The Social Dilemma

With a business model to drive up engagement, even at the expense of our mental health being , these are all the consequences which has grown exponentially post 2011.

Netflix has recently put up a documentary on the dilemma and havocs of social media. People who have worked in leadership teams of Facebook, Google, Instagram , YouTube are now warning how of the evils of social media and how it manipulates our daily life.

This show scared me. The influence of social media is strong and it can mess up with our heads. What we are already experiencing around us is extremely polarising opinions, extremism, anxiety, vanity-ism, depression , isolation. There are many other “ISMS” and “IONS”, I might be missing some out.

With a business model to drive up engagement, even at the expense of our mental health being , these are all the consequences which has grown exponentially post 2011.

No one can deny the beauty and wonder of these technologies. But when it becomes an addiction , which it was designed to , it is a serious cause of concern. We are literally pawns in the hands of these tech giants, and they sell our vulnerabilities to the advertisers, the highest bidder. The content that you see is altered as per your interest. This is how the algorithm works. It recommends videos and topics of similar interests which leads you to believe one type of narrative instead of a neutral perspective. This is dangerous and it can be/has been exploited.

For eg, The Like button, a stroke of genius. It was developed to create positivity and love but what it become was a source of validation and a popularity contest. Growing children, teenagers who are emotionally vulnerable are now suffering from low self esteem, depression and isolation. And ironically as someone on the show said, the more likes you get, the more empty you feel.

We need to remember, these apps were all developed by IT professionals and marketeers to drive up engagement with their app . We are not their customers, the advertisers are. We are mere subjects and they make money on their knowledge of us.

I don’t know how long the effect of this show will have on me . But I know if I don’t do anything about it for myself and family, It will be my responsibility. Please watch the show and act on it.

Nostalgia and the Circe of Life

How many times have you heard your parents say ‘in our times things were so good’ or the ‘good old days! When they reminisced about the simplicity of life and how wholesome and uncomplicated life generally was

How many times have you heard your parents say ‘in our times things were so good’ or the ‘good old days! When they reminisced about the simplicity of life and how wholesome and uncomplicated life generally was. I didn’t understand then, but I can now understand where they were coming from. Penny for a loaf of bread, 100 pennies for a carat of diamond! It seemed exactly as crazy then as it seems now.

Fast forward to our childhood , we still have the wholesomeness of climbing a tree followed by gradual introduction to internet. We rode bikes , played all sort of outdoor games and most of the things our parents did as children. Then our world changed. Internet, Nokia 3610 and rest is history. Yes, we are the generation that watched pictures download pixel by pixel and files download page by page. So a word of advice, do not test our patience. We used to worry about our 30 hour internet package finishing which was supposed to last us all month long.

Then comes the current generation, which can also be labelled as I am bored generation which needs constant simulation and is spoilt for choices. While kids still do enjoy the outdoor things, but more often than not it is a result of mindful parenting and persistence. Keeping them away from the screen is a constant battle similar to how I battle my addiction with desserts. But no matter how many times we complain about the internet, no one can deny how much it has contributed to our quality of life . Each time I have a video chat with my family, I send a prayer of gratitude to those who made this possible. Made the distance seem so less. I still remember the era of TRUNK call and how expensive it was to have even a 3 min conversation. Now my mom puts me on hold if even a remotely interesting thing comes her way. My value of calls have depreciated so much. 🙂

Sometimes I cannot help but wonder how much has changed with each generation. I am almost scared to imagine how different things will be 20 years down the line. But one thing which is constant, is change itself and it is only if we adapt to the changing times especially in terms of mindset, we can really connect with the next generation.

Ramadan and the Nostalgia it brings…

The holy month of Ramadan is here. I pray this month is just not about fasting but also learning to be a better Muslim. I have so much to learn and yet get distracted by things that do not even matter!!

I worry that I am not setting the right example for my child. Sure, she sees me fasting and praying , but is it enough ? As a parent, it is such a big responsibility to pass on the right values and I feel kids learn most by observing . Seeing is believing.

I have grown up in a liberal enviroment yet with strong religious values. Ramadan was celebrated in a big way. Not big in terms of number of dishes on the table but spiritually. For instance, there was always someone dedicated to whom my mom sent an Iftar tray to . During the last 10 days of Ramadan , I would see both my parents silently praying and reading Quran in different corners of the house all night until Fajar and the regular things like charity and so on.

Now looking back , what I miss the most is when we all gathered near the TV at the time of Iftar dua and break fast together. My brother bringing samosas or something equally mouth watering on the way back from his office. The comfort of food, the banter and love for each other. What I wouldn’t give to have those times back. To have my parents healthier and younger.

This is the biggest ordeal of growing up. To see our loved ones age . No matter where you are and how comfortable you maybe, but seeing your loved ones getting older or sick and leaving for eternal abode takes a piece of you. I yearn to be a child again when I didn’t have to face this reality. Losing my dad , my mamoo( Uncle) and Khala (Aunt) in a year’s time , I feel a deep sense of loss each time I think about them, especially when I fly back home. I know it will never be the same again. But life goes on and you learn to cope with grief.

Now that I am a grown up, have my own family, it is my responsibility to make Ramadan as memorable as my parents did for me . Pass on the same values. And it is not easy. I pray that I have the strength and determination to make most of this blessed month and I carry it’s essence for the rest of the year . Ramadan Mubarak to all of you !

Picky Eater….Is it Karma?

