Immodest Hermes: Messaging System

By Mayank Goel

From its inception, Research In Motion Limited, now known as Blackberry Limited marketed devices, which were alluring mostly to corporate consumers for about a decade or so. The secure messaging system on its encrypted servers, to be known popularly today as the Blackberry Messenger or simply BBM, created a secure platform for businessmen to send and receive information and messages instantaneously in the form of text without the need of direct human contact. RIM gave their white-collar customers the much-popularized moniker ‘the Blackberry boys’.

But with the introduction of the Apple iPhone and Google’s pervasive Mobile Operating System Android, RIM needed a move that would give them a way to sustain market share by appealing to a wider audience. Text messaging was gaining momentum with modern society as a whole, so the Blackberry devices were now marketed to everyone whether they were corporate honchos or not. A market that was easily captured and capitalized for a long time was that consisting of teenagers who, owing to their characteristic aversion towards human interaction, are ardent proponents of ‘texting’. Today, texting has become a major factor determining the dynamics of urban life, because it is one of the popular mediums of communication. We have hundreds of different servers and platforms facilitating instant messaging. Even the Blackberry Messenger is available on all platforms which renders the hitherto exclusivity of the Blackberry Boy title worthless.

Not to deny, texting is a social phenomenon, which has a multiplicity of benefits like the speed and convenience it offers as a means of communication. But there might be sociological impacts of this phenomenon, which might decrease the quality of human interaction due to the multifarious benefits, especially the ones we just mentioned– speed and convenience.

Now the thing that messaging these days touts the most is that it is instant. In an instant one can be in touch with their friends and family, which does seem and undoubtedly is an appealing prospect. But let us consider a very economic nuance of human behaviour, if we have easy access to something, the utility we derive from it reduces. The systematic decrease of family ties, decrease of the tolerance level of people and overall hedonism that today’s human behaviour exalts is a product of the nerve wrecking dynamism we live in. And this is something that is different from the market dynamism that sprung up after the consumerist revolution (although this is also a factor of social change); it is social dynamism that exists from this easy access to people. Now, text messaging, to be clear is not a root cause of this sociological shift, but it is just a speedy catalyst due to its speed.

Human beings, biologically due to their higher intelligence, have a relatively sensitive conscious or ‘ego’ (Freudian, not the modern colloquialism). This makes humans averse to unnecessary human interaction. Earlier on people used to find it difficult to interact with people of differing cultures, because of their unawareness of peculiar cultural differences. With the onset of a telecommunication revolution and free access to information people became more interactive as they were well aware of other cultures as well of their own. But the spurt non-verbal communication was regressive in another way. People nowadays are in favour of averting the ‘social awkwardness’ caused by face-to-face and verbal communication because keeping the tone, gestures in check and being responsive real-time can be burdensome. But in one way or the other, as a general effect, it is possible to undermine the nature of natural human expression by discouraging the conventional forms of human interaction. Not to mention the contortions the English language had to undergo to compensate for the convenience and speed.

On the whole, given the plethora of positives this form of interaction provides, its certain characteristic might not affect human contact on the whole, as everyone hones their social skills somehow to survive, but it may have a dehumanizing effect on how we think about human contact.

Mayank Goel is a second year student at SRCC pursuing B.Com(H). But his interests stretch way off from his college-course combination. Coming from a family of artists and journalists, he has been an amateur drummer for a long period of time (long enough for someone to move on from amateur). He has a keen interest in subjects like economics, behavioral economics and even philosophy and psychology. Although open to opinions, he can spend hours on frivolous talk just to win an argument.