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{Here is a transcript of the Key Note Address delivered by Reginald Jeeves at the recently held Annual General Meeting of the Society for Prevention of Internet Narcissism (SPIN)}

 

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Allow me to thank your esteemed Society for having bestowed upon me the honour of sharing some of my thoughts on the issue of remaining happier and safer in these challenging times.

I take the liberty of calling our present as a challenging one not only because of the pandemic we collectively face these days. I also do so because we all suffer from another pandemic – that of the so-called social media spreading mistrust, misinformation and misgovernance.

Values which are vanishing like Indian Fakirs

I believe that truth and reality have taken a back seat. We live in an illusory world of our own where reality is nothing but a simulation. A handful of smart and goofy code developers are increasingly shaping our opinions and controlling our collective behavior. Given the dense fog of a media which tends to become more anti-social with each passing day, facts do not penetrate through to us. Commerce determines content. Aesthetes do the window dressing. Governments monitor it to manipulate us, giving democracy a run for its money. Privacy has gone for a toss. Our social conscience has started changing, resulting in the sharp rise of hate, mistrust and discrimination across the planet. The milk of human kindness is getting evaporated fast. The psychology of the individual is changing. It is ‘I’, ‘Me’ and ‘Mine’ which rule the roost.

I am sure that the Chief Patron of SPIN, Sir Roderick Glossop, while delivering his concluding remarks, would touch upon the rapid evolution of our loonier instincts in much greater detail.

Let me hasten to add that I admire the unique benefits that social media has brought to us. Acquiring knowledge has become easier. Newer modes of networking have emerged. When facing a crisis – medical, environmental or otherwise – help is easier to seek. It has made distances irrelevant, cocking a snook at the concept of international borders.

Subtle changes to the psychology of the individual   

Allow me to share some of my concerns with you.

One is the immeasurable power of certain companies in shaping public discourse anywhere in the world. Helping those in power to keep spinning out yarns to their gullible public and keep projecting a larger-than-life image of them.

The underground money making apparatus, duly supported by mining users’ data, aided and abetted by technological advances. The result is an invasion of our privacy, a fact which many of us are blissfully unaware of.

Thanks to persistent lockdowns, my boss, Mr Bertie Wooster, is no longer getting sozzled at late night gigs. But he still needs one of my trademark pick-me-ups. I keep discharging my feudal obligations, helping him to overcome his present addiction to social media. His mood swings have only become worse. Absence of a like on one of his posts featuring an audio clip belting out ‘Sonny Boy’ in his bath leaves him depressed. So does either a painting done by him or a banjolele recording not garnering a smiley. Often, I have to watch over him so as to check any suicidal tendencies arising in his bosom which, as we all know, is awash with the milk of human kindness.

I understand that user data gets routinely used to build models to predict user actions and companies retain user attention to maximize the profit from advertisements. The psychology of the individual is delicately profiled and then used to the hilt to generate revenue. Often, this would lead to increased depression and higher suicide rates, especially among those who lack nerves of chilled steel.

There are subtle changes being made to the P of the I, and these amount to our becoming zombies.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is disturbing, to say the least.

However, all is not lost. Example, in Wikipedia, we have a ray of hope. I believe that they continue to offer a neutral landscape for seeking information. 

Some rotten eggs in our basket of habits

We cannot whip up a delectable omelette by retaining some rotten eggs we carry in our behavioural baskets. These need to be promptly replaced by the ones laid by contented hens. The rotten ones can instead be put to better use to dissuade someone like Tuppy Glossop from rendering ‘Sonny Boy’ at his next appearance at one of the gigs organized by Beefy Bingham.

Some of you may recall the time when Mr Wooster had started entertaining the idea of having the prattle of tender feet around him. A trip to Brighton, followed by an address to a bevy of giggling young girls, made him drop the idea.

Likewise, any threat to us can be neutralized by using tact and resource. But what is also needed is a dash of will power and persistence.

I have brooded over this matter for some time now. I fancy I have a plan which may produce satisfactory results

My humble plan involves our developing habits of the following kind.

Getting rid of Commentitis

Overcoming the urge to either comment upon or getting involved in, some inane discussion on any of the social media platforms.

Shying away from Topicalitis

Learning to take a long-term view of things in life; not whipping up passions on something which is trending on social media and may get you only your 15 seconds of fame.

Avoiding recommended videos which are merely a ruse to keep you glued to a screen.

Doing away with Checkitis

Restricting the habit of frequently checking what is happening on the World Wide Web.

Cultivating Humouronia

Taking it easy, with a dash of humour. The virtual world is not the real world. A ‘like’ could be posted merely to be in your good books. A derogatory remark could be unpeeled to reveal invaluable feedback, or even to present an alternative perspective.

