I used to be extremely timid in company. These days I find myself accidentally challenging people when they start making sweeping generalisations and outlandish claims. I don’t mean to be contrary. But really, someone needs to be the dissenting voice, offering an alternative perspective. Even if everyone thinks that the dissenting one is an idiot as a result.
Of course traditional wisdom states that you sit in silence when the enlightened are speaking, nod your head and keep your thoughts to yourself. That’s good manners. Maybe I should just do that, as I used to.
But it’s hard when people start dissing your people — the geeks, misfits and socially awkward. Nope, somebody has to give them a voice.
So disrespect the losers — the introverts, the shy, the socially awkward, the quiet ones — in my company at your peril. It’s a trigger. We who sit behind our keyboards, typing, typing, expressing ourselves in the written word, because it’s the only way we know how: yes, in real life we are the nobodies, the insignificant, the fabled losers of our time. Insecure, perhaps. Or perhaps merely misunderstood.
Introverts may shun public spaces. We may descend into a gibbering wreck when confronted with conversation. We may lack the social skills of the movers and shakers of the world. But perhaps in our writing we find our voice. In our words in print, or in pixels momentarily brought alive on bright screens by the wizardry of technology, we too contribute to the world around us.
The same nafs that meets and greets people out in the world, types upon keyboards set before us. The challenges are the same. The extremes need not define the whole. Terrorism does not define activism, nor do trolls define the web. The same nafs must be tamed, in each sphere we find ourselves in, be it social media or the board room. The true seeker is a man of his time. He does not rebuild that distant romantic past, resorting to a monkish apathy to his own age: he lives in these times, negotiating the modes and means of the present.
Perhaps the keyboard of these times can be a tool of liberation for some. Perhaps a social lubricant for others. Perhaps we are not all just losers, who could never survive out in the real world. Perhaps we have jobs that require us to sit in silence for long periods of time, to concentrate and code, or write, or edit, or draw, or paint, or think. Perhaps we have managers who value us for the quality of our output, despite our wonky teeth, slouching backs and annoying nasal voices.
A technology-enabled world is not for everyone. Some detest it, and would run for the hills when offered a keyboard, mouse, or tablet. So run! But technology has always enabled me to do my best work. To work in remote and far flung places, but still submit my projects on time. To converse across oceans. To collaborate with people across nations. Technology is a tool, not the be all and end all.
You have to get up and go out. To walk in the hills. Stretch those legs. And you have to exercise your mind and morals: to decide whether to be truthful, whether to verify information before passing it on, whether to talk to certain people or not. Yes, we need a fiqh and adab for the web.
But for giving the losers, the introverts, the numb, the socially awkward and the quiet ones a voice, I’m grateful for these technologies the enlightened now deride. Some are fighters. Some are writers. Here’s to the losers!