Tuesday, May 18, 2021 | Shawwal 5, 1442 H
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Virtual reality and the factual unrealism


I was looking at the full moon as I was driving on the road. I did not realise I was actually slowing down until an impatient driver behind me honked several times. I decided to pull up at the side of the road.

I walked out and took a picture of the moon so I would not miss anything. As I was walking back to my car, I was surprised that no one had noticed it was the night of the full moon. Everybody was busy with their routine and none thought it was exciting enough to look up.

Later on that evening, to make sure my effort did not go unnoticed, I sent the photo to my WhatsApp group, just to share what I saw that evening. An hour passed and no one really made any comment. I was a little disappointed, but mostly surprised with people’s reactions.

Had I sent photos of a car accident with bodies lying injured or dead on the road, then everybody would have made comments. No one is really interested with the celestial body lighting up a dark sky.

Perhaps I was expecting too much. People are not obliged to get connected to what has moved you. They have their own agendas. Like motorists on the roads, they just want to do what they think is best for them.

Attracting the curiosity of people can be challenging for those looking for quick reactions. Most of us go for the drama. The splashing of the blood and the broken limbs. They want to see misfortunes of others fully visible on the small screens of their mobiles.

I guess it is a new element of modern human nature. I am not sure which clever man in history who once said, “Show me grace and I will ignore it but show me distress, then I will give it my full attention.” That’s the way it is. Talking about social media, it is funny how they coined the trend. How could anyone be locked in his own world with just a mobile phone in his hands and be social?

The virtual information disconnects people from reality but yet we all get connected electronically in trivial pursuit. You can see the full moon anytime you want and you don’t have to be there when it rises to the sky.

But I guess what really attracts people to social media is the unreality of the whole thing. Clever manipulations of video clips, graphics, voices and even photographs are all designed to make a dramatic impact.

You know what you are looking at is unreal but you still go along with it. We have windows in our houses but we have stopped looking outside as if the real scenes that look back to us are not factual. The sad thing is our children grow up into the habit. It is an inheritance will have irreversible damage.

Children, as they grow up, can only sniff the rose or see the sunset on virtual reality. They also feel the raindrops on their hands the same way. With social media, there is no hands-on stuff.

We grew up to get our hands dirty playing in the streets or just kick a ball around. But they miss all that and parents are OK with it.

The other sad thing is that there is a big emotional gap which no social media sophistication can fill. Tears that are dropped in Instagram or WhatsApp lose touch with reality. They do not mean anything. Just another virtual feeling completely isolated from real emotion.

I bet kids now do not even notice stars shining on the sky or have never seen a leaf dropping from a tree.

To them, it is a jungle of an electronics maze coming right from their mobile phones.

Saleh Al-Shaibany


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