The perils of 5G and beyond

Discovering the environmental and behavioural perils of advanced technologies in the offing. Revenue-hungry governments would not be interested in your knowing these. Businesses chasing top and bottom lines could not care less.

Relishing the perks of Family Time

Having a budget for maximum screen time for yourself in a day. Set an example which others around you – especially kids – can follow. Spend more time with them. Encourage them to develop real relationships rather than virtual ones.

Do not pamper children by giving them access to smart phones which end up making them dumb. Allow social media use only after children reach high school.

Let all devices be out of the bedroom after a certain time; also, off the dining table during ‘family time’.

Sifting the wheat from the chaff

Building nerves of chilled steel to protect yourself, your family and your country from mischievous messages planted by media cells of governments and political parties to sway your opinion about things which really matter.

Looking for news feed from different platforms, even from the ones which oppose your own views and opinions. Trying and being objective about what you soak in.

Not forwarding unnecessary messages, even though these sound like ‘breaking news’ at the time.

Using search engines that do not keep a track of your searching history.

Checking your gadgets ruthlessly at least once a month. Remove all apps which you no longer use.

Working towards receiving minimum notifications.

Delivering satisfaction

I urge upon you to realize that we alone can stem this rot, whether individually or collectively. There is no messiah who is going to pop up and help us in this endeavour. We alone can stop the quivering of the foundations of our civilization.

Only then can we be assured of a life based on the premise of Liberty, Fraternity, Equality, Truth and Peace.

Permit me to convey my gratitude for the patience with which you have listened to me. I do hope I have delivered some satisfaction!

 

(SPIN is a not-for-profit platform which advocates the cause of an unbiased social media and encourages users to refrain from indulging in narcissistic behavior when online.)

(This blog post is inspired by ‘The Social Dilemma’ a 2020 docudrama available on Netflix.)  

   

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2014/12/08/bertie-social-media-and-blogging-blues

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/09/23/bertie-jeeves-and-the-internet-of-things

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2019/03/23/the-delightful-variety-of-those-who-post-on-facebook-by-sriram-paravastu)

 

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I extended my hand from under the blanket, and rang the bell for Jeeves. Promptly, he shimmered in, with one of hisPGW HughLaurie-BertieWooster pick-me-ups on a silver salver.

‘Good evening, Jeeves.’

‘Good morning, sir.’

‘Is it morning?’

‘Yes, sir.’

‘But it seems pretty gloomy and dark outside,’ I said.

‘Winter is already upon us, sir. In the depth of winter, we learn that within us lies an invincible summer, sir.’

‘Shakespeare, Jeeves?’

‘Albert Camus, sir.’

I sipped the tissue restorative in a mood of quiet repose.

‘Well, what goes on in the great world?’

‘There are several messages for you on WhatsApp, sir. On Facebook, you have messages from Mr. Gussie Fink-Nottle, Ms. Florence Craye and Ms. Stiffy Byng. Aunt Dahlia wants to chat with you over Skype. A blogger oninternet image 1 WordPress desires to have an audience with you. On LinkedIn, Sir Watkyn Bassett wishes to connect with you. Several tweets…

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I extended my hand from under the blanket, and rang the bell for Jeeves. Promptly, he shimmered in, with one of hisPGW HughLaurie-BertieWooster pick-me-ups on a silver salver.

‘Good evening, Jeeves.’

‘Good morning, sir.’

‘Is it morning?’

‘Yes, sir.’

‘But it seems pretty gloomy and dark outside,’ I said.

‘Winter is already upon us, sir. In the depth of winter, we learn that within us lies an invincible summer, sir.’

‘Shakespeare, Jeeves?’

‘Albert Camus, sir.’

I sipped the tissue restorative in a mood of quiet repose.

‘Well, what goes on in the great world?’

‘There are several messages for you on WhatsApp, sir. On Facebook, you have messages from Mr. Gussie Fink-Nottle, Ms. Florence Craye and Ms. Stiffy Byng. Aunt Dahlia wants to chat with you over Skype. A blogger oninternet image 1 WordPress desires to have an audience with you. On LinkedIn, Sir Watkyn Bassett wishes to connect with you. Several tweets await your attention. Also, there are some other items which might interest you on Reddit, Digg and Pinterest, sir.’

I shuddered at the prospect of having to brave the world at such an early hour.

‘Jeeves, I have somehow come to despise this extra dose of, what do you call it, something sounding like gravity?’

‘Perhaps you allude to the term connectivity, sir?’

‘Absolutely. Both have the same pull for all of us these days. You know, this intricate world-wide-web we have woven around ourselves? The world was such a quieter place when this was not there. To avoid aunts, all one had to do was to sprint across the Atlantic. Now, one gets chased all over the planet. Civilization’s foundations are quivering. Something ought to be done about it.’

