The Facebook story
Recently I went to one of my friend’s house before we both started out. In the 5 minutes he took to get ready, I was browsing through his shelf of books. It was filled with the good-old spy novels that were such a rage at one time. Bourne Supremacy caught my attention. It was one of those books which I had left half way through, for one reason or the other, and such books always haunted me. As I tried to hide from the book and the temptation to borrow it, inspite of knowing that I am not going to read this one anytime now, a realisation slowly dawned on me. I hadn’t read a single good book in the last 2 years. Actually the reading habit as a whole had taken a beating, i.e. if you don’t count going through the status updates of nearly half a thousand of your ‘Friends’ and daily routines of even more ‘celebs’ as reading and if you don’t consider FaceBook to be a real Book
This train of thoughts led me to the prime suspect, time wasted online. And I questioned myself, “Was it really wasted?” Of course I had been spending disproportionately greater hours online than doing anything else. Of course, Facebook had more of my attention these days, than even the hottest chicks on campus. Of course I had gotten into this habit of mentally framing whatever happens during my day in terms of my “next cool status update”, one that is going to make me more likeable among my friends, and one that is going to keep people talking about me. But is all this really a waste of time?
I tried to reason with myself. I am fresh out of college, and living in a city where not even one of my college friends live. National SMSes aren’t that cheap, and calls are so yesterday. Of course I had to keep in touch with them. Of course I had to keep engaging them in funny conversations, lest they think I have become such a snob and self-centred bastard after making it to a B school. And isn’t it fun? And how much different is it from a book anyway? You get to hear some pretty interesting stories (and in many cases they are just that, “stories”) about what’s happening in someone else’s life, there is romance with all those ever-changing relationship statuses, there is the horror evident in so many exam-time posts (or the tragedy of reading through someone else’s cribbing), there are the really comic (atleast the people who come up with them think that way) one liners, there is the odd mystery message which you never seem to understand whichever way you read it and more. You get glimpses of US grad schools, Australian outback, German train stations, the Singapore Merlion ( now I have had an overdose of this one!), queer Japanese toilets and so much more stuff you never expected to see in your friend’s albums. Life has never seemed so dynamic, and so many bozos who hadn’t talked a word to you during 4 years of college, suddenly seem like the rockstars you failed to socialise with. So isn’t Facebook the ultimate boon that humankind ever got? Isn’t it our duty to wire up Africa fast and blast out the firewalls in China so that the rest of the human race could enjoy this fruit too? Isn’t Facebook the key to world peace and the ultimate sign of the triumph of humanity?
Sadly it’s not.
The success of Facebook is just a reflection of the sadistic attempt at existence and happiness that our lives have become. It’s a precursor to “The Matrix” which the Wachowski Brothers warned us about. It’s a clever way of living a false life, a life without a true identity, or putting it more ironically, a life without a Face. Hiding behind our walls, we feel a false sense of security in meddling in others’ affairs. The elaborate process of befriending someone has been relegated to the click of a button. And to justify the exercise and feel good about ourselves, we resort to horoscope applications which always seem to suggest that we are going to be the next big stars of the world. Who are we trying to fool, but ourselves? How many of these people would actually qualify as your friends? If I apply “The Marriage Invitation Test” to them, not even 20% pass(This is a very simple test, of asking yourself whether or not you would invite one of these people to your wedding). Indeed it promotes a false sense of happiness and a misguided notion of achievement which actually keeps us away from the more important work at hand. The success of Facebook in India and it becoming the numero-uno social networking site of the country is as much a reason to celebrate as the rise in the levels of alcohol consumption and prostitution in the country are.
But isn’t calling social networking sites the root of all evil in the world a communist propaganda? Maybe this guy is attending all the wrong rallies in Kolkata. The answer is a definite no, atleast to the second statement:). This is the sort of realization that dawns on you during hours of self-analysis, which you resort to during hours of being cut off from the internet. When your fingers start twitching cos you weren’t able to post your current achievement (being pooped on by a crow) on Facebook, when you feel so damn irritated with life when the girl whose album you have been secretly checking out daily, suddenly finds out how to use the privacy settings , or worse when you find out on your wall that the hottest chick of your locality is now hooked up with the greatest moron you knew thus spoiling the perfect day for you, that you realise how much of an evil addiction FB has become in your life. Is this really necessary? How nice and simple your life was before all this. You had just the right amount of friends, and you spent just the right amount of time with them. They never encroached upon your privacy and you never let them in on your private secrets. The good girls were locked up in their houses, far away from the gazes of the roadside romeos, which made them look even better when you saw them the next time. The morons had their rightful place in the world, and thankfully the profs were far away from all your day to day discussions (ya, now even they are active on FB, making me resort to using complex privacy settings!!).
So the question arises, can we live a life without social networking? Can we bring the good old books and the nice old campus discussions back into our lives? Can we stop poking our noses into others affairs and stop laying our lives bare for others approval?
Damn, I am asking too many rhetoric questions. Would I stop asking questions like this in the future? Never, mind. Well I don’t know answers to many of the above. Maybe some of you can answer them. As far as I am concerned, raising issues is all I know about. Solutions- well let them emerge!!!