Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Shane Leavy's "Orkut Experience" not perfect

A lot of what I write everyday happens to be interactive, and I have decided to bring together much of my writing on my blogs.

Shane Leavy, 23, of Dublin, Ireland and member (moderator? I can't access the community page) of Orkut community International Relations wrote The Orkut Experience in DAWN's Magazine on November 19, 2006. (No permalink.) The article intro states:

Gaining notoriety recently when an Indian court served them notice over a hate campaign against India that featured on the social network service, the virtual community on the internet has hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis taking part in a vast array of discussions with people from around the world. Some of them though seem to be conveying the kind of image that may not be representative of the nation at large.

Shane worries about the violent interactions of Pakistanis with Indians, and Pakistanis with the West - and wonders if it is representative of the society at large? It is an outsider's comment and though it touches a raw nerve, I respect Shane for taking interest in what he observed in the community and on Orkut at large. Shane's guide on "How to manipulate people" is reflective of his solution-seeking nature. His article is a case of a commentary by a well-intentioned person trying to understand a baffling phenomenon.

There is a deeper layer to the behavior of the Pakistani and Indians, especially the youth. I have shared these views with Shane through his scrapbook:

Consider this: many people who you fear will act upon their violent fantasy, won't. Often, many are simply looking for a "reference to authority." What is disturbing is that by validating this behavior, the youth are gradually being led to believe that they are actually violent.

I have worked with youth as a trainer; talent manager; teacher - and this "verbal aggression" is a subject I have given some thought to. My observations are:

1. Consider the fact that many Pakistani youth are not empowered to speak up in school or in homes. They don't have an opinion vis-a-vis authority that comes in the form of the Parents, teachers, school, etc. Many youth who are plaguing the Orkut circuit have otherwise not spoken anywhere. Untrained to think or speak, they become irrational, exaggerated, and hyper.

Most, not all, Pakistani youth are the product of this system where they have never expressed their personal feelings. In some ways, even those of us who were "privileged" to have a better education still have no opinion that matters, because the system does not take us into account.

That is why, places like Orkut where most Pakistanis are exposed to the world for the first time, having NOT travelled globally, and having no access to an education, become a small aperture of too much withheld expression. Result? Uncontrolled ideas and passions. Minds untrained to think and unaccustomed to expressing opinion going amok.

2. If you want to research your/my hypotheses further, simply take a look at the school curriculum and the exams of the Pakistani youth in particular - I do not know about India but in many ways they are the same.

I did A-level as external candidate of Cambridge Uni via British Council. Our exams contained open-ended questions on the lines of: "In what ways do you think the life of a celebrity is in public domain, and should there be a limit to public access to a celebrity's life? (Recollection of q' from General paper, 1998. Q' obviously reflecting upon Lady Diana's death.)" Compare that with the home-grown educational systems exams at the same school level: "Write an essay on 'Pakistan Revolution.'" Outdated. Not inviting thinking or opinion. Not current.

This is the system of which some very fertile minds are the products. In observing and analysing the behavior of youth from this region, these cultural facts make the context.

I am from Pakistan and don't pretend to fully understand the very multi-layered Indian society. But <a href=" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=npzedFEs_Qg ">this motorbike ad for Bajaj Avenger</a> is very telling. A must watch for a great concept, and a beautifully executed ad!

It is based upon a deep insight of what the middle/lower-middle class (and likely other classes) youth of South Asia suffer from: beatings from fathers, careless government, poor service by businesses - a world of unfairness to which we could not respond.

This ad is hopeful, but for many, the only expression comes in less savorable ways. Such as Orkut babbling.

This is one view of the situation. Yet the bottomline is that this situation is not healthy. Words ultimately turn into actions. Here, Shane's concerns are very relevant. What are we doing for the youth to empower them in positive ways?

1 comment:

  1. I have seen this article in print this Sunday. I agree with the writer's and your assertions, particularly when I see three hundred students sitting on computers in our university lab, all playing Orkut.