Saturday, 14 March 2015

Media, the internet and the panic

So, this is my second blog post, ever.
Wow, didn't think I'd make it this far. Although, I'll admit, I had been thinking for a week now, on what I could possibly write about. My thoughts and my general disposition towards my fellow beings on campus and life, in general were somewhat hampered by lingering pain from my knee, in other words I was extremely short tempered and surly almost all the time.

So, how did it happen? I was on my bicycle and heading to my fluid mechanics lab one sunny afternoon, when I went over a corner too fast. And like most streets in India, there were people walking bang in the middle of the road as if they've been paid to.

I tried to brake in time to avoid hitting anyone, but unfortunately, I ended up flattening one poor soul who was completely unaware of my approach. And then, promptly I fell on top of him, smashing my knee on the concrete. Perhaps it was punishment from the beyond, but the thing was, in the aftermath, he walked away fine, (bruised, but fine) and I was limping along with my bicycle to my lab.

The leg was pretty stiff, and wouldn't let me bend the knee very much. On the second day, it swelled up a bit, and I seriously considered going to the campus hospital. Immediately after I fell, I believed, despite the pain, that I had merely sustained a bruise, nothing more. But now, all sorts of dilemmas presented themselves to me.

What if I had fractured something and I didn't notice? What if it needed surgery? What would I do? How long would I be out of the system if I were to have said surgery? I felt scared. One of the thoughts that struck me as I placed a bottle of ice-cold water over the knee, was that possibly, I might have torn a ligament in the knee. All at once, my brain flooded me with information about the anatomy of the knee, the ACLs, PCLs, and the time needed for recovery after surgery.

As these ominous thoughts churned over in my head, I realized something.

Let me explain. I am a huge fan of the NBA and some other American sports leagues. I gives my folks at home a lot of grief and certainly, it earns me a lot of eye-rolls amongst my peers, stricken as they are with cricket and soccer fever. But it was something I did out of personal interest, and the very act of seeing a few scores and some highlights of some of the games was a small joy for me.

And recently with the increase in competitiveness of the games, from the grass root levels, athletes come up to the professional levels much stronger, faster and bigger. The strain they put on their bodies is enormous and it leads to them injuring themselves quite often. A very common problem that many athletes have faced is the torn Anterior Cruciate Ligament. Without going into much detail, the ligament is basically the string that holds the upper leg and lower leg in a line. Without the string, the lower leg slips off, and the injured person is unable to control his walking motion.

There have been several media articles written about this, including a statistical analysis about the trends that cause such tears, as well as extremely specific articles that explain the injury from the medical as well as the emotional- the personalized experience of the injured athletes recovery and rehab- perspectives. The collective dismay and the reactions of fans and observers are also reflected severely in the form of news reports, twitter posts and other blogs.

The truth is though, that in any sport or any physical activity, including in my case, the very act of cycling somewhere, comes with the inherent risk of injury. This is known to us as a fact. However, the media, now empowered by readily available data and news outlets that spin out stories almost instantaneously after an event of even moderate significance, choose to create a kind of 'information overload'.

Statistics can now be easily calculated using readily available and free tools online, and news updates too are becoming more of an online phenomenon. Take twitter for example, it's easy to access, the data it spins out is concise, links and photos can be uploaded to updates as well. As a result, journalists, companies and organizations take to posting information in short 'bites' on their pages, along with links and photos.

This data availability also exacerbates another problem that people have been talking about for years.

Media initiated panic.

Why did I fear that I had torn a ligament, even though it probably wasn't the case? (I was able to walk normally after a four days) I had read so many article, and lists detailing the injury from every possible angle; videos of athletes running after recovery, interviews, lists of athletes recovering from torn ligaments, medical articles, statistical correlations between ligament injuries and food habits, the works. So literally, the idea that one could easily rupture his ACL was firmly planted in my mind.

So, I called my dad and asked him anxiously. Did I tear something?, will I need surgery?, will it really take six months to recover? To his credit, my dad stayed calm and asked me about the current status of the knee. I told him, that while walking had been tough for a few days after the fall, right now, I could walk normally and bend the knee to an extent, but not fully. And I couldn't run either.

Fortunately, it sounds like a strained tendon in the back of my knee, which is something I'm truly relieved to hear. My dad told me take it easy on that leg for a week, and that it probably wasn't anything serious.

This leads me to the final part of my post. I'm a member of the college magazine and this month, we were doing a cover story on the impact of the internet and how indispensable it has become in our lives. Our smartphones are now so... well, smart that, once again, the effect of data availability can be seen. People talk and react about something that happens barely minutes ago, such is the instantaneous nature of our times.

So, we were discussing our smartphones and their impact and the issues that we could address in the story on a message board, when, I mentioned that I had lost my smartphone for a couple of days sometime ago. There is a big story behind this, but I'll save it for later, when I'm scrambling for topics to blog about.

I mentioned how I felt when I lost the phone, and these are my honest feelings. It felt like the early stages of recovery from an addictive drug, Without my phone, I couldn't check my messages, which was crucial as nearly all the information regarding classes and assignments is conveyed to us via messages. I was also cut off from Facebook, and google, so I couldn't see what my friends were upto and I couldn't browse the internet. But, that wasn't the main problem that I was faced with.

The main problem was the feeling of emotionally anxiety and aloneness without my phone. When I mentioned this in the message group, the first reply that I received was "Oh yeah, that feeling of being left behind or missing out"

This was not what I had meant, but when I pondered over it, I found that it actually made sense. For, me the functioning of my phone and my knee were things that I rarely thought about. Not to the point were I took it for granted, but yes, I would curse loudly and crudely if a page I wanted to see didn't load quickly enough and I did have a few choice words to utter at my knee when it crumpled like a twig when I tried to run for the first time after my fall.

So, this leads to another thought. We often mention to each other in the passing 'oh hey, did you hear, that guy's phone screen cracked when he dropped it on the road' or 'hey did you check out this article about this unlucky guy who broke nearly every bone in his body?' and there was a real case recently, when a couple of zealous fourth year students, attempting to take a short film got a friend of theirs to jump off the first floor of a building under construction. He was supposed to fall into a pile of sand, but instead ended up tearing out his ligaments.

So, that's it. We mention it, and forget about it. It's now upto said person to make his way back to a life of normalcy. But, have we actually wondered about that? The whole process of making your way back from something that upsets your life as it is? More than once for my knee alone, I've wished the pain would just go away and that I could be all better at once. So how would a person, such as the ill-advised stunt-jumper feel as he tries to make his way back from an injury that requires surgery.

I've never thought about it like this before, probably because I'm still pretty young, but health has never been very high on the parameters for success for me. But, now I'm inclined to think otherwise. Health is probably a paramount parameter for success, and only after that I feel comes the rest.

Thank you for reading. 

1 comment:

  1. Yes,being healthy is most important and It will be a smart idea to switch off our smart phones once in a while .