My mom leaves no stone unturned to remind me how much trouble I gave her in feeding me. Which I do not completely agree with. Yes, I may have some clear preferences about my food choices but still there were a lot of options that I gladly used to have. She just needed to be more proactive and creative.

So here I am, decades later complaining about my picky almost 9 year old daughter .It seems Karma is doing it’s rounds and that too with compound interest. I don’t think I even hold a candle in front of her.

My daughter has had Haleem almost daily for 4 years. I am seriously not kidding . Those who do not know what Haleem is, it is slow cooked meat and lentil stew which takes around 4 hours to make. Don’t panic. I used to make it weekly and not daily :).

So anything fried , crunchy or sweet , she is attracted like moth to fire. But otherwise, its been a tedious task including new dishes to her palate. Today I gathered some courage and told her she should at least include an apple in her daily diet. So after a lot of protest and negotiations with her dad, the agreement was made to have the apple at 5:00 clock.

E at 5 :00 pm : Mama , don’t cut , just bring it as it is.

Me at 5:30 : You have hardly taken two bites! Told you to have in slices instead.

E at 5:40: Okay mama , give it to me in slices.

Me at 6 :00: Lets go for a walk.

E: I can’t . I have to finish my apple.

Fortunately when I came back from the walk , that plate had magically disappeared. But E was extremely upset that she could not go for a walk because she had to finish that apple. The next 15 -20 mins were not very pleasant to say the least and involved lot of tears and accusations.

So its almost dinner time now . Since she isn’t a fan of seafood, I jokingly told E that we are having fish burgers for dinner.

E: I wish I was allergic to fish.

I think tomorrow I should serve apple at 3:00 clock instead ? lol

Remote Learning #CoronaDiaries

So the remote learning at my end officially begins. So husband is on an conference call in one room and daughter is having hers in the other . I am feeling extremely left out.

Post Corona , there will be a new normal . And work from home concept will snowball into so many new things, in education and businesses alike. There are some companies who have earlier encouraged employees to work from home but hopefully more employers would join the work from home wagon. Maybe later people don’t have to turn in 5 days a week and the concept of 9-5 becomes obsolete. Who knows! With change, the most challenging part is the resistance to change. Under the current circumstances, no one really had a choice not to adapt to technology and after few weeks working like this , people are getting somewhat comfortable with the set up. So later, if we have a combination of office and work from home , it would be a welcome change. It may not apply to all fields but environmentally, it will benefit everyone .

Life of a mother of one is so much easier than those with more . It is simple math. If I had 3 or more, I truly would be pulling my hair right now. My friend is going crazy with her 3 kids. Their schedules, their assignments and so on. So if you have 3 or more kids remote learning , good luck !

In the past two days I have downloaded about 5-6 new apps of google. The speed at which I am downloading apps for remote learning, I should have over 25 apps by end of the week. But the good thing is , it is REALLY working. There is google Class room , hangout meet, zoom and other google platform apps. So once you have your gmail Id, you are all sorted . My daughter looks forward to hear from her teacher and reluctantly does the assignments later. Under the given circumstances, it is great what we can do thanks to technology.

Remote learning is not completely new to me . I actually got acquainted with it like a month back. We have kept a Quran Teacher for my daughter and it is working out brilliantly. This was my first experience with an online teacher and I am not turning back with this one. Would definitely recommend going online on this front. No stranger in the house. Flexibility to switch times and even if you travel, you don’t miss your lesson!

The other day, I asked my daughter how she is finding the idea of home learning. She said she was loving it as she could get hot food 24/7 . She usually likes going to school, but she seems to be enjoying the novelty of having hot waffles while doing her assignments. Don’t really blame her there . Though I think by the end of the month, she may feel differently.

On a separate note , I strongly feel remote learning has so much potential. It is cheap and has reach . Your teacher could be sitting in Antarctica and you can still learn. We should consider using this model in villages and for those who cannot afford to send their children to school . This can extend to other fields as well such as healthcare. We just need to learn how to use the technology effectively.

Evolution of Education

Over the weekend I received an email from my daughter’s school. The starting of the email was so somber, words like ‘I regret to inform you…….’ that I embraced myself for the worst . Perhaps something happened to the teacher ?

It turned out that her teacher had to suddenly resign due to personal reasons. Over the next two days , there was discussion about smooth transition , finding a replacement which is best fit and most importantly emotional health of the children. And I found this so overwhelming. I am coming from a school which was very strict and rigid. We as students were mass produced like in factories. The constant strive for academic perfection. No one cared how we felt. It was all about the grades. I vividly remember in Year 10, a girl who got an A grade in her Board exam was treated like a pariah as the rest had passed with distinction. So even though she had gotten an A , it was just not good enough.

Education has evolved so much since our time. The focus now is on a well rounded personality instead only focusing on the academic aspect. There are many things which I feel were better in our times like simplicity and less materialism but the approach to education nowadays is hands down better and balanced.

Coming from Pakistan, things still get really competitive there. Imagine registering your child immediately after your delivery out of fear that he/she would not make it to the right school. And I am NOT exaggerating. Pakistani moms can only relate to this. I think we as parents should take a step back and ease off the pressure on our children. Learning to write your name at 2 and speaking a second language at age 3 is certainly not a benchmark for measuring intelligence.

We are becoming a country which is not going beyond the safety net of a Doctor , Engineer or MBA( that too as a compromise). We need entrepreneurs , artists, innovators and athletes . They are as important as any other field and our country direly needs them. Let the creativity flow and let your child explore and thrive besides academics as well. It is only when we shed our inhibitions or travel on a road less travelled, the most amazing things happen.