I recently watched the episode ‘nosedive’ from the brilliantly produced TV series, Blackmirror, which triggered my thinking on the importance and/or dangers of putting a rating on people’s actions. Now this article is a particularly challenging one to write as it flirts on the boundaries of what’s normal and harmless and what’s not and I have had to be cautious with my choice of words. It’s best to start by saying there is nothing wrong with ranking people, places etc. per se in our heads. In fact we do it innately on an everyday basis which builds our preferences and propels us to make decisions on what ice cream to buy, which clothing to wear, which person to acquaint with at a party etc. etc. However, the argument of ‘too much of anything is harmful’ plays in, when we start ranking everything explicitly. To provide context to what I mean by ‘too much’, a quintessential example would be the episode I mentioned. Sidestepping on possible spoiler alerts, the episode in a nutshell is about a futuristic technological world where people are profiles on a giant world network and are rated by people around them on a day-to-day basis. People scrounge for points as that determines social stature and related perks. Should you fall below the score of 3 on 5, you face consequences which can amount to restricted access to places, products and possible jail term!(Glimpse: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R32qWdOWrTo)
Ratings seems to have found roots in identifying quality in a large world with overflowing choices and options. For instance, I personally find ratings on food ordering apps helpful. Except, overtime you realize the ratings are subjective and may not always be a five star for you. The same context holds when we rate each other implicitly through social media by the absolute number of likes on our pictures or absolute number of followers on our profile, amongst other things. What is likeable to one may not be to the other but in an inane quest to collect the maximum likes, we try to shape our profiles as more socially desirable. Pictures taken for memory are now pictures taken to draw an image of oneself and seek self validation. With time we haven’t realized how subtly, rating manifests rating and we are caught up in that vicious circle. It may seem a tad exaggerated to use the term ‘vicious’ for wanting more and more likes but it is harmful as the tendency to be liked gets accentuated in our perspectives and creeps up in the smallest of things we do. What is naturally likeable about a picture or gesture becomes an unsaid rule, pivotal to what we click. Every small act gets linked to an ulterior intention of being liked, whether it’s clicking the mother dairy ice cream you ate or putting up a happy birthday Whatsapp status for your friend.
Maybe every once in a while we need to “stop and smell the roses”; relish in the joys of the wondrous technology of photography and social media and resist the externalities it brings with it. Connect with people afar and anew, let go of that side pose and goof for fun and not for its ‘like’ inducing endearing quality, click a black and white for the charm the picture may hold each time you see it not because you want establish yourself as a pro, and sometimes just forget to click because you were so busy having a good time! True, these examples are borne from my personal bias but they are such commonplace that I believe at least one will resonate with you.
The irony of it all baffles me. In an ever-growing world where we want to distinguish ourselves and be sought after, we are constantly exploiting basic human psyche of ‘what appeals’ and consequently edging towards dehumanizing ourselves by mechanically chasing the fair-weather approval and affection of the possibly near but most probably not, the truly dear ones, and dangerously losing our individualism.