‘But you may wish to consider that it has also made life much simpler, sir.’

‘Faugh! Earlier, I could saunter across to the telephone in the hall in my bath robe and mauve pajamas to hobnobSkype_logo with the aged relative. Now, I have to worry about the dark circles below my eyes and the dress I am wearing before saying tally-ho to her over Skype.’

‘This does present some challenges, sir.’

‘And how could anything be called Twitter? I thought only birds indulge in that pastime. Don’t we have any birds’ Twitter_bird_logoassociations? Would one of those not like to raise the issue of a serious infringement of birds’ intellectual rights?’

‘I believe the contingency is a remote one, sir.’

‘Consider Google. It has too much of information, making it difficult to chug along in life. One, it is no longer easy to pinch umbrellas. Those carrying umbrellas on their shopping sprees often keep a tab on my location and do the vanishing act whenever I happen to be in the vicinity. Two, it has reduced whatever little thinking I was earlier able to do on my own. I once told Stiffy Byng how I was much superior to Gussie Fink-Nottle when it came to being pumpkin-headed. Now, thanksGoogle_2013 to Google, I am no longer too sure.’

‘You feel, sir, that you have become mentally more negligible?’

‘Yes. I also shiver at the prospect of a Big Brother prying into my searches and building up an intimate profile of what I like and what I don’t. What has happened to the civilized norms of privacy?’

‘We have to take the good with the bad, sir.’

‘Then think of Facebook. It is high time someone like Roderick Spode spoke to Mark Zuckerberg. He might take a dictator who designs women’s underclothing on the side more seriously. How can one place all one’s friends on the same level of intimacy? Are we not entitled to have few who are really close and intimate, some others who are useful in some way or the other, and all the others who are mere acquaintances?’

‘There is some merit in what you say, sir.’

‘Of course. And why is everyone posting only about the good and positive things happening to them? Do you think I mind posting the number of times I have been nicked for fines or have been jugged into a chokey for thirty days without the option?’

‘Your openness on social media deserves to be heartily applauded, sir. It might interest you to know that some people have formed SPIN – a Society for Prevention of Narcissism on Internet. They wish to see you in person, ostensibly to request you to accept to be the President of the outfit.’Facebook

‘Right, ho. That is how I have preserved my bachelorhood status all these years. After all, who would risk having me as a son-in-law or a nephew? Is that not the reason Justices of the Peace wish to connect with me? They just wish to keep a tab on what I am up to, possibly forewarning police constables in my vicinity to strap their helmets a wee bit tighter.’

‘That is being clever indeed, sir.’

‘‘Yes. Consider all the delicately nurtured ones who shiver at the prospect of taking a saunter down the aisle with me. Still, I have a long list of those wanting to befriend me over Facebook. I wonder why they wish to connect with me. The mind boggles.’

‘Perhaps to capitalize on your generosity, sir? Several times in the past, you have assisted young ladies in getting affianced to the real love of their hearts. You had done so, if you may recall, by first declaring your intentions of marrying the young women yourself. This had left their guardians all-of-a-twitter, much relieved to eventually allow an alliance with the true heart-throb instead.’

‘I am sure my record in such acts of chivalry is beyond reproach. What I resent is the commercialization of all our relationships. Look at LinkedIn. One would like to have a large circle of influence. But to what avail? We end up LinkedIn_Logonetworking only with those who could be used by us to further our own career interests. What we need instead is a platform where we can connect only with those we admire for their sterling qualities of head and heart.’

‘Well said, sir, but you would readily appreciate the difficulties involved. Perhaps there could be better ways to filter out only those who love and admire one and one’s work.’

‘Jeeves, I do think I have one such idea!’

‘Indeed, sir?’

‘I think I should start a blog of my own.’

His left eyebrow went up a quarter of an inch. I braced myself with the old Wooster grit. I persisted.

‘The more I publish my own escapades and my several acts of mercy, the quieter my life would be! In fact, the journal at the Junior Ganymede Club – could that not be serialized to great effect?’WordPress_logo

‘The rules of the club are rather strict, sir.’

I bridled at him.

‘Jeeevs, if you could get the Eulalie stuff on Roderick Spode once, surely this would not be difficult?’

‘I fear, sir-.’

‘OK, I know what you are going to say next,’ said I, waving an imperial hand. ‘Don’t you think having a blog of one’s own helps? Would you know how one starts and develops a blog?’

‘Sir, having had the privilege of assisting an avid blogger earlier, I can say that it is hard work, indeed.’

‘I don’t believe this. Blogging would be like a song and a lark. That is what Bingo Little told me last night at thePinterest_Logo Drones. His wife’s popularity has gone up since she became an active blogger. You just bang on the keyboard whatever you happen to be thinking of at the time. You hit the ‘publish’ button. That is all there is to it.’

