Characters are easy to perceive, remember and appreciate. They’re usually good, or evil. They’re usually hit or miss. They’re always binary. They are predictable. So, you can attach them to a definition.
When you’re saying, “ohhh Rahul was your ex-colleague?! Haan I know Rahul from college. He’s such a sweet guy, yaar.” You don’t see Rahul as a human being, you see a character there.
A character succeeds quite easily in our world compared to a human being. It succeeds in office because the boss can rely upon a character – a character is adjectives personified. It succeeds in art because public’s judgment is always simple and lacks depth. When I sees J.K Rowling, Elon Musk, and Sadhguru I see beautiful writing, ambition, and nirvana. You may see something else, but as long as you can pen it down in few words – they’re characters to you too. We don’t see humans behind them.
The reason is simple. We always naturally wish to spend the least amount of energy in understanding something or somebody. The easy it comes, the better we feel. The better we feel, the more we reward. When this “we” functions at scale, it becomes quite easy for a character to succeed within a society, be it in relationship, profession, art or friendship.
A human being on the other hand always lies in the grey. He’s not black or white. He’s not good or evil. He’s both. He’s hard and soft. He’s predictable and unpredictable. He’s different at different times, at different places, with different people.
And why would you want to understand such a ridiculously difficult piece of puzzle? Why would you do that if there’s no scarcity of characters?
Think about this. Say you just downloaded a new app for chatting with friends. Would you enjoy if every 3rd time you opened the app it’s buttons, layout, colours, positioning all change? All of a sudden without any warnings, on-boarding or information the app is suddenly new. Would you be accepting of it, or frustrated by it? You were accepting of it when you opened the app the first time. Subsequently, you want the app to not change.
“Change is good” is a thought we like to afford only for ourselves. We aren’t as accepting of changes in others.
Pause and ponder – who are you?
Are you a character?
Are you a human being?
It’s almost certain most of you would choose the latter. Everyone feels human themselves. Yet if I asked the same question to most of your friends about you, you would be a character in their lives.
We all pretend to be characters for different environments and people for them to be able to bucket us into a topic, adjective, talent or skill. Because whenever we have been simple to them, they’ve understood us. It gives our brain a sense of satisfaction that “this person understands when I overeat because I’m feeling so sad.” What you may not realise in the moment is that this person only understands that aspect of you. You can still be a character to someone when you share the deepest of your feelings with them.
If you act as an app with a predictable UI/UX (user interface/user experience), it’s easy for them to continue to re-use you. To continue to communicate with you. As the app, you also want to have the most amount of active users. Who doesn’t like more love?
There’s a cost to everything though. When you become a character, you lose control. You can’t live your life the way you wish to, you can’t make changes whenever you want, you can’t do what you feel like. You need to stay in character 24/7. There’s an impact whenever you’re not in character.
If you stay a human being, you are not predictable to society. You may fail in any and every place where there can be a competition. You could lack awards and appreciation. You risk losing friends, family and people. You’re too much of a mental cost to everyone.
But you are human.
You are not a character.
You will probably be human to very few people in life. Those are your users who would not uninstall the app when you change. These are not just your users, they’re your developers.