Download Android App

Alternate Blog View: Timeslide Sidebar Magazine

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

From fairness to darkness

With fairness market booming with men too now wanting to become 'fair and lovely', wonder if anyone stopped to think of its side-effects!

First it was Shah Rukh Khan who created a buzz with his Lux soap commercial and now it's Shahid Kapoor who's hit the headlines for promoting Vaseline men's face whitening lotion. This recent advertisement has shocked one and all. While fairness creams had remained the domain of women, we have men who have taken them up rather seriously. These advertisements are just a way to increase the prejudices against brown skin.

According to most dermatologists, achieving fairness up to 20% is possible, but not more than that. But what is the cost of achieving this fairness? The main ingredient of these fairness lotions is bleach (such as hydroquinone, a strong inhibitor of melanin) that makes the skin appear light. And it is just that, that causes all the harm. The obvious side-effect is thinning of the skin. Daily use of these creams leads to the skin losing its tightness and becoming thinner in return. Growth of acne is another harm that these creams cause to the skin.

Most fairness cream consumers are unaware of the photosensitive reaction which these creams cause. Due to this the more exposed one is to the sun, worse one's skin condition becomes. This would mean anything from getting pink and red rashes – the degree of which would vary from person to person to sun burns, blisters, itchiness to burning sensation, each time the person steps out in the sun. Such a skin, that has become photosensitive, could also lead to one having problems if he went in for any kind of packs or massage treatments, for those oils or packs could further react on the skin.

Some may ask - "How much time do these reactions take to show up?" It varies. For someone, it could react immediately, for another it could take months to show signs of a deteriorating skin.

It is important to remember that 70% of Indians are dark and we can't create a psychosis that fair skin is better. The term 'fairness creams' is bad in itself as it is racist. How can you take one part of the body and isolate it? Right now, all you are being reminded is that there is another part of your body that you might want fairer. 

Next time you pick a fairness product, question it and it's necessity. Anything that is used by you or comes in contact with you changes and formulates your personality. If you are applying a cream to your face because it boosts your confidence, it is all right, but you should question if you are comfortable in your natural skin color.

You may also like: Advertisements killing us softly

Fantastic Sarcasm on fairness creams

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Psychology of Beauty - Media affects body image

Self-grooming and the desire to look good probably predate Narcissus and there is nothing wrong with wanting a few appreciative nods. But freezing your facial expressions with those needles and using scalpels to thin that 'bulbous' nose to a size never satisfying are a different desire all together, one that is nudging us closer to the approval of an elusive pseudo-self far removed from reality.

There was a bizarre news on the Internet recently about sharp spike in the number of women visiting the cosmetologist's cabin as Valentine's day approached.  From Botox to Juvederm, forehead to chin, these miracle makers promise you a skin you wore 20 years ago, never mind the love.

We are living in an incredible age. The dark-skinned wants to be fair, the fair wants to be fair-er, the fair-est wants to be marks-free, the marks-free wants to be perfect skinned, the perfect skinned wants to be something that cant be figured out and faithfully awaits a beauty brand to invent some new flaw and dedicate a new range for removing it, the straight-haired wants to go noodled, the noodled wants to be thin, thin wants to be size 0, size 0 wants to maintain it. The illustration can be more comical and never-ending.

But the fact is that Indians are equally obsessed about the looks of our daughters - especially if it affects their prospects in the marriage market. In the good old days, our grannies told us not to play outside because we would get dark and no one would marry us. In 2012, Fair and Lovely tries to convince our daughters that dark girls are unemployable and fair skin is all they need to get a great job and make their parents proud. The leggy model on TV screen says that marks look better on a Dalmation that on your face, and the story continues on matrimonial pages as 'Wanted a Fair and good looking bride/groom...'. Everything is our living world is contaminated with a certain definition of beauty.

That “imperative to be hot 24/7” is here. According to 2010 statistics, India is number five on the list of nations demanding plastic surgery. The only female role models that get any media attention are film stars, models and those who are a size zero.

