The Sound of Murder

It was just another routine morning in my dreary existence.

Working a desk job isn’t the most adventurous vocation in the world; that too for a programmer resigned to the mundane task of sitting in front of a computer screen flowing with endless characters. You would think twelve years of deciphering code might have helped me on the journey of breaking down the meaning of life itself and up until the night before, I would have fervently disagreed with that statement.

There was nothing remotely rejuvenating about my work. Gone were the days of youth where the idea of breaking down complex sequential patterns appealed to me. My life was now defined by a routine and exhausting monotony dictated by the technology that shaped our little world.

Boarding the tube to work that day, I figured it would be just like any other. I had consumed my mug of bitter black coffee, a bite of burnt toast and walked the daily fifteen-minute stretch to the nearest underground terminal. The skies were overcast with the same gloom and doom that had followed it for the past decade and I didn’t expect anything to change there. But something was certainly different; marginally so but different nonetheless.

For the first time, I was able to hear things around me in a way I hadn’t before. Things I’d always been surrounded by but never cared to really acknowledge. Like the voices of pedestrians float away as I descended the stairs to the underground. The sounds of hurried, impatient commuters that bumped their shoulders aggressively against mine took over that of the life above. My ears twitched upon hearing the dry, emotionless delivery of the automated dispensing machine. I realized I hadn’t heard the compassionate greeting of a ticket-seller wishing me a good day in years, or felt the warmth of a hand as I am given my ticket for the journey.

My observations grew with every second that passed and with it, a cold dread that started to seep into my core from the pits of my stomach. The people around me were walking stopwatches, too rushed by the throes of life to see what exactly it was they were missing.

Standing before the yellow line in wait of the underground carrier, my eyes uneasily cast glances to my left and right. On both sides, I was surrounded by people with their heads bowed, eyes glued to the surface of a lifeless screen, their sunken eyes absorbing valueless content. I waited for someone to break formation, even desperately hoped a single soul would put down their phone and simply turn to the person next to them and say the word ‘hi’. But no one thought to do that and my grip on my briefcase grew tighter as the truth dawned on me.

We were all living in a self-created, destructive bubble.

From that moment on, everything seemed to fall apart. The clickity-clack of smartphones being typed into magnified in my ears. At the office, the sounds of computer keyboards took over that of human contact. The silence enveloping the vast area of cubicles was deafening. I longed to hear someone break out of the technologically induced trance and have a real conversation. I wished to have a cup of coffee with a colleague and not spend our ten-minute break sitting next to each other, wordlessly skimming through our phones.

At what point of our fall into social obsession had we trapped ourselves in a pit of social exclusion? The thought was suffocating and as the day progressed, I waited for the moment I could return to the comfort of my home and disconnect myself from the world we had created. That day, I faced a truth I had been avoiding for far too long.

With the sound of every character being typed, every swipe down the screen or every selfie being clicked, humanity fades away as we collectively murder what little is left of it.

The Truth in Social Media

~ a personal essay I submitted for my English class I thought would be nice to share ~

Social media has evolved into an all-pervasive part of the 21st century, imposing a powerful impact on the current generation and the ones to come. 2001 marked the start of the ‘Golden Era’, with the rise of prominent social networks such as Facebook and Twitter leading to a subtle yet significant shift in the public’s perceptions. By the year 2020, worldwide users are predicted to rise to a third of the world’s population, a startling amount of 2.95 billion people.

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Social media is both a means for a global society and a gateway for corporate giants, political leaders and governments to influence public perception. The US presidential elections, for instance, have shown the extent to which social media can shape public opinion and put up a false front to the masses. The introduction of this form of technology has led to a change of dynamics in politics, with Donald Trump being a glaring example.

Western governments, namely the US and UK, use social media proactively, in comparison to other world governments, to engage and connect with the public. Most politicians put on the stereotypical facade of being loyal public servants and appeasing to their hundreds of thousands of followers. Trump, however, was blunt and unfiltered in his communications which led to his flame burning brighter than any other.

The world of social media favors controversy to reason. Although social media has led to timely information, transparency and accessibility, the authenticity of these sources is highly questionable. The distinction between real and fake has become increasingly difficult to make. Most of what we see on social media is a mixture of truth and lies, falsities and speculation. This application in a political framework is all the more concerning.

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The public perception of hegemonic structures is not as independent from the subject as most would wish to believe. As Louis Althusser proposed, with governments and political leaders exerting their dominance on the masses, everything we consume is a product of selective filtering and control by their very hands. The rise of social media poses a sparkling opportunity for exploitation of the truth that is perceived by the public whose votes and support they rely on.

Perception counts for everything in social media. When, as individuals, we try to project our ideal selves on Facebook and Instagram, it is understandable that politicians too would do the same for personal gain. Their intentions involve increasing their power and avoiding controversy, while simultaneously keeping the public in the dark.

Donald Trump, however, did the opposite and still managed to come out as the victor. By engaging in post-truth politics both online and offline, and portraying himself as an advocate against the media (which largely favored Hillary Clinton and the State), he not only made a spectacle of himself to his 25.7 million Twitter followers but secured public votes too. Objective facts were disregarded in the face of emotionalism. Trump used this to his benefit by feeding off the public’s distrust in government institutions and the media through his campaigns and social media presence. Although most of Trump’s unsubstantiated arguments were far off the spectrum of ‘rational’, his followers perceived it on an emotional level and voted him into presidency.

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We live in an information age centered around social media that is a combination of both truth and ‘alternative facts’, Trump popularizing the latter. Social media is a double-edged sword, posing massive benefits to its users while also diluting their perceptions of reality. In the hands of the wrong people, it is a manipulative weapon of the very truth the public wishes to know.