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Saturday, November 17, 2012

Irresponsibility of Adulthood

South Asian cultures place a high degree of importance on adulthood. How many times have you heard your parents tell you, be nice to so and so because they are elders of the family? Even if you know that said elderly is being irrational. If you are born and raised under south asian influences, this theme runs rampant in our families. Tolerance, acceptance, and silent deference are taught from a young age.

But let me ask for once. What earns one respect? Respect is not given by default, its earned through your behaviors, actions and words. Being an older adult is not an automatic license to win respect. And when the  very adults who are supposed to act as role models to the youngsters become the petulant child, what is a person to do?

Adults who do not pause to think how their actions affect the youngsters do a huge disservice to the society and their circle of influence. Yes, we make mistakes but setting a good example is not a matter of rocket science, its a daily discipline. As adults (anyone over the age of 18 really) we live and we learn. We make mistakes and when we do, our maturity requires that we admit it, use it as learning point and pass the lessons to our youth.

Online behavior of adults has been a matter of huge discussion ever since I joined India Forums. I've maintained this that although I am an adult, I am not in the business of mommying anyone on the forum, unless I get to know them personally. To that end, I have resisted "telling" anyone to behave in a certain way. I understand the fine line i walk everyday, given that my adulthood gives me certain confidence and experience to really influence young minds, if i chose to. I have seen many who quickly establish credibility among the youngest members through their poignant posts, compelling fan fictions and rib-tickling sarcasm. This is all well and good as long as the intent is to have fun at the expense of a show and its characters.

The forum is very young and easily excitable. How responsible is it of adults to rile the forum to get what they  want? How you ask? Here are a few examples.

Use your formidable strength of words to create petitions after petitions, rousing the young to focus unilaterally on a purpose and providing fodder to the angst of the young. What we adults give our young is perspective in life. Yes, a show is important but only for the 30 minutes of the life we set aside for entertainment. Yes, you must stand for a cause beyond yourself, but the cause has to be worthy enough to touch another humans life in positive ways. Yes, we all know we want a certain actor to continue working on the show, but despite his million appeals and clarifications, we continue to seek a fall-guy to blame others for a decision that is his. We need youth activism and young hot blooded energy to make the world an exciting and lively place to live. Without the young, the world will be full of grouchy old people. But we also need to work on understanding when to stop our activism, a wisdom that comes with experience (not age). As adults, most of us can be excessively aggressive on the forum yet revert to our lives like sane people. An impressionable mind is often unable to do that.

Use your clout in the forum to get what you want. How many times have you received PMs inciting you to do this or that? The PMs range from emotional appeals to threats. Someone decides to leave the forum because they were hurt by XYZ and sends mass PMs to others. This in turn causes mass hysteria of "why are you leaving? please stay, don't worry about "them", we will teach them a lesson etc etc etc" My question to adults is - is this necessary? If you were hurt or wronged by someone, you are the adult, send a pm to the person who wronged you, sort it out in private, don't create mass hysteria among supporters to massage your ego. And if you want to leave, just say goodbye with grace and leave. Do your reasons matter to anyone besides you? By using forum clout to show who's the boss, we tell our youngsters that its ok to use high school bully tactics to gain support.

Use the forum to amass support for a cause, using public berating and abuse to silence others into submission. My question to any adult is this - was this your absolute best solution to a problem? We are taught to look at problems from many angles and seek counsel from others to gain different points of view, identify a set of solutions and alternatives. We get to the root causes of a problem and try to address the cause not just the symptom. This is what adulthood teaches you. However, when you decide to air your dirty laundry without considering alternative solutions, you've just shown how irresponsible you are. Rousing a young forum to incite bullying and "put someone in their place" is not problem solving, its a form of online harassment.

Finally, using your adulthood as your stamp to legitimacy. Sorry, just because you are older does not automatically grant your views legitimacy. Good reasoning, sound experience, middle ground thinking and a nurturing attitude makes you an adult.

That felt good to let it out of my system.