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'The most prominent manifestation of that mindset is the countless timelines that exist in the virtual realm. But they are more powerful than most real-life human expressions.' Image Credit: Pixabay

So much is written, spoken, tweeted, and posted about the toxicity of the virtual world, it becomes increasingly difficult to look at the entire picture. In an age of categorisation and judgements, a rigidity is in in direct conflict with freedom of expression. Within the scope of human existence, only one reality is absolute: the unknowability of death. But in the last decade or so, mere mortals have created a universe in which absoluteness of ideas reign supreme.

The most prominent manifestation of that mindset is the countless timelines that exist in the virtual realm. But they are more powerful than most real-life human expressions. An infinite number of people on an infinite number of platforms exist to create their own forms of reality, propel their personal agendas, propagate misinformation, deepen misperceptions, obstruct the truth, construct divisive narratives, present one side of the story, incite bigotry, stoke hatreds, enable problematic behaviour, endorse wars and occupations, malign reputations, smear the opposing side, and pigeonhole the “other”. Their influence is immense, their voices are loud, their personas are filtered and enhanced to near perfection, their reach is massive—locally or nationally or regionally or globally.

But I look at the world as most of it good. There is never a time when I give up on the power of positivity to not be in an equal measure, if not more. Amidst and beyond the dark, people are doing incredible work to make ours a better, a kinder, a more empathetic world. Their number is infinite too. That is how this world of ours manage to keep its equilibrium. For every act of unkindness and deception, with open minds and hearts, we see twice that number of good deeds every second of our existence. It is just that the good is mostly taken for granted and unworthy of a Factbook post, a tweet, an Insta story, a YouTube video, a TikTok clip. Not being displayed doesn’t diminish its importance. Doing good is its own reward, its own expression, its own publicity.

So many fabulous people, mentioning one or two or a few or many would be an unjust omission since mentioning everyone is out of the scope of this article. To all of you utterly beautiful people in Pakistan and across the world. You know who you are, your audience and readers know who you are. Without writing your names, my gratitude to all of you for the splendour of your work. Shine on.

All those who continue to write the truth—in newspapers, on ezines, on their personal blogs, or whatever blogs are titled in 2023, on their social media timelines—are the ones who do not care for the number of likes and followers and do not seek monetary or other rewards. What they follow is the voice of their conscience and the directions of their moral compass. Sifting through agendas and biases, their fingers type what is. They write about the injustices when speaking the truth on mainstream media is banned, when the gate of the house of a country’s most popular leader is bulldozed, when political workers are beaten, teargassed, and arrested for their loyalty to their leader. Truth, even the hard, unappetizing, unacceptable, uncomfortable type, is their sole guiding spirit.

Also exist those who look at the present and present it from the lens of their cameras. In their vlogs they talk about the current social, cultural, political, and other scenarios, and they do that with honesty and integrity. Their number and influence may not be as expansive as that of those who spice the untruths and push their own versions of reality, but that they continue to speak the truth even when the audience relishes the salaciousness of the lie is simply laudatory.

In the last few years, the emergence of podcasts is reshaping of opinion sharing and conversations. Monologues, two-or-multiple-person talks, and interviews, powerful podcasts focus on the individuality of the presenter while giving undiscerning room for the collaborator, interviewee, or the expert to express their ideas on personal, cultural, social, artistic, economic political, governmental, and other domains. Breaking the barrier of old system of broadcasting of data, news and views, podcasts reach across bans and borders.

Documentary and short film makers, through their words, silence, and images, conjure up a universe invisible to most human beings. Relying on their ability to look at what is and what should be, they are makers of stuff that looks at the present juxtaposing and mixing it with the past and the future. Their work questions, probes, provokes, disturbs, delights.

Then there are those who capture the personal and the objective through their songs. Without relying on music companies, the real artists create their own space in their own words, in their own symphonies, in their own time. How they look at themselves and the world around them, they do it on their own terms without ever allowing their voices to be submerged in the so-called mainstream.

And those who create fiction that is an expression of who they are. How humans and the world they exist in and the worlds that are figments of their imagination amalgamate to form an exquisite whole beyond the known parameters, recognizable conformity, expected finality. They write about the most personal with a deep profundity, unabashed honesty. They write about what they see and feel and notice and expect and fear and hope for and dream of and aspire to and dread to lose. Their realism is a punch in the gut. Their magical realism is spellbinding. Their stories are of them and you and me and us and those who don’t exist. The storytellers who love the written word, and who write because they love. Rewriting stories that have been told many times, creating ones that can’t wait to be told.

Empathy. Inclusiveness. Understanding. Acceptance of the other. Forgiveness. Moving on. Embracing the unknown. Cherishing the past. High-fiving the future. Living in the now. Spreading joy. Sharing smiles and laughter. Speaking the truth. Rational disagreement. Unbiased critique. Dignified opposition. Careful not to hurt. Quick remorse. Unprompted sorry and thank-you. Warm handshakes. Big hugs. And love. That is the beautiful virtual that spills into the real and makes ours a better, a kinder, a more empathetic world.

And that is the beautiful virtual that makes me believe in the inherent goodness of humanity. I’ll never stop believing.