What many young girls don't realize is that there's always someone thinner, prettier or more surgically enhanced around the next corner. It's not a race you can win. In this cruel new world, a beautiful face will get you so far, but no further. It may get you an NRI groom or a job in the glamor world, but give it a few years and both may evaporate into thin air, unlike the more lasting gains of education and yes, hard work.

Of course, it's difficult to convince self conscious teens that looks aren't the most important thing, especially given the pressure from Bollywood, the media, and society in general. But we need to try. So should we stop calling our daughters pretty? Definitely not. But perhaps we should also attempt, at least occasionally, to praise not just their looks, but also their brains, courage and determination. Or we may just end up in a dumbed-down world where everyone's forgotten what a real woman looks like.

This video says it all.

The largest selling newspaper is the most useless

According to the latest figures from the Indian Readership Survey, The Times of India is the most widely read English-language newspaper, with a daily readership of 7.4 million, while The Hindu ranks third. However, in south India The Hindu is the most widely read English daily, significantly ahead of The Times of India.

So far so good. But unfortunately and quite often, numbers don't tell the complete story. The Times of India (TOI) has been notorious for its poor content since the beginning. It's main focus has been the business of making money through advertisements. It is no exaggeration to say they insert news between advertisements to compensate for the few rupees the reader has paid.

The front pages of ToI are often full page advertisements. Bennett Coleman & Co started the concept of paid news or better known as "News-vertorial" (as in advertorial). They call it the "private treaty". It is an exchange of "news space" for equity. It is quite common to find 'adverts' in ToI nowadays.

So what happened to serious journalism? As a reader, I would like to see important news on the front page and not a new car launch staring at my face. How long does it take to read ToI? How long does it take to read their city specific supplement? Perhaps less than 10 minutes.

The additional named "Hyderabad" or "Bangalore" or "Mumbai Times" follows only cinema news along with very provocative and near nude pictures of actresses, useless gossips and nothing about the whereabouts of the city in particular. Either the name can be changed as "Cinema Times" or the news content can be changed. Saturday and Sunday supplements are specials. The regular 5 or 6 page supplement swells to a thick booklet of product listings and sale announcements. What a waste of paper and the time of millions of readers.

The Times Group was recently criticized for carrying a misleading front page article that read more like an advertisement. And this is not the first instance. ToI had been trivialization of news for decades. It is vital that readers are well informed about the world at large. And yet, over the last few years, there has been an increased trend in media houses to focus and serve greater dose of Bollywood news and trivia masquerading as news.

The following advertisement punched ToI in the face. The advertisement indirectly takes a jab at low quality of news covered by Times of India and how their readers severely lack important knowledge.

The Hindu claims that the advertisements were “not stimulated” and that the actors weren't told about the questions ahead of the shoot, and therefore the answers were spontaneous. Whether it is true or not does not matter as the test stands on it's own merit.

Readers have started switching from the Times of India to other smarter newspapers that publish news.

But what makes readers enjoy the low quality news?

Many people have left reading newspaper due to shortage of time, however, everyone wants to stay updated about Hollywood. Page 3 and 'Cinema Times' seems to be winning over genuine news.
Bollywood news seems to be an easy conversation starter.

Perhaps, the times have changed. Today's youth likes Page 3 gossips. The newspapers cant be totally blamed as they reflect the society to some extent. In other cases, the newspapers shape the society by feeding it with junk to such an extent that the readers become numb, insensitive and brain-dead. This has happened in UK.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Managing your virtual social world trail

By staying signed in on Google and performing search and accessing websites, a user leaves a digital trail behind. This trail is used by many companies to create a user profile. Richer user behavior profiles are very useful to advertisers as they can put personalized ads on websites you view.

There are some simple ways to stop this. The methods explained below will only work for advertisers who are part of Network Advertising Initiative and follows the industry privacy standards for online advertising.

Note: Before following the steps described below, ensure that you are signed in.


1. Visit ads on the web. If you do not like Google 'Make the ads you see on the web more interesting', click on 'Opt Out'.

