Scroll if you must, stroll if you can, try stopping too | Daily News

Scroll if you must, stroll if you can, try stopping too

Apparently the average person scrolls through 300 feet of mobile content every day. Of course, this doesn’t mean that the average person reads all the relevant content, but still it’s quite a distance for a finger to walk, so to speak.

It’s incredible, really. Just imagine a time, let’s say 20 years ago. We couldn’t access such volumes of content with a finger-swish. Well, not even a fraction of it. Of course, this doesn’t mean that each ‘scroller’ is appropriately empowered. One recalls the pertinent Sinhala adage, ‘kiyannaa kaese keevath, asannaa sihi buddhiyen aesiya yuthuya (regardless of how the sayer says, the listener should employ his or her wisdom consciously when listening).

There’s a lot of invaluable information online: facts, figures and analyses which, if easily and quickly obtained, could make a world of difference to the curious. There’s also a lot of nonsense, speculation clothed as established fact and absolute falsehoods. There are mischief makers and there’s mischief. All the more reason to ‘go in’ with eyes wide open.  

In any event, it is hard to think of any time in history where a single finger or indeed a single fingertip was used so intensely and continuously. The fingertip has allowed us to access incredible volumes of inspiration. The finger has ‘walked’ much in a space that can inspire one and all in innumerable ways. There’s absolutely no argument that this space has yielded amazing things to the world and to the human species. Someday someone will figure out a way to calculate the good, the bad and ugly. We will one day have a (rolling) balance sheet. For now, some will celebrate, some will be wary and some will condemn outright.  


It’s here though. And it will remain well into the foreseeable future. The finger will have work to do. The mind too. Consciousness. And if they combine in fortuitous ways, we would have reason to be grateful, to celebrate.

People walk with fingers now. They still walk with feet. Today it’s called ‘exercise’ by some. You can walk along a ‘walking track.’ You can walk on a machine. You can walk miles inside your own house or room or a corner of a room. Technology allows this. You can even get a count of the number of steps you’ve walked, the distance travelled and how many floors you’ve climbed.

That’s walking. In a way. One can walk thus and one can also stroll. That however is not the only strolling that’s possible. There’s strolling which for some is still an integral part of ‘work’. Think of those who have to walk to catch a bus or train. Think of those who cultivate, those who harvest, those who work in mines. Those who fight too.

For all the focus on that which has to be done, these strolls also take us through fascinating spaces. We see things. We hear things. We encounter people. These things are not easily copy-pasted. It’s harder to share. There are no ‘like’ buttons which can be seen by friends, friends of friends or the public. There’s no ‘subscribe’ button either. They are just there.

We pass them a million times slower than we scroll through reams of online content. Does this mean that it is an inefficient kind of ‘browsing’? Some may argue that this indeed is the case. On the other hand, not all knowledge acquired is tangible. Not everything learned can be quantified or categorized. Not all wisdom can be described. There are online courses, internet enabled learning processes and these can deliver certification too in soft and/or hard form. Scrolling courses, we could call them.

The learning associated with strolling is of a different order. Ask those who walk and they’ll tell you. There’s empowerment too, but it is of a different kind. The theory of saying or listening alluded to at the beginning of this piece is applicable here as well. The eyes and ears can gather. They can miss too. A lot. The mind, framed by the familiar, habit and wisdom obtained and synthesized up to the point can play all kinds of tricks.

Sometimes you need to stop. Just stop. And let the world come to you. Sometimes you need to give your finger a rest. Your feet too. And of course, the mind. That’s ultimate.  

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