Being shocking is so much fun!

What is life without a bit of fun!

But is there any limit to which one can go in pursuit of a bit of fun. And if it is there who decides it? And is it a fun to break that limit or any limit for that matter?

Phew! Seems I have squeezed the fun out of it.

It’s a common notion that being within the limits can hardly be fun. One needs to do something different, something that breaks the monotony of life, or something that is beyond the banal and the usual. The farther we go from the limit, the more the fun.

And we all love fun. We love jokes because they break the monotony by the twist of words or twist of perspective. We love watching movies, reading books because they transport us to a different world from where we return rejuvenated. We love dancing, creating music, painting as these activities liberate our creativity. We love long drives as it also is way out of the monotony. Even long drives have become even more adventurous in this age of spiralling oil prices. But these are ways of seeking fun which are considered to be more or less harmless.

Then there are people who seek fun in alcohol and tobacco. This is fun often at the expense of health, harmony in a family and road safety. However, these costs are usually rubbished by the enthusiasts.

Drugs are fun for not only the people with lots of money but also the students at different academic levels. Alcohol becomes too staid for them.

Before you label me so, let me clarify that I am neither an anti fun activist trying to make you ascetic nor a sybarite inviting you to the party. I am just trying to think about what is the fun in any fun activity.

In most of the above examples the fun for most of the people is ‘to connect”, “to mingle”, “to share”, “to remind oneself that life is beyond work or studies”. Fun without company isn’t much fun.

But how many of us would seek fun in performing rail track stunts or bullying someone online  to commit suicide?

rail stunttoddler smokingfather-dangles-toddler-out-of-6th-floorBike stunt

To delve into this we need to ask are there other drivers of fun than the ones discussed above?

Some of us would explain this by the desire to seek extreme thrill; or by a desire to escape the reality.

I propose an alternative explanation. I think some people derive fun by shocking others or by going against the conventional. These people are usually confident but may suffer from low self esteem or hurt ego. They may be filled with a suppressed sense of revolt. For them instead of the act itself, it is the reaction of the others which becomes the source of fun or satisfaction. The more unconventional the act is, the more shocked the people around get and the more the sense of fun. I have observed this at rudimentary level in even some kids. A relatively benign manifestation of this desire is a tendency to play practical jokes or post a nasty image or video on social media.

I am of the opinion that this urge to derive fun by shocking others and mocking at the convention is becoming pervasive. Riding on the wings of globalisation, Information technology, telecommunication and social networking this trend is spreading rapidly.

This trend or phenomenon is “Being shocking (unconventional) is so much fun (cool)!”

I might sound un-cool but I would attribute the popularization of tattoos, piercing, sagging jeans to this trend.

Here I would like to note that not everybody who follows a trend does it on purpose. A number of people do it as part of the herd mentality to seem cool even at the cost of not being happy doing it.

I would also like to make it clear that although I am talking about this phenomenon from social and psychological perspective, it is already being exploited by the marketers and advertisers. For them it translates into “being shocking is so eye-ball grabbing!” Ambush marketing and viral marketing try to leverage it. Here, I would use the examples of the war of two toothpaste brands and runaway success of Kolaveri di.

The phenomenon is invigorated by celebrity endorsement. Lady Gaga knows it better than many others. Shocking videos and images have been used by the artists and also by the advertisers. Wardrobe “malfunctions” don’t seem to be all that “mal-timed”. Eminem too has used “shocking’ lyrics. Not everybody can write such lyrics, but by expressing love for such music one can shock the people around. Till of course the lyrics become a craze and then predictable.

Once anything loses its shock value, it loses its popularity.

You might not realize but the last sentence is a potentially dangerous sentence.

As the society is getting habitual of what was once considered to be shocking, the people who seek fun in shocking others are willing to go to any level.

Dangerous biking, stunts on skate boards, stunts on trains and even on railway tracks are examples of acts that would be unconceivable even a couple of decades ago. In fact recently a horrible train accident in Spain was attributed to a train driver obsessed with speed.

I would even like to include Increasing instances of cyber bullying and growing popularity of confession pages as examples of the “shocking is fun“ phenomenon.

I will be  in a better position to explain why few lines earlier I called a sentence “potentially dangerous”.

There are two main reasons.

The first is the lack of remorse in the people who enjoy such acts. There is no demarcation of right and wrong in the traditional sense. Instead behaviour and acts are classified as either cool (fun) or un-cool. Why should one be sorry for being “cool’?

Second, what was once shocking for the society, gradually tends to become conventional or at least acceptable. Thus, an adult movie star makes way through a “reality” show into the living rooms of majority of Indian households and provides an opportunity to the parents to introduce her to their kids (which they prefer over not watching the show and missing the fun). Another ‘reality’ show glamorized adultery to perfection.

All this leads to a search for something which is even more shocking. In the mean time society accepts as “normal” what was once “shocking”.

Coming to the questions I raised at the beginning, if fun is in pushing the existing limits, I am afraid the limits have been pushed to the extent of damaging the basic social fabric.

Although I lack empirical evidence in support of my observation of this phenomenon (Being shocking (unconventional) is so much fun (cool)!”), which may be a cause of a lot of social problems, I would not stop at vaguely outlining it. In my next post I will try to track the factors behind the phenomenon.

I know many of you will have an outlook quite different from mine. Your comments and feedback would help me fine tuning my next post. Thanks for your time. Hope you visit again to read the following post as well. 

3 responses to “Being shocking is so much fun!”

  1. Ishansh Niranjan Avatar
    Ishansh Niranjan

    “I would even like to include Increasing instances of cyber bullying and growing popularity of confession pages as examples of the “shocking is fun“ phenomenon.”
    I totally agree with this “shocking is fun” phenomenon.
    Societal acceptance of “now normal what was once shocking” is because the elders find themselves at the back foot when it comes to arguing with a child about what constitutes a normally and socially acceptable behavior. But, instead of providing an alternative to the younger ones to vent out their so call abrupt/spontaneous behavior in a more creative way, elders prefer to keep mum and accept it as the result of changing social climate due to rise of global information wave prodded by the internet. It is based on my experience in my family as well as in my neighborhood that parents accept the so called ‘unconventional behavior’ of their child as a consequence of “zamana badal gaya hai”. I still don’t know whether the parents are right or wrong in accepting the things as they are, or may be they are still puzzled about the possible alternatives as I am now.
    Hope to see some suggestions/alternatives from a parents’s perspective in your next post.
    P.S: Although I am still not a parent, but a bit curious to see the things from their perspective.

    1. Thanks Ishansh for reading the post and giving such an insightful feedback. True, parents are usually either on the back foot or with unreasonable aggression in response to something they find unreasonable/shocking in the child. I think that’s usually because they see a reflection of something they have passed on inadvertently. Or sometimes they are themselves out of ideas. Also with drastic reduction in time spent with family, parent’s influence on the kids is getting more and more restricted. I will try to suggest the reasons in my next post. Please find time to read it as well. Your feedback is highly welcome.

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