Monday, May 9, 2011

The Social Network.. (## friends hate this post)

The rise of 'Whatsup' relationships caught my attention and inspite of my efforts, my brain wandered thinking about what actually fostered such casual relationships. For there are some of us out there who detest this trend and still like friendship the old fashioned way. Not long ago, the universal definition of a friend had a couple of words such as dependable, harbinger of happiness, help in need, etc. While the words have stayed on and perhaps their usage has been accentuated, the real meaning remains lost somewhere.. Let me attempt to explain this with the help of examples:

Example 1:

Situation: I am suffering from some wretched infection and am bedridden for a couple of days.

Part (a): Friend in need

An unexpected visit from my dear friend: for no scientific reason at all. Of course everyone knows I’d be fine in a couple of days, so why did my friend bother? Reasons are beyond the realms of practicality and rationality. It is difficult to gauge the benefits with my loneliness evaporating, the reassurance, the small talk. Why, one can’t (neither my friend nor I) even advertise this fact to others. Precisely the reason why this old friendship has lost limelight.

Part (b): Now consider another form of friendship (my friends on FB)

My status message: Recovering from a bad infection.. Doc says I’ll live!!

Friend#3, Friend#43 and 12 others like this!

Friend 1: Oh dear, get well soon!! :O

Friend 32: Da virus’z all ovr the place man.. Life’s a bi**h.. Get well soon dude!

Friend#21: Haha! Hen in a coop.. Chicken pox :P tc..

Post comment [____________]

Short lived as it may be, but a few words of jest or expressing concern are a shot in the arm for me. I may be so consumed by the pride that I often forget that:

1. Friend#3 is a very very distant relative who I have never met and chances are: never will.

2. Fact: Friend#32 ain’t no African American. He’s just a guy from my old town who has taken great pains searching for some cool words/ slang over the net before construing that comment

3. Friend#43 is an acquaintance who’d be wishing that I were dead.

4. Friend #21 is actually a very dear friend but warmth of friendship will have to make way for words that will help him step up the ‘cool ladder’

Having said this, I wonder what all that effort of posting, tracking, re-commenting, liking is all about. Sure, the social networks help us get in touch with our near and dear ones, but if you ask me: If they really are near & dear- I’d like to keep them a notch above the rest. This is where fb doesn’t go very well with me. If they are indeed are that important, I don’t want our communication to be lost inthe public domain amongst theacquaintances and well wishers who may feature lower on the relationship scale. So I ought to take that extra effort: the trips, the calls and being there when it actually matters to build relationships.

It is seen that the word 'friend' has been somewhat corrupted by the social network later part throws light upon a more interesting aspect. We always complain that social networks are platforms where voyeurs can have a ball. After deep thought, I feel that the matter be turned around to see who’s lambasting the culprit. Astonishing as it may sound, the accuser is the culprit here. In the second case, the fact that my status message invites a number of responses from all over the world gives an instant high and satiates my ego with that little airtime and audience. So it may be safely assumed that in spite of whatever I tell the world about my indifference, actually I’m actually looking for people who will are concerned with my online image. Not necessarily voyeurs, but someone to watch me, exclaim or brood aboutme. And this; my dear friends is precisely what the game is all about. P.G. Wodehouse’s creation: Jeeves the Butler always doles out reasoning to such complex circumstances accompanied with the curt words: “It’s a game of Psychology, Sir.”

The Social network brilliantly capitalizes this aspect. Look at it:

1. It feeds your ego. Why, not everyone has a 1000+ friends on Orkut+ Facebook! And not everyone gets instant comments / likes on their pictures, comments etc. It is I…. 8 people like MY comment.. 2 people responded to MY status message update in 45 seconds.. My crush likes MY picture.. It is always I…. Hence Me is now ME the great..

2. Somewhere deep within we are all voyeurs ourselves and just love to know what is happening in someone else’s life. With facebook, Yes we can!

