Click like option and forego empathy

Published: 01st November 2013 06:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 01st November 2013 01:00 AM   |  A+A-

I have often wondered why Facebook was designed with a limited option to “like” any post irrespective of the content. If there were options like “feel sad” or “disturbing”, it would have provided the users with a wider ambit as we encounter substantial amount of distressing news every day. It doesn’t matter even if a humorous post invites the comment “feel sad”!

Look at the scenario today.

When a tragic news is uploaded like the death of a beloved, hundreds of people like the piece. “Terrorists spray bullets around”; thousands like the news. “A good Samaritan is murdered.” Again, many a “like” clicked. In the absence of an explanatory comment, I am baffled as to what exactly makes people like the death of a person or any tragic news for that matter. Is it the bereavement they like (sadists?), the manner in which it is written or something else? GOK! (God only knows). But I must admit I was also guilty of liking bad news and by corollary, disliking good news.

As primary schoolgoing children, we lived in a colony where there were many Brahmins. When a person passed away in a Brahmin family, it was a custom in close-knit colonies those days that on a specific day following the death of the person, certain sweets and savouries prepared to mark the occasion would be distributed to a known circle.

These would be hand delivered at our doorsteps by a messenger with grief writ large on his face. The main item of the pack included a mega sized adhirasam, a round flat sweet prepared out of rice flour and jaggery syrup. The mesmerising fragrance emanating from inside the parcel would pervade the ambience. We would devour the contents, feasting on adhirasam especially. When there was a long lull between two deliveries, we had innocently pronounced, “Friends. We can only wish for adhirasams and leave the rest to God!” Little did we realise then, the pain that death caused.

A couple living in our colony did not have a child even 10 years after their marriage. Based on an elder’s suggestion, they started a puja every Friday evening and at the end of it around 8pm, children living in the colony would be summoned and offered a glassful of semolina kheer (payasam) of a heavenly taste. Once the call came, we would run frantically to their house. Probably, since the craving of the parents for a progeny and the joy they expected to see in each child as he/she tasted their kheer were part of the ingredients, its taste was nonpareil. The ritual went for six months and suddenly, the invite vanished.

After many weeks, I quizzed my mother who smiled and said, “Oh. By the grace of God, that aunty has delivered a healthy male baby and soon you can play with him.”

It was a thunderbolt as it meant that curtains were down for the Friday kheer. Little did we appreciate the bliss that the parents derived from a landmark event in their life.

Fortunately, as I matured, I began to appreciate what an amazing quality empathy is! I presume Mark Zuckerberg did not have tiny tots in his mind when he innovated the “like” concept. Or did he?


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