A New Social Disease

Can laughter be a social disease? Yes! Many people may be familiar with Readers’ Digest Column, ‘Laughter: The Best Medicine’. People have been told that in laughing so many more facial muscles are used and so it is healthier. Most people look more attractive when they break into a smile. Some of the great films have a lot of good humour. Many language cinemas have some great humorous actors. Some great books in the world are humorous. People are appreciated because they have a sense of humour. And so on.

So what has changed? Since 2008 the World has been going through a deep economic crisis. At first the reaction was sombre. People began to read serious books that dealt with serious social, political and economic situations. Some new important books came.

However slowly a hopelessness and helplessness began to set in. People were losing jobs, getting depressed, and the future looked bleak. Around this time the artificial humour of stand in’ comedies came. Of course television has a long history of artificial creativity in terms of serials. But this was a new situation. The attention period became smaller. Smartphone and YouTube allowed the video to reach in every hand everywhere. Forwarding messages (click activism) became common. WhatsApp ushered a new era and the reach became wider.

Finally Covid Pandemic ushered the pandemic of this new disease of laughter. Smartphone became universal. People from all walks of life and diverse age groups got personal smart phones. People got addicted to scrolling’ and to look for something to gratify their restlessness. Where there is demand there is supply. Everyone could produce short videos–family videos, videos of children and pet animals and short episodes and at the other end semi pornographic videos.

The need for it arises because life is becoming meaningless. All kinds of spiritual quests and alternative health care practices have also come up. The market is ripe for any of these meaningless sources of gratification. However some alternative medical practices have genuine professional history and training. And people have learned to create their sources of jokes and laughter. They are trigger happy to burst into laughter at the slightest cue!

Social media including ‘fake news’ is ruling the world. It is more like drug addiction. There is a spurt all over the world because the world is going through an election year. Many big countries are having elections this year. So a lot of unaccounted money is also floating around.

The mass yoga class in public gardens was unique for than one reason. It was free and many people welcomed it as something to do along with the morning walk. At the end of the yoga session there was a session of mass laughter. The teacher encouraged participants to laugh louder. To many it appeared as a ghastly and obscene performance.

There is no real movement against this kind of laughter. But a lot of older generation people and serious thinkers and commentators have raised their voice against the frivolous nature of TV and Social Media. Only other serious and more meaningful movements can draw some of these young and not so young people away from this new opium of the people!

[Contributed by T Vijayendra]

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Vol 56, No. 42, Apr 14 - 20, 2024