Age of Porn / Age of Kali

Traveller, foodie, and photographer!!! These powerful three words, or traits, probably capture the personality profile of 90% of millennials / “generation me” navigating the wild-wild-web on those social, or not-so-social, websites.

These foodie travelers armed with cameras are in the pursuit of creating mind-boggling images every second. Some 800 billion photos were created and shared on social networks in the year 2014, and these numbers are quadrupling every quarter, and the world seems to be shifting to images as demonstrated by the fact that Instagram users (Instagram is social network built for sharing of images) far exceed users of Twitter, which is more about sharing of thoughts/ideas/content along with images.

So clearly, ‘photo’ is in and ‘selfie’ is the official buzz-word of the year 2014, where each day overwhelms us with barrage of photographs shot at perfect times enhanced for that perfect look showcasing our latest travel adventure captured in that DSLR or on mobile with nth options, and reinforcing the photographer/traveler in us. Not to be left far behind, Masterchef TV show continues to attract a new crowd every year and roll out seasons after seasons in the wake of its ever-increasing reach and popularity across every race/culture!!! And thus comes our foodie, traveler and photographer!

So, the age of conspicuous consumption or age of porn!!!

Enhanced photos of self, surreal photos of travel, picture-perfect cooking shows in beautiful kitchens filled with shining crockery, and continued onslaught of beautiful, desirable and unreal photo-shopped images consumed by a generation lurching in their cubicle/pajamas, and as far away from the real thing as possible!!!

As we start to look around and see things closely, it suddenly dawns to us that we are staring at an age of simple and quick gratification where every story is cut/edited and photo-shopped in the most glamourized way with more connection to fantasy than to reality. This is being created for mass consumption, a pattern which one would associate with pornography rather than things like social networks. The onslaught of images, the media and the advent of smartphones are making things more like porn than anything else, and it looks like we are finally in the “Age of Porn” with all things porn.

There is FoodPorn, where a glamourized spectacular visual presentation of exotic food is voraciously consumed by masses of people who rarely enter the kitchen or indulge in any sort of cooking, but savor all cookery shows.

We have TEDPorn, where complex concepts are simplified by big font presentations. This overwhelms the users into a surreal world of make-believe where every big thought/idea can be explained in big font 18 slides. Umair Haque – in his thought-provoking blog post, “Let’s save great ideas from the ideas Industry,” published in Harvard Business Review – argues that TED thinking is an anti-thesis of big ideas where it cheats us by “putting climatic epiphany before experience, education and elevation”. This reduces our experience of a great idea to a porn-like experience where one is consumed by simplicity and glamour and is removed from reality. Thus, argues Haque, users are incapable of experiencing the big idea and enjoying its reality.

At one end, where the intellectual elite are consumed by TEDporn, dreamy-eyed among them are consumed by StartUpPorn at another spectrum. This is consuming hordes of youngsters/business executives, who are blinded by flashing headlines of billion-dollar valuations and are jumping in startup bandwagon without any suitable skills or resources, yet feeling like a rockstar. The fact of the matter is that every startup founder is indeed a rock star, but without corresponding stage-lights and roaring, swooning audience. He is a rockstar where lights are off, stands are empty, and the battle is a long lonely night with Rudyard Kipling whispering softly in the ear, “When there is nothing left except the will, which says ‘Hold on’.” Running a startup is a lonely battle and an everyday struggle with or without funding, and nothing like the glamourized world as painted by the media. However, the glamour of startups or StartUpPorn keeps on attracting all those converts / non-converts with just images of billion-dollar valuations dancing in mind.

However, to make matters worse and probably to make StartUpPorn more palatable, we are now getting ushered to FailurePorn, where failure is getting glamourized in a way to supplement the argument for consuming StartUpPorn. Glamourizing failure is leading many down a tricky path and embarking on a treacherous journey for which they are not ready mentally or financially. Geoff Lewis, a partner of FoundersFund, rightly cautions in his article published in Washington Post about celebrating failure too much. With almost negligible fear of failure, it is creating a myopic view and getting us to consume “failure” as fast-fashion peddled by highly successful people without any relation to reality.

However, all these – FoodPorn, TEDPorn, StartUpPorn, FailurePorn – pale when it comes to the biggest porn created by all of us in the form of those perfect moments of joy continuously fed on social sites – SocialPorn. These picture-perfect moments of others’ lives suddenly make our own life appear mediocre/duller/more boring than what it is, and hence, chips away some part of us every day!

As real porn destroys young minds and makes one incapable of having a real relationship with real people, this multi-faceted porn is destroying every part of life in a way one never imagined!! Probably ‘Age of Kali’, or kaliyug as Hindus believe, is finally here and is manifesting its presence by these daily destructions and consuming us.

It’s here, it’s here, it’s here! Images, images, and Aaahhhhh – more images!!