‘One also needs to do so regularly, sir. To do this, one has to learn to read with great fervor. One has to keep the interest of the readers in mind. One has to edit a piece thoroughly before deciding to publish it.’

‘Reading? You mean some juicy stuff others keep writing?’

‘Wisdom would dictate that writers of the stature of Shakespeare, Wordsworth, Charles Dickens, Ernest Hemingway, Spindrift and Spinoza could provide regular inspiration, sir.’

‘What? One has to read such blokes just to be able to blog?’

‘A course you would be well advised to pursue, sir.’

‘But that would be tough on the nerves, Jeeves. I remember when Florence had expected me to read some stuff on Reddit_logoTypes of Ethical Theory or whatever. Is there any other procedure one is supposed to follow?’

‘Yes, sir. You most likely need a thesaurus, a rudimentary grammar book, and a grip on reality. The latter implies that there are no free lunches. Blogging is work, with uncertain rewards. And courtesy demands that one promptly replies to all comments coming in, howsoever impolite these might be.’

‘Oh, that does not sound very simple, does it? It would consume a lot of my time, I guess.’

‘Indeed, sir. Blogging needs dedication. It also strains the cerebellum to some extent.’

‘Is there any other requirement?’

‘The place where you write must be one of solitude. It would be advisable to hire a secluded hamlet far away from the temptations of a city life, sir.’

‘Oh, but then we should have no boy scouts prowling around on their acts of mercy in the vicinity, cleaning chimneys and burning cottages.’

‘Yes, sir. One has to minimize the probability of such an occurrence. Allow me also to point out that availability ofMona Lisa connectivity would be a sine qua non.’

‘That would be a disaster. I was not aware that you need to depend on internet to be able to blog. So, if I were to take up blogging, I would end up feeling like someone on whose head all the sorrows of the world had descended. Who was it you had once mentioned, Jeeves?’

‘Perhaps, you allude to the Mona Lisa, sir.’

‘Well, if she calls up now, tell her that I do know just how she feels when confronted with the harsh slings and arrows of life.’

‘Yes, sir.’

‘By the way, Jeeves, what are all these applications I keep hearing of these days? What do people keep applying for?’

‘If I have understood the query correctly, sir, you perhaps refer to some programs specifically developed for smart phones, sir.’

‘And what do these do?’

‘These are used for simplifying some mundane tasks of life, sir. First, we had WhatsApp. Then we had Line and HikeWhatsApp_logo apps. Now, we have Viber which is catching the fancy of the people. I believe there are about 1.3 million Android apps and Apple’s app store hosts 1.2 million of the things. By comparison, Windows has only around 300,000, Amazon 240,000 and Blackberry 130,000 or so, sir. ’

‘The mind boggles, what? But is this not a delightful affirmation of human ingenuity and creativity, Jeeves?’

‘True, sir. But the reality is that while there are indeed some creative programmers producing elegant, witty or ingenious apps, there are also some misleading programs which entrap one for an uncalled for burden on one’s wallet.’

‘Oh, a prospect better avoided, then?’

‘Depends on how one looks at it, sir. Let us say, you wish to replace your Alpine hat with a more suave version. UsingViber-logo some applications on your cell phone, you can sell as well as buy.’

‘But I do not wish to replace my Alpine hat, Jeeves.’

‘Sir, I just sold it using one of the apps on your cell.’

‘What? These smart phones are making me even more dumb. Let us get rid of it right away.’

‘As you say, sir.’

‘Yes. I am just getting fed up with this continuous slavery of today’s technology. All day long, messages keep beeping, giving one no respite. Is there no place left on earth where one could get some rest and repose? What about that World Cruise we were discussing sometime back? Do ships have internet, Jeeves?’PGWodehouse

‘Not necessarily, sir.’

‘So why don’t you book us on a voyage to Antarctica or some such place where one can really live life to the fullest, devoid of all e-distractions and boy scouts? You had better get the tickets tomorrow.’

‘I have already procured them, sir. Before we proceed on our voyage, may I suggest your meeting the representative of SPIN – the Society for Prevention of Internet Narcissism, sir?’

‘Sure! Jeeves, you stand alone.’

‘I merely endeavor to provide satisfaction, sir.’

(Note from Jeeves: Those of you who have enjoyed this line of thought may like to check out https://www.facebook.com/SocPrevInN)

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2020/11/23/jeeves-and-the-social-media-challenge

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/09/23/bertie-jeeves-and-the-internet-of-things

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2014/08/04/mirror-mirror-on-the-wall-who-is-the-smartest-of-them-all; https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2014/01/23/why-become-a-slave-to-technology)

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