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OP-ED: The rise of the planet of the uncouth

  • Published at 11:24 pm May 29th, 2021

Is social media harming creativity?

Creativity has long been regarded as the cornerstone of human civilization. Curious minds that want to go above and beyond, challenging the norms and conventions, have eventually brought us new ideas, knowledge, solutions, and so on. It is creativity and sheer perseverance that makes us a superior kind. Alarmingly, a recent trend all around the world is acting as a barrier to creativity. Before drawing a premature conclusion to the discussion, let’s understand what creativity actually means.

According to Cambridge Dictionary, creativity is the ability to produce or use original and unusual ideas. Such ideas can be of various types, including a solution to a problem, a cure to a disease, a work-practice that can bring better efficiency, human and resource optimization, an invention or innovation, or something that will lead to entertainment.

When we discuss creativity, we come across the question of whether all human beings can be equally creative. Or can you make someone creative? There are theories that suggest people have varied levels of creativity: Some are naturally creative, making a chemistry professor like Humayun Ahmed be one of the greatest novelists of Bangla literature. Another important aspect that needs be pondered is whether you can develop creativity. Recent studies suggest that you can, by following a set of behavioural and thinking patterns you can be creative to some extent. But one thing is for sure -- creativity is rare and it requires rigour to bring something to the world that can benefit the society. There is no short-cut to success and fame.

The surge of social media and some content-creating apps along with smartphones in recent times have made content creation child’s play. It is worth mentioning the apps named TikTok, Likee, and others are making ground in the content industry. These apps enable users to duplicate famous original video/audio contents and make very short contents of 15 seconds. 

In these contents, the user tries to recreate the original content in a different context. As the app lets you use the original song/dialogue, it is up to the creator how s/he is going to act in the clip. So eventually, the content maker has limitless options and one original content may recreate millions of new contents. 

Analysis has shown that newly created contents mostly portray beauty, romance, fun, mockery of the original creator, and so on. Original contents are very few, and even if some exist, many (not all) lack quality, talent, and in numerous occasions can be considered repulsive. 

Frustratingly, we are witnessing a large segment becoming a fanbase of these content creators (TikTokers). As statistics suggest creativity and ingenuity are rare, so sympathizers of substandard content creators should also be higher; as people lacking proper education and talent may seem to follow these acts.  You will see them making video contents in all possible locations: Streets, parks, malls, riversides, rooftops, construction sites, well this list is never-ending. 

Well, you can say: So what? I am coming to that point. Many of these TikTokers move as groups/gangs and their body language and activities are not humble, but rather aggressive. Some extreme cases of public harassment have also been reported in the media, and it is fair to assume that there are numerous unreported ones.   

In an age where we are seeing a sharp decline of morality in every sector of the society, we are also facing a trend equipped with technology that is counterproductive to innovation. This trend is severe, and is eating up talented individuals with lots of potential as well. Our mobile screen time is skyrocketing without much productive use. The trend is alarming. We need to act, and act rationally.

Mahmud Wahid is Assistant Professor and Program Coordinator(BBA), Green Business School, Green University of Bangladesh.

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