The obsession with one’s virtual image can sometimes be scary. Instead of chasing things we like, we often find ourselves living a life which will grab attention on facebook. For eg: some people might like quiet evenings, but go out to the club xyz just so that they can upload some pictures that are bound to invite comments. More astonishing is the fact that people have seriously started judging you based on your online profile. Kummooon!!

The painful thing is how the social networks have managed to fracture relationships. I maybe imagining things but I’ve sometimes felt that that casual commenting, on and off behavior creeps into our real life without our knowing: and becomes a habit. The phenomenal paradigm shift is apparent with the behavior of some I’ve seen in real life:

- Race to meet (& keep in touch with) as many as you can (quantity quantity & quantity)..

- Consumerism triggered by updates (or in the want of new ones!)
i. Yes we party tonight (Party=cool pics=comments from interesting click pics, post and await responses<- responses of others often becomes the key driver fuelling party plans)

ii. Yes we buy that new Gadgetizmo (and post a status update belittling frnd#345’s shopping status)

- The behavior in relationships. The flick Social Network features a dialogue by the creator of fb: “What do people mainly want to do? They want to hook up!!!And he immediately incorporates ‘relationship status’ in the first version. By making it public and providing a flirting platform, it has truly created an ocean of hope and dreams for many. The felicitation of the same has paced up things a . Why, many people think they are in love coz their virtual profiles hit off very well thanks to those smart comment-recomments. (Not kidding!! Contact me or look around for yourself if you want real life examples: there’r a lot of desperate souls out there) This is not me, but a lot of people I talked to think that fb is the one responsible for the casual relationships.

Definitely there are a lot of other changes in the environment and cultural shift responsible but social network is a powerful catalyst. The scary thing is that sometimes it is impossible to get my friends’ minds off facebook. Picture this: We are on a road trip and everybody’s drunk on the nature’s fresh air and dew. The photographer of the group clicks masterpieces of the dew drops on the leaves and the sun rising over the horizon. One friend rushes to a rock and starts posing: eager to create a new profile picture. Nothing wrong with that but we’re concerned as he is totally missing the present experience; being too concerned about his online image. It would be apt to say that the mind has never got disconnected from the internet.

Having said all this, I have to bow down before facebook. My concern is about the souls who have centered their lives and relationships around facebook. Deception might be a controversial word here but I’d like someone to debate on it. I salute the social network for the power it possesses. Keeping in touch, humour, sharing info n thoughts and of course killing time at work: FB does it all. And there’s one incident that changed my perception totally. It proved to be a champion of free thought when it hosted the view point of a few and led to a nation coming together against anarchy. Who knows it better than Hosni Mubarak and the people of Egypt J


Thought process initiated by Kartikay’s line: And the disproportionate activity on a female’s so-so witty one-liner status message. Check out the master’s write up:


  1. Hey, really nice write-up! I think it's really important to just sit down and re-analyze our "need" for Facebook. (Having said that, I'm a total sucker for it!)

  2. Anuj Bugga likes this post :D:D

    No but on a more serious note, this is very thought provoking stuff you're talking about. I think the "need to connect / bond with people" is in our chemical makeup. But with the increasing time spent on gadgets, we're missing out on real things like analog laughter and making do with smileys instead!

  3. well, can't agree more with ur critical analysis! nice write-up!

  4. Hmmm I tried staying off from Facebook, and the attempt lasted for like 6 hours.. However, I prefer to blame it on the empty hours at office, rather than any weakness for the fair maiden of social networking :P Jokes apart, I love this piece you've written here, very pertinent observations. When did we stop visiting friends, when did we start SMSing or pinging them on chat rather than have a real conversation? And when did a "Like" on uploading a photo on FB come to mean so much to us in the real world? Social Networks have us really hooked don't they.. Its like a wonder drug, Prozac or something.. The new antidote to the isolation that we've imposed on ourselves!!!