‘Get a life’ said a very old friend who was briefly in my orkut community ‘The Good Life!’, and drew everybody’s attention to the recent news item that one of the IITs has imposed a curfew on netsurfing time, the authorities having felt that students are rapidly becoming net-junkies and losing out on their social life – and, I suppose, on study time and health as well – which, if true, would of course be a very serious matter. I should like to examine the issue in detail and in a calm, open-eyed, rational manner: in this country we have a habit of jumping to conclusions and taking hasty action which too often boomerangs on us, or fails us badly.
Firstly – as I have heard from my dad’s generation, seen from my own college days, and my own old boys and girls in college today keep telling me – much of that happy ‘social life’ in college has always been a myth or a chimera for most young people. Most of them find (or keep) very few true friends in college: most of them remain unhappy members of what a wise man has dubbed ‘the lonely crowd’, afraid of peer pressure to conform, desperately trying to be ‘in’, often against their own tastes and wishes, and becoming warped in the process, getting drawn into all kinds of seriously-bad habits which take a very heavy toll a few years down the line, and wasting an enormous amount of time in the process. What is called ‘a life’, or ‘enjoyment’ or ‘fun’ or whatever is just that – waste of many valuable years in bad living. Just as bad as what we elders often do at our parties, gorging and drinking away and leering at one another’s wives and daughters, rarely having five straight minutes of informed and intelligent conversation!
If the above is accepted to be by and large true, I shall proceed to make my second point: consider the typical college-goer who doesn’t play outdoor games much, does not have special circles of friends with common interests (like watching movies, making music, or going trekking) and cannot or won’t socialize at the canteen or nearby pub. For him or her, the Net is a godsend! Now the Net can be abused like anything else – you can waste all your time watching porn or forwarding silly jokes or playing juvenile games or scribbling crap scrap – and those who are by nature inclined to such abuse will always find a way of doing it, whether the college bosses facilitate things or not. I have the more refined and serious-minded youngsters in mind, especially those who, being by nature quiet and shy and finicky about things like bad language and noise and rude jokes, cannot socialize very well face to face. The privacy and relative impersonality of a net chat room (you don’t have to see the person you are chatting with, and he or she cannot directly yell at you, and you can log out or cut out anyone you don’t like without hassles…), especially if one is using a computer in one’s own room, offers lots of nice and clever youngsters to ‘get a life’ the only way they can. It must NOT be assumed that they are losing out on life: indeed, looking at the animated discussion board at my orkut community, it seems to be quite the contrary situation! And I know for a fact that many of these boys and girls are simultaneously pursuing other good hobbies and doing well at their studies too. Nobody needs to become a net-junkie any more than he needs to become a glutton or a drunk or a TV-addict: let’s not blame the net instead of ourselves for our failings!
Think about it, and get back to me. I hope my friend's son reads this too. Meanwhile, happy surfing, everybody – just don’t overdo it. Our religion says sarvam atyantam garhitam: all excess is bad!