OVER the weekend, I saw in my WeChat moments a video showing a grandma asking people if they had heard of somebody called “WiFi,” because when her son’s family last visited her, the grandson suddenly grew mutinous and demanded to go home because there was no WiFi at her house.
The happy ending came when some professional helped equip her home with WiFi access, though the moral of the drama is that we should put aside our e-devices to spend more time with our parents.
More and more Chinese are evincing different degrees of addiction to cyber fantasy, as they keep checking their WeChat moments or apps, in anticipation of something exciting, and for fear of missing out on something important.
In our moving from one attraction to the next, from temptation to temptation, from swallowing ravenously one tidbit to searching for another, many are suffering from frayed nerves, indigestion, or dysfunction, with a few in danger of becoming psychologically incapable of engaging in work requiring any attention span.
If you spend a couple of minutes scrutinizing the much circulated bits and pieces of the day, you might realize that something that strikes you as original now is actually not so different from something that struck you last year, last month or yesterday. This constant battering of information (often no more than lies and sensational titles) gets us hooked by cashing in on our morbid thirst for more of the same, and threatens our sanity. The cheap likes and sentiments do not increase our respect for life, but prove to be strong coercisive influence on the multitudes whose cognitive deficiency is not remedied by their newly acquired inability to stay put or quiet.
Vanity has always existed, but people used to be honest about their palate and stomach. Not any more, as taste today is becoming subject to fashion. My son is still trying to make head or tails out of the long lines of people waiting for a bowl of wantons or a drink during rush hours, a phenomenon called wang hong, or “online sensation,” likely masterminded by crafty businesspeople.
Wang hong is not confined to a mere drink or bowl of wantons, but can refer to adventurers craving fame or notoriety. Here are some of the titles created by one of the most sought-after wang hong writers Mi Meng (with 8 million followers): “To the bitch,” “Always patriotic, forever tearful,” “Amusement is aphrodisiac for a lifetime,” “Why the craze of sleeping with ugly bitches?” and “I can buy lipstick myself, you just give me love.”
We are quickly reducing our lives into circus shows, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. Such phenomenon should compel us to think again about what really distinguishes our species with the multitudes of other animals we usually view condescendingly. This may help us realize that we need to learn from the nature that nurtures us to redeem ourselves from our morbid state of digital dependency.
Rather than gazing bleary-eyed at little screens, we should marvel at the seasonal changes taking place around us. They come at exactly the right time, sure-paced, and disdainful of the urban hustle and bustle. With liberal exposure to the scents of flowers, the sounds of migratory birds, and sight of trees budding and leafing, we might still salvage some of our receptive power.
But being long out of sync with the natural world, some are no longer patient with the natural process of flowering or budding, as we rush everything and make life a competitive race, from cradle to grave. Recently someone shared a posting about some grandchildren congratulating a grandpa in his 90s for being accepted by an institution for the aged after a successful interview.
In this drama, the stage precluding death has been tamed, after becoming a competitive process coopted into a neat, functional, even pleasing procedure.
We have developed an insular form of existence that, rather than focused on the serious business of living, is predicated on deepening the difference between the self and the rest of the world in our pursuit of success, an elusive concept constantly being redefined by new consumer products.
Unlike other species, many of us do not take this life seriously.
In Confucius’ “The Doctrines of the Mean,” it is observed that “Sincerity is that whereby self-completion is effected, and its way is that by which man must direct himself.” Chien Mu, one of the most respected Confucius scholars in modern time, observed that one of the weaknesses of man is his desire at multiple uses, which often amounts to uselessness. The singleness of purpose only would lead to long years of concentration and application that is essential for achieving any great works.
WeChat moments can be fantastic, but if you allow yourself to be lost in them, you risk missing out on the more wonderful drama called life.