2. Visit ads preference. This is the profile Google created for you based on your search and browse history. Google even guessed your age and gender. You can delete all the information from here and 'Opt Out'.

You can also download the Advertising cookie opt-out plugin to permanently block personalized ads.

Other advertisers

1. Visit NAI. Using their online tool, you can examine your computer to identify those member companies that have placed an advertising cookie file on your computer. Don't be surprised to see 50 or more cookies from different advertisers. Now, did you know that? You can 'Select All' and 'Submit' the form to clear all the cookies.

2. Visit Aboutads. Again, you can 'opt-out' of ad network.


1. Visit Account Settings. Click on 'Apps' tab. Delete all infrequently used apps.  For the remaining apps, set the appropriate privacy level by clicking on 'Edit'. e.g., if you use 'Washington social post reader', by default, all posts and activity from this app are visible on Facebook. Do disable this, select 'Only Me' in privacy settings.


Orkut was once very popular in India. If you do not use it anymore and switched camps, then you are not alone. But your profile, scraps, photos etc are still public. To delete your orkut account, visit this link.

If you would like to share more privacy tips, please leave a comment.

Also read: The Internet, social media and privacy.

The Internet, Social Media and Privacy

Very recently, Google signaled its intent to begin correlating data about its users' activities across all of its most popular services and across multiple devices. The goal: to deliver those richer behavior profiles to advertisers.

Likewise, Facebook announced it will soon make Timeline - the new, glitzier user interface for its service - mandatory. Timeline is designed to chronologically assemble, automatically display and make globally accessible the preferences, acquaintances and activities for most of Facebook's 800 million members.

Combined with the addition last week of some 60 apps specifically written for Timeline, consumers can provide a detailed account, often in real time, of the music they listen to, what they eat, where they shop - even where they jog.

The driver: advertising revenue. What this tells us is that there is a lot of money at stake here. The global on-line advertising market is expected to swell to $132 billion by 2015, up from $80 billion this year, according to eMarketer. As such, it is too dangerous for 2 companies to have so much personal data. What this also tells us that there is a significant shift in the way we interact with the Internet and social networks or 'publics' in general terms, today.We are in the middle of three trends.

1. From Anonymity to Real identity

Social media has become a part of our daily lives. The things we do on social networking websites and mobile devices is increasingly about who we are.

2. From wisdom of crowd to wisdom of friends

Earlier, the Internet gave you the information in an anonymity way or the information was not personalized for you. But these days, we are more influenced by the wisdom of our friends that the wisdom of the crowd.

3. From being receivers to broadcasters

Going back in time, one had to be rich or powerful or famous in order to have a voice. But now, the power of being a broadcaster is with everyone.

How do these trends affects us? As with most changes, this freely available freedom of expression has its goods and bads.

The Internet and the social media has given us a powerful tool to speak out and be heard. Information is personalized and quickly available. Reaching out to unknown people is simple and quick. Collaborating and sharing ideas has never been so easy.

But more disquieting are the negatives. What is shocking is that some are not even aware of it. Those who are aware of it choose to silently ignore it. Some create barriers, requiring effort to understand the published information but still go on to publish. Importantly, once the information is published, regardless of our expectations, it is available and mostly remains that way. Thus, publishing personal information has become our second nature. Teenagers are most vulnerable to negative efforts of social networking.

These social networks (and malicious softwares, ISPs etc) keep track of all interactions used on their sites and save them for later use.  It is now possible to reconstruct a persons life without paying a dime or hiring a detective agency. Apps like Timeline is all you need.

A complete user profile can be created and sold to advertisers. Richer personal details are very beneficial to identity thieves and cyberspies, as well as to parties motivated to use such data unfairly against consumers, such as insurance companies, prospective employers, political campaigners and, lately, hacktivists.

With the advent of social networking website or 'publics' in general, we have become more uninhibited and often let others know more than what is really required. Mature users practice self-governance but a fair percentage of users do not. "I just checked into a restaurant!" - Well good for you, but did you ever think about a possible security threat?

