How to have meaningful conversations on the internet? ft Bolti Bandh
In this week's episode of When We Met Podcast by Platform For Artists, we talk to Jahnavi Jayanth and Trina Talukdar, who are the Co-Founders of Bolti Bandh.
The below piece is written by Deepannita Kundu about When We Met Podcast.
About the Guests
Trina is the Co-founder of Bolti Bandh and a community leader. She is also the Co-founder of Kranti, an organisation that transforms girls from Mumbai’s Red Light Areas into agents of social change.
Jahnavi is the Co-founder of Bolti Bandh, a dancer, and a cat mom. She describes herself as an opinionated person and is therefore trying to grow this community that listens to those with opposing views into a movement to bring harmony and solidarity in our communities. Bolti Bandh: De-polarising by listening to the “other”.
Trina and Jahnavi recall how differences in opinion and opposing views brought a rift in their personal relationships. According to them if we stop engaging with those who think differently from us because they never seem to agree with us and we don’t want to feel aggressively attacked then we are only widening the gulf and growing more distant as a community.
We often selectively listen to and process information that confirms what we already believe and reject everything else that doesn’t fit our narrative. It is important to listen to WHY others believe what they do, instead of debating over the WHAT.
School never teaches us to make friendships or develop socio-emotional skills, does this make it harder for us to be good friends as adults?
Trina says Friendship is not one of the qualities that we teach children to aspire towards. Rather we take everything that children enjoy together be it sports or creative activities and turn it into a competition. So we incentivise competition and steer children away from organic friendships. This is also evident in our digital lives, “we are constantly trying to show our best selves and win over others”. It is important to start paying attention to children’s emotional development from an early age as we do for their academic or physical development.
Jahnavi also pointed out how this problem is rooted much deeper than negligence in childhood. “we are not here to make friends” she says is a common workplace phrase that reflects our understanding of friendships. “ You see friendships to being an anti-thesis to being successful or being good professionally”, it is time to equate the same importance to friendships as a form of building and sustaining community as we give to family or work-based relations.
Does hyper-connectivity and coming together also mean that we are in harmony?
The problem with this hyper-connected digital world is that though we are connected all the time we are hardly our real authentic self. Information is constantly circulated but it is limited to that; mere information pertaining to our lives- where we are, what we do, so on and so forth. Real connections are very hard to form and nurture in this model.
Trina gives us a peek into the concept of singularity according to which as connectivity increases, we will reach a time when we will have a shared consciousness since all the information will be fed into the same cloud, and thus there will be no conflict. One cannot be certain about when this will happen or in what capacity but it is surely an interesting thing to consider.
Why do we hide our raw vulnerable emotions from the eyes of the world and project only the happy and cheerful aspects of our lives in the online world?
Trina says, our online selves are influencing our offline selves by which she means that “ I go to a party and I feel like they are talking to me as if they are tweeting”.
Right from our childhoods, we are given a particular definition of strength; vulnerability or pain is not a part of that definition. So we are wired in a way to shield our emotions and display only our success or our happiness. When we start navigating the world as adults, we exhibit our emotions such as pain, anger, or jealousy accidentally, and we find people along the way who help us understand these emotions better. “But that space for accidentally letting your emotions,” says Jahnavi, “ doesn’t exist online, because it is so hyper curated so it creates a virtual world where only positivity exists”. So in order to see a more wholesome picture of our lives on the internet, we need to start embracing our emotions in real life and then carry that practice to the virtual world.
Why is it not acceptable to change opinions on the internet? How can we normalise it?
“Change and growth require vulnerability, acceptance of failure and that doesn’t exist offline. People are not allowed to freely evolve or grow even offline. It becomes harder online because all the information is out there, someone can scroll up and find your tweets from 6 months ago thus it is easier to access change there hence to be harsh towards that growth and critique it” says Jahnavi. Moreover often when we are criticising others we are projecting our fears and insecurities onto them, we feel intimidated by other’s growth and so we try to justify our fears by bringing the other person down.
According to Trina, changing our opinions is seen as a “sign of weakness”, which is quite contrary to reality. You can reflect and introspect your thoughts and change your beliefs and ideas accordingly only when you have a sense of security and faith in yourself.
To have meaningful connections on the internet is it important to build emotional strength before we get started?
Trina says we should be emotionally resilient in the sense that we are confident about ourselves and who we are so that we can listen to others without being “threatened at what someone else might say and that will change your opinion”
“We are both the victim and perpetrators of the troll and abuse that happens on the internet. We are on both sides at different points in time. Whether we initiate the hate or escalate the hate by responding to it, it is all coming from that lack of core emotional resilience” says Jahnavi.
Why are we so interested in other people’s lives on the internet instead of being observant or aware of our own lives?
As Moira Rose would say, “Social media is an amusement park for clinical narcissists”, following the same trail of thought Jahnavi explains how social media is making us self-indulgent and yet ignorant to who we really are. Being on social media is a “narcissistic endeavour” which makes us focus on curating an online image of our perfect versions which we somehow aspire to become but in reality, is far from the truth. We are no longer listening to ourselves and we are busy entertaining the voices of the audience of our online self. And to grow both offline and online, we need to start paying attention to ourselves. To listen to the full conversation with Trina and Jahnavi, Co-founders of Bolti Bandh tune into When We Met Podcast by Platform For Artists.