1 January 9.50am: I’m currently at Taoyuan International Airport waiting for my flight back to Tokyo. I went to bed around 2am yesterday and woke up at 6am. I’m on my second cup of coffee. I should hurt real bad, but instead I feel pumped. Ready to go. Renewed. Reenergised. 2017 is finally here.
Like 400,000 other people, I spent New Year’s Eve waiting for the fireworks that palm-treed their way out of the iconic Taipei 101 Tower. Honestly, I would have rather been in bed sound asleep, but life had other plans.
I tuned out the loud concert music and observed the world around me. I was baffled. I really was. Instead of spending quality time with their loved ones – a majority of people were taking videos of the fireworks; or worse, trying to get a selfie of them with the fireworks. Who is it for?
This superficial nonsense that social media encourages is exactly what made me go off Facebook for three years. The amount of utter BS that’s on it is just astounding. Too many people are more concerned about how their lives look to others than the reality of the lives they’re actually living.
WHAT WILL PEOPLE THINK? It’s a thought that’s probably crossed your mind a million times. But really…
“Who are these people?” I ask Charmaine Yam.
“They’re around us, they’re everywhere,” Charmaine says. “I believe that people just like to gossip. It’s human nature. People like to take joy in talking about someone’s mishaps. I don’t really understand these people who say ‘what will people think’? If people have formed an opinion of you – especially if it’s an acquaintance – it’s quite shallow anyway.
“A lot of people are concerned about their families think. I think if you’re thinking about what a family really is – it’s people who are very close to you, love you and only want you to be happy. They should not be people who want you to fit a certain mould. But unfortunately, it’s not always the case.
“I don’t understand why people are so conscious about what others think of them. It comes down to living someone else’s life. Not following convention does not equate to being irresponsible. This idea is very common amongst Asians.”
“To many Asians, ‘we’ always comes before ‘me’,” I say. “Is Asian culture changing?”
“Asian cultures have nice values,” Charmaine says, “but in my view it’s good to be a bit balanced. Keep some traditions: like responsibility and respect. Older generations always talk about ‘back in our day’. It’s a totally different world now. We don’t have war or those same hardships. We should keep some traditions, but make it more relevant to our current circumstances.”
“What is something about Asian culture that you’d like to see change?” I ask.
“I’d like to see people being more open minded,” Charmaine says. “I don’t want people to judge future generations because they didn’t follow the path their parents wanted them to take. I would like to change what Asians view as a ‘successful life’ – getting married, having kids and buying a house.
“I would like individuality to be more recognised. That way more people can follow their own path instead of follow what tradition views as the right path and right life because I don’t think there’s such a thing.”
Long story short: people are going to think what they’re going to think. Pretending your life is something that it’s not is a futile exercise. At the end of the day, you have to live with your own reality – no matter how good you manage to make your life look on Facebook.