“The Breakup Notifier” is another example of a Facebook “cyberstalking” app that has recently been taken down. Essentially, the application notifies users when a person breaks up with their partner through Facebook, allowing users to instantly become aware of their friend's romantic activities. Thousands had used the app within 36 hours of it's launch.

Facebook recently made sharing even easier by automatically sharing what you're doing on Facebook-connected apps. Instead of having to “Like” something to share it, you'll just need to click “Add to Timeline” on any website or app, and that app will have permission to share your activity with your Facebook friends. What activity, you may ask? It could be the news articles you read online, the videos you watch, the photos you view, the music you listen to, or any other action within the site or app. Facebook calls this auto-sharing “Gestures.” Be careful for it may cause you embarrassment.

In the web usage mining parlance, these companies are already using Clickstream for marketing (by cloaking it under the term 'relevant content') but now they are openly publishing this data for everyone to see. And thats called killing two birds with one stone.

The commonly used phrase 'Your reputation precedes you'. Knowing someone and forming opinions has become quicker.

Well, one thing is for sure and that is we will be served with relevant advertisements soon!
[For those who don't know, in September of 2003, adjacent to a New York Post article about a gruesome murder in which the victim’s body parts were stashed in a suitcase, Google listed an ad for suitcases.Since that incident, Google has improved its filters and automatically pulls ads from pages with disturbing content.]

Also read: Managing your virtual social world trail.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Advertisements: Killing us softly

What is your first thought when you hear the term 'Advertisements'? It could be 'It's everywhere', 'there is no escape from it', 'fillers', or even a tune you like to hum 'kynki har ek dost.....'!

Some numbers:
  • 27,000 crore industry in India, $250 billion industry in US
  • Average American is exposed to 3000 ads every single day; will spend 2 years of his life watching television commercials
Advertising is a very powerful educational force. Ads sell more than products. They sell values, images, concepts of love and sexuality, success and perhaps most important, of normalcy. To a great extent, they tell us who we are and who we should be.

The sad thing about ads is that even though we tend to ignore it, it still makes an impact. "Only 8% of an Ad's message is received by the conscious mind. The rest is worked and reworked deep within the recesses of the brain." - Rance Crain

Unfortunately, we are living in an environment that surrounds us with unhealthy images and constantly sacrifices our health and our sense of well-being for the sake of profit.

Women are most vulnerable to advertisements. We might be looking at a TV commercial and think we are looking at 1 woman, but we are really seeing four. One woman's face, another woman's hair, another woman's hands and another woman's legs; four or five women put together to look like one perfect women. This false image of beauty creates self-esteem issues in women. Take a look at this video and the video below.

How bad are the effect of these these ads?

The way women are portrayed in ads creates multiple issues. It is common to see ads dehumanize and objectify women. Turning a human being into a thing is almost always the first step towards justifying violence against that person. It creates bias based on looks and gender. The false image of beauty has led to a a dramatic increase in cosmetic procedures, 91% of which are performed on women. Moreover, it creates health issues in the form of eating disorders and psychological issues in young women. To men, such ads cause them to judge women harshly and instigate violence against women.

Bottom line: Get involved in whatever ways moves us to change not just these ads but these attitudes that run so deep in out culture and that affect each one of us so deeply, whether we are conscious of it or not. Create awareness.

Creating awareness

In our daily busy lives, and work, and with the information overload, the mind's power to discriminate the complex information has greatly diminished. And, over the past few decades, we have overlooked the harm that certain things have caused to us. It is there, but we don't see it. If we see it, we ignore it.

The problem? An information overload from access to so much information, almost instantaneously, without knowing the validity of the content and the risk of misinformation.

This blog is about creating awareness, to help you really 'see' what we ordinarily see and to really 'hear' what we usually hear and interpret the intentions.

This blog is about bringing forth the impact (mostly negative) that information overload, media - TV, radio, print, psychological manipulation, online security and privacy etc creates on our society.