.

However, values remain indestructible. As an example, honesty and truthfulness in relationships is something which is bound to withstand the onslaught of newer technologies in the centuries to come. Same is the case with empathy, compassion, resilience and a flexible approach in problem solving.

Perhaps there is a need for governments the world over to anticipate newer moral and ethical dilemmas in a proactive manner and influence technological developments suitably, so human dignity and freedom is not compromised.

The perks and the perils

One may also surmise as to how the imminent advances in technology could throw up positive as well as negative factors which are likely to impact the man-machine equation in the times to come.

According to a 2014 report entitled ‘AI, Robotics, and the Future of Jobs’, published by Pew Research Centre, researchers Aaron Smith and Janna Anderson went to the extent of seeking feedback from as many as 1,896 experts. They found that when it came to the impact of advances in technology upon economic opportunity and employment, the opinion was deeply divided.

The optimists opined that technology would free us from day-to-day drudgery and end up redefining our relationship with ‘work’ in a more positive and socially beneficial manner. They felt that we shall adapt to these changes by inventing entirely new types of work and control our own destiny through the choices we make.

The pessimists amongst those who participated in the aforesaid study were of the opinion that the coming wave of innovation would mostly impact those involved in white-collar work. Whereas highly skilled workers will do better, many more might get pushed into lower paying jobs, and might even face permanent unemployment. They also felt that our educational, political and economic institutions are poorly equipped to handle the challenges which are likely to come up.

The aforesaid piece of research throws up instructive insights into how the future might shape up. Leaders and managers really need to think up some innovative ways in which they would handle a highly polarized workforce, comprising a disgruntled lot at one end and a highly skilled one at the other.

The challenge of creating happier workplaces

Unlike the earlier industrial revolutions, which first created and then changed the skill sets required by our blue collar workforce, the Fourth one promises to change the work profile of our white collar workers.

In his book, The Fourth Industrial Revolution, Professor Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, describes how this fourth revolution is fundamentally different from the previous three, which were characterized mainly by advances in technology. According to him, these technologies have great potential to continue to connect billions of more people to the web, drastically improve the efficiency of business and organizations and help regenerate the natural environment through better asset management.

As we grapple to understand the future direction of monumental changes in our socio-economic fabric owing to the next phase of technological evolution, few things stand clear.

One, that our educational institutions are nowhere near the task of training a workforce which would not learn analytical skills by rote but would grasp the importance of creativity, resilience and improve upon their Emotional Quotient.

Two, most of our governments are yet to devise ways and means of regulating issues of protecting individual privacy, executive burnouts arising out of a 24×7 connectivity and heightened civic strife due to growing inequalities. The next phase is bound to create a newer class of elite – those who are adept at newer technologies, leaving far behind those who are not.

Those in the first category could end up believing that they are all too powerful. Those who remain blissfully ignorant and continue to be disconnected to those who are reaping the benefits of newer technologies are likely to gravitate towards a belief that they have no place in the knowledge universe. With poor resources of material as well legal kind at their command, these new ‘have-nots’ of the society may be doomed to languish for a long time, till the governments of the day intervene, willfully or otherwise, and ensure implementation of economic policies which are more inclusive in nature.

The third kind, comprising those left in the middle of the normal distribution curve of technology dispersal, could end up having a balanced approach to issues. In fact, with advances in technology, this kind could well face a higher risk of extinction, paving the way for those who believe themselves to be all too powerful to rule the roost.

The same pattern may become apparent in the realm of management as well. Leaders and executives would need to increase their engagement not only with the society at large, but also with the governments of the day. A massive effort at re-skilling personnel would become a necessity.

A matter of trust and privacy

Infosys co-founder N R Narayana Murthy happens to be of the view that technology is a great leveller. He thinks that technology has improved transparency, conquered distance and class barriers. Also, that it has the potential to create a fair society and enhance the accountability of the rich, the powerful and the elite to the poor and disenfranchised in all societies.

One cannot dispute this. However, concerns regarding an increasing trust deficit remain. Denizens of many countries are feeling increasingly jittery over instances of data privacy. Moral policing, electoral pitching, rumour mongering – all these are fuelling this trust deficit.

One case in point is that of Facebook which is already armed with tools to dig deep into our lives, with the singular aim of moulding our thoughts and opinions about diverse aspects of our lives.

Employees in most organizations already resent living in a virtual fish bowl, where all their communications are suspected to be getting monitored. No one likes to be micro-managed, especially those who are capable and self-confident. Business enterprises have already started deploying tools to monitor employee productivity by collecting and analyzing their activity and inactivity levels.

In the long run, a work environment of this nature would end up impacting productivity, commitment and motivation levels adversely.

The ever-increasing rate of change

One thing is certain. Change is not only a constant. With each passing year, the rate of change is also increasing. Much like Alice in Wonderland, Homo sapiens are discovering that they need to keep running faster and faster, with nary a respite in sight. Mankind is bound to evolve further much earlier than what was believed in the past. Alvin Toffler would perhaps heartily approve of this proposition.

Unlike thought so far, the man machine relationship shall become more integrated with each other in the near future. As a result, the combined force of processing of billions of data points for efficient decision making by machines, and contextual, emotional and intuitive aspects of decision making by human beings, would be, to that extent, higher and greater in their respective impacts – for good or bad.

What can be done to meet the challenge

– Employees, whether present or potential, can go beyond the formal education system and aggressivle look for avenues to hone their skills, so as to remain employable. As Stephen R Covey has said, we need to keep our saws sharpened.

– Same applies to our business leaders, who would do well to improve upon their Emotional Quotient.

– The agenda for educationists and politicians is clear: To keep taking steps to facilitate the change already upon us; to anticipate the challenges of privacy and rumour mongering and to intervene to have appropriate safeguards embedded in upcoming technologies.

(References:
https://www.weforum.org/reports/the-future-of-jobs-report-2018
“Future of Jobs.” Pew Research Center, Washington, D.C. (December 11, 2014);
http://www.pewinternet.org/2014/08/06/future-of-jobs)

(Illustrations courtesy www)

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