Keeping your perspective in face of 'viral overload'

Apple iPhone. File picture
Apple iPhone. File picture
Image: Pexels

Initially, information overload was a resounding negative for me this week, owing to the polarisation of opinions about the current state of not only the nation, but the world at large.

My personal antidote to the migraine-inducing clamour of voices on the “virus issue” is to take a break from any information — be it fact or opinion — until I’ve realigned myself. Or pulled myself towards myself, as my friend Podge says, repeatedly, during times of stress and drama.

But social media has its merits, even when we’re fed up with it. I came across one such example of this several years ago.

It was a typical day in a small Turkish village. Muharrem got up, had breakfast with his sister and then headed into town to run some errands. Anybody who didn’t know Muharrem would have pegged him as a healthy, happy young man going about his business; which is exactly what he did, each morning.

The only striking difference between Muharrem and most of his family and friends was that he was deaf. And, like other hearing-impaired people, he worked around this issue in order to live a full and stimulating life.

The beauty of technology makes it possible for us to discover people like Muharrem, who we’d otherwise probably never meet. If we did happen to holiday in Turkey, we’d pass him in the street, never knowing his name, or that he was deaf.

Cell phone company Samsung catapulted Muharrem and his community into mini-stardom with a touching advertisement that sold what it was meant to — a video call centre for the hearing-impaired — but bought into so much more; the depth and beauty of the human spirit.

Muharrem’s day in Istanbul starts off quite routinely, but behind the scenes, dozens of cameras are being lined up and whole neighbourhoods have been hard at work learning sign language.

Walkie-talkies are on standby, with shopkeepers, passers-by and strangers in position to “coincidentally” meet him on his daily walk through town. This is the bit you love the most — knowing that something wonderful is going to happen to an accidental hero who, appropriately, is tall, dark and handsome, but seemingly humble and blissfully ignorant.

Within a few minutes, this sweet (and now, confused) man has been greeted in sign language by a street vendor, the grocery store owner (“we have hot bagels”), a woman who accidentally-on-purpose bumps into him in order to sign, “sorry, my mistake” and a friendly, signing taxi driver.

Little wonder Muharrem asks his sister if she knows these silent strangers — and how the hell the people who’ve always talked at him until now, are suddenly doing it his way.

The stunt took more than a month to prepare and involved a lot of planning, learning and co-ordinating. Nobody seems to have done it for any reason other than to make Muharrem feel like a million bucks.

Fact is, happiness is contagious. That’s why positive, feel-good videos “go viral” across the internet. People can’t help but share the love. And while I’m not of the “here’s a cute puppy instead of the news” type, I do believe that creating your own reality of positivity and gratitude works.