9/2017 – Friendship and the journey of life
by Tan Thiam Hock
Saturday, 29 April 2017
JUST last Sunday, I was scrolling through my Facebook when I chanced upon the video of Celine Dion singing “Immortality” as a tribute to Barry Gibb and The Bee Gees. The following video had Carole King on piano with her three lady friends, Celine Dion, Gloria Estefan and Shania Twain singing ‘You’ve got a friend’ written by King 46 years ago. Both versions were the best that I have ever heard.
Facing mortality, the first song was a poignant reminder to me of the passing of time. The second song had me reminiscing about friendships made and lost throughout my journey of life.
Sentimental ballads of my generation have so much meaning borne out of the experiences of the writers themselves.
All of us have happy memories of our childhood, cherishing the innocent friendships of our teenage years.
Through Facebook and group chats, we are suddenly re-acquainted with long lost friends, some whom we have lost contact forty years ago suddenly appearing in your life again. Childhood friends are rare friends indeed and should be cherished forever.
University friends are different from childhood friends. You get to choose your friends that you want to spend time with just as you are given the liberty to choose the course and subjects of your choice.
As you step into adulthood, you might be lucky enough to choose your loving half, someone you would like to spend time with for the rest of your life. Your spouse will probably end up as your most trusted friend through winter, spring, summer and fall.
Then the fairy tale ends as you become an adult and enter the business world. Or you might decide to become a politician. Having genuine friends in the commercial world is rare but not impossible.
It take many years of bond building to establish mutual trust and mutual respect. Your true friends are the ones still in touch with you after your retirement from job or business.
If you decide to become a politician, just remember there are no permanent friends nor enemies.
On the basis of that argument, it will be impossible to build true friendships, and you will end up with fair weather friends based on a mutually beneficial arrangement in place.
What I would describe as fleeting moments of fake friendship. It is best you have friends who are neither in politics nor business so that you can find true friends to spend time with in your twilight years.
The recent announcement by our Deputy Minister of Communication and Multimedia on possible jailing of administrators of WhatsApp group chats if caught spreading fake news, seditious remarks, disparaging religion etc by its group members has created much uncertainty amongst groups of friends. Prosecution will be via the Communication and Multimedia Act 1998.
I would describe this action as a disruptor of friendships. Now everyone is suspicious of everyone in a group chat.
The group chat users are suspicious of the government. Can they read our group chats? Will WhatsApp violate its privacy laws by allowing the government access to view all group chats? How do you verify fake news? How do you verify if your friends are fake or genuine for starters?
What if WhatsApp says that all messages are encrypted and stored in a virtual cloud storage somewhere in Timbuktu which means they will not allow anybody access to these data, how would the government know about the contents of the chat group? Unless someone in the group reported and showed the conversation thread? Then suspicions turn inwards to the group of so-called friends. Who is the snitch?
So the true friendship groups have decided to appoint everyone in the group as an administrator. All for one and one for all. Everyone goes to jail together. That’s what friends are for. We will never let technology disrupt our friendship!
Since Obama won the presidency based on clever use of social media platforms, politicians all over the world realise the importance of this alternative media to promote their agendas.
More so in countries where the government controls all the mainstream media of newspapers, television and radio, the opposition have no choice but to use the social media platforms to compete and disseminate their political messages.
Since it is difficult to control digital news, genuine, fake or fabricated from going viral via handphones, iPads and personal computers, most government now engage the opposition in this virtual digital battlefield.
Just as we marketeers have successfully promoted our products and services through the hiring of YouTube, Instagram and Tweeter Influencers, the politicians of both divide have wise up to the potential of such marketing tools at their disposal.
Donald Trump was an excellent tweeter, controversial and impactful. Campaign money normally spent in main stream media are now diverted into hiring professional influencers to infiltrate chat groups, tweeter and instagram groups. Both sides of influencers would spin stories of incredulous stupidity that insult our intelligence. Unbelievable is an understatement.
The rise of the Influencers posed stiff competition (for the same pot of gold) to the professional writers/gunslinger journalist who were once considered leading opinion shapers and creative writers who can spin a story 360 degrees.
The public relation industry has been completely disrupted. The masterful spinner of stories is no match for the gutter trench warfare of Influencers who gets paid ad volarem, for every posting that they made whether via group chats, instagram or tweeter.
If you have an Influencer in your group chat whether it is pro or against government, is he still your friend? Do you feel comfortable speaking openly in a chat group supposedly set up amongst friends? Do you feel safe?
More importantly, the friend that you once knew have changed and you will never understand why. That makes it even more difficult to end a friendship that you have cherished for so long.
That is why my friend, I consider WhatsApp as the disruptor of our once beautiful friendship.