So it took me about a year to claim a piece of paper from the government. It was an Occupancy Permit for our home, which merely proves that the structure we built and live in really belongs to us. Now Iâ€™ve always believed that happiness is relative. And to tell you the truth, this was the happiest Iâ€™ve been over a piece of paper. In retrospect, it made me wonder about the entire government bureaucracy. That when you enter city hall, all your hopes and dreams are tucked away underneath a 10-foot pile of blueprints and permits. It amazes me how employees can make sense of this mess. But then I realize that the acumen they have for finding a piece of paper is inversely proportional to their knowledge about computers.
Now Iâ€™m no armchair activist, but paying numerous visits to a city hall has perhaps earned me some right in becoming an unpaid consultant for business process: First of all, why are there barely any computers in sight? Weâ€™ve managed fly-by photos of Pluto, but canâ€™t computerize a process where the delays are mostly spent waiting on a couch.
But yes, Virginia, there is a silver lining! The agonyâ€”and the ecstasy that we can derive from such experiences. Of being able to defend against several waves of attacks in Clash of Clans while waiting for the official signatory to come back from an extended lunch break. Of being able to finish a 10-hour audiobook in two days while driving in traffic-laden Manila. So itâ€™s a conundrum really. We buy better cars so we can drive in worsening traffic. We decide to work from home and the Internet is shitty. And thereâ€™s the rub. Weâ€™re connected. But we pay the consequence in terms of time. We start asking existential questions such as â€œIs listening to a book still considered reading?â€ Or â€œIs playing an online game with strangers the same as playing in a park with strangers?â€ Or â€œIs the two-hour traffic jam worth it just to see my friends when thereâ€™s always our Viber group?â€
To tell you the truth, Iâ€™m still coming to terms with all of this. Remember when the pager was the in-thing? That was a decade and a half ago. Now we have smartphones. Itâ€™s going to change 15 years from now. So, as of this moment, let me share three â€œtruthsâ€ that Iâ€™ve come to accept:
I believe in â€œiPad parentingâ€
Have you seen the studies posted on BuzzFeed, Mashable and all those â€œviralâ€ websites talking about how iPads ruin kids? Do you believe them? Iâ€™ve never been one to toot my horn on my personal Facebook page about â€œiPad parentingâ€ but when it gets down to the nitty gritty of it, all I have to say is that Iâ€™d rather have my 2 1/2 year old son sitting still with an iPad so he can eat a full meal than pay for it later at 2AM when he tries to wake my and my wife up asking for rice.
Yes, yes I admit â€” in public I do feel a bit of guilt when I pull out the iPad in a restaurant. I suddenly become aware of the heads slowly turning our way; the casting of judgemental eyes. But then again, what do they know? â€œStudies show that so and so technology is bad for your kids.â€ But really, how long have smartphones and tablets been around to reinforce long-term behavioural studies on children as they grow up? Remember, decades ago when science said butter was evil? TIME magazine published a retraction â€” on the front page evil saying itâ€™s fine, eat all the butter you want.â€ In the same way that my grandfather thought that my dadâ€™s Beatles album was â€œdemonicâ€ I believe we shouldnâ€™t set the same standards, at least with certain things, to our children. At the end of the day, itâ€™s us living in their world now. I believe in teaching resilience. But part of resilience is all about being able to adapt. So yeah, have that iPad in your baby bag. Just in case.
Iâ€™d rather get into a fist-fight than get trolled on the Internet
Think back for a minute. Are there old sayings from the past few decades that may not be as applicable today? Well Iâ€™ve got one. bring yourself back to when you were about 5 or 6 years old. Bring yourself back to the playground. Or the school grounds after classes while waiting for the bus. Bring yourself back saying â€œSticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me!â€ Itâ€™s what our parents used to tell us â€” those magic incantations we spewed out at bullies. A shield of words against peer pressure and the qualms of childhood resilience. Arenâ€™t words more powerful? Bruises heal. But words cut deep.
How many times have we seen articles on Facebook reporting teens undergoing depression or committing suicide because of online bullying? Arenâ€™t words more hurtful? Donâ€™t they create emotional scars? Itâ€™s come to the point where, if you have your pre-teen child playing online games on the XBOX, youâ€™ll have to shut off the volume of the microphone because random strangers are spewing expletives while playing Call of Duty â€” â€œWHO THE F*CK IS THIS NOOB?â€ â€œC*CKS****R!â€ â€œGET OUT YOU PIECE OF S**T.â€ What do we do when the bullying happens in our very home, in our own childrenâ€™s rooms, through thin air? As a parent, how are we informed?
Definitely, bullying has taken a new form. Itâ€™s different – the fact is, trolling the Internet doesnâ€™t even require one to have grudges. Itâ€™s the sheer anonymity that makes the plotting desirable. I was listening to an NPR podcast about online bullies who have made 180 degree changes to their lives thereâ€™s a sweeping consensus that trolling with hate stems from oneâ€™s own self-loathing. And if we actually do take a look behind the screens of our iPads and smartphones, weâ€™re not looking at a bully twice our own size cracking his fists. Weâ€™re actually looking at someone that quite resembles our very own selves. And they need help.
Strangers will help strangers
But then of course, thereâ€™s the other side of the spectrum. Anonymity doesnâ€™t always beget hate. The Internet has opened up many avenues for people to help one another. From crowdfunding sites like KickStarter, to Reddit communities like /r/RandomActsofPizza where strangers can send pizza deliveries to other strangers who canâ€™t afford dinner or /r/Vagabond which serves as the â€œDigital Home for Vagabonds and Houselessâ€ thereâ€™s a lot of love going around. Shakespeare once said (through Portia, from The Merchant of Venice) that â€˜the quality of mercy is twice blessed – it blesses he who gives and he who receives.â€ When I was younger and without the wonders of the Internet and a smartphone, my independent world revolved around how far my dirt bike would take me. My world revolved around memorising facts indulging my teachers in the art of the didactic. When the Internet opened up and Wikipedia became a global phenomenon, knowledge all of a sudden became a commodity. And, if you are like me and follow most of what goes viral on the Internet, weâ€™ve come to that point where what has become important to us is the challenge of understanding other individuals – their culture, their sexual orientation, their politics. Acquiring knowledge is easy. Empathy to others is this generationâ€™s challenge.
Itâ€™s still human
There was one thing I failed to mention about my frequent trips to city hall. Despite the surmounting number of permits and forms to be filled, there were always helping hands that knew how to sympathise. Every so often a city official would look at me â€” haggard, sweating, downtrodden. Like Iâ€™ve really lost this battle of back and forth attrition. And they would tell me â€œitâ€™s ok, let me help you fix this.â€ Turns out itâ€™s not that bad at all. And itâ€™s an experience I would never get if I were in front of the computer. Itâ€™s all about empathy.