tweetupsl
pic credit: Dialog

I went to tweetupSL 7 yesterday. I have missed last 2 years.

So many new young faces, and the interactions gave me the flavour of young aspirations and new trends in social media. Right now, the intensity of  interaction is high, one of the main factors is the inclusion of local languages. It’s much more engaging when one can type in your own language.

On twitter, we follow so many unknown people. It’s great to meet someone in person after I had followed and interacted with them for like 3 years. Most of the time, when I meet in person, I see a different personality from his or her online presence. So yeah, we have our split personalities: online and offline. This very core human nature brings in numerous issues and tensions on social media. Social media promised us harmony around 2007, we wanted everyone in the world to be on social media. Yet we find ourselves in unwanted trouble in 2017, because when we have many people on social media, we get to see all of their problems too. You just cannot have good things only. Just like life.

I was asked this question by Amila, and I had to answer to the audience – ‘how did twitter helped in your life and work?’

I actually reflected on this same question, few days back after I watched Chamath Palihapitiya’s rant about how bad social media is, especially facebook.. He asked people to move away from social media. I guess yes, when you are popular and influential. No one needs your tweets to validate your authority in the field. But for the rest of us, who are ordinaries, social media is a gift of unfathomable proportions. Provided, we use it safely, with empathy and with patience. (UPDATE: yesterday, Chamath has taken back his own words. Again emphasising my point, we need balance)

I joined twitter in 2009. I’ve connected to great people and brilliant ideas on twitter. I cannot count them, but I can assure it is in thousands. So many long term business partnerships were formed through twitter and other social media introductions. Many good friends were found, some of them feels like my family.

Yet where do I draw the line? Too much of anything is bad. Too much of video streaming is bad.  Getting to phone the moment we are bored is bad. Too much of scrolling in your phone as a habit is bad.

Part of what Chamath says is true. Social media can own you, take control of what you think. It can create a small bubble in your mind and can make you think that what you see in your feed is the truth. It has happened to me. It became an addiction and then I had to get out of it. That’s where digital detoxes helps me. And there are apps to help me to get in to digital detox. 

Technology inclusion in our lives are inevitable. We must be part of it to explore the opportunities. We must also take care of our personal hygiene, so we become mindful in a world full of information.

I remember when I was down with depression some time back, working on my self like resting, sleeping, exercising, music and reading did not work much.

But I remember, one time I had the courage to help someone despite my condition. That changed everything. Knowing that the person was released, relaxed me internally.

The tensions I had evaporated. I could work on myself better.

It is counter-intuitive to much of self help band wagon out there. Yet it was that simple. The heart to help requires no money, no resources, just my willingness to commit unconditional space and time with someone who is in need.

What I found profound is that when I counsel someone, that conversation will be healing me. It will heal a situation in my mind like karma on the spot.

I met this entrepreneur at Ambalangoda railway station on the morning that dawned with a curfew imposed in Gintota for a clash that had potential to brew in to an ethnic tension. I asked him questions about his life and his work.

” I have been selling water and soft drinks in trains for 20 years now. Now Fort railway station officials have barred us from getting in to trains. Our seller union is in talks with the officials. We do not have the approval yet, so I am hopping to trains from Aluthgama to Hikkaduwa. I do not go to Galle, because I may get arrested. I had been arrested 5 times, for selling water.”

With a deep sigh, he continued.

“Now our people have started fighting among ourselves ( he was referring to Gintota clash) . Media would project as many other things they want. what happens ? Tourists will stop coming to our area. ”

I saw him selling his water in the train. One Sri Lankan customer purchased one bottle ( Rs. 50/-) and showed a Rs. 1000 note. I was furious just to look at it. But this entrepreneur went to the next customer and a one more and got it sorted out. Not a hint of irritation in his face or his actions.

These entrepreneurs are the fabric of our country who bears the burden of the embroidery of GDP and other economic numbers you see in many glossy reports.

These people have no safety nets. They hustle on a daily basis, with no excuses. The system is against them, yet they do not give up, they hold on. The struggle is real. They put food on the table. They are the real heroes. A country which does not have these people in their agenda is a nation of hypocrites. These people are not in our radar in the AC room discussions in Colombo. While we go on social media saying western forces are robbing us, just think, we are robbing these people of their future